|Department of Public Information • News and Media Division • New York|
Sixty-third General Assembly
52nd Meeting (PM)
FIFTH COMMITTEE TAKES UP $68 MILLION BUDGET FOR LOGISTICS BASE IN BRINDISI
The Fifth Community (Administrative and Budgetary) this afternoon took up the proposed $68.28 million budget for the United Nations Logistics Base in Brindisi, whose role is expected to expand significantly in the financial year beginning 1 July.
Jun Yamazaki, United Nations Controller, who presented the Secretary-General’s reports on the Logistics Base, said the projected budget was an increase of 49.2 per cent from the amount approved for the last financial period. The main cause of the increase was the relocation of 25 professionals of the Standing Police Capacity from New York to Brindisi, and the addition of 48 additional posts to the Standing Police Capacity.
In addition, 73 new posts were being created for national staff, he said, including 34 posts for core functions traditionally performed by contractors. According to the Secretary-General’s report, those functions -- vehicle maintenance, general carpentry and architectural services -- were performed under long-term staff leasing contracts, which were to be terminated in 2009. Using contractual staff for extended periods presented “difficulties” under Italian national labour legislation.
Mr. Yamazaki said other factors in the budget increase included the establishment of a secondary active telecommunications facility in Valencia, Spain, and planned construction of additional office space for the Brindisi Logistics Base. Provisions were also made for building data and network communications centres, and conducting other construction work related to infrastructure improvements. The budget included funds to purchase new furniture and information technology and telecommunications equipment, as well.
In addition to seeking the General Assembly’s approval for the budget, he said Member States were also requested to decide on the treatment of an unencumbered balance of $178,100 from the 2007/08 period, along with the treatment of “other income” of $3.03 million, derived from interest income, miscellaneous income and cancellation of prior-period obligations.
For information on the longer-term perspective on the role and future development of the Logistics Base, he referred Member States to an annex contained in the Secretary-General’s report.
Following the introduction, Susan McLurg, Chair of the Advisory Committee on Administrative and Budgetary Questions (ACABQ), said the budget for the Logistics Base could be reduced by $10.89 million.
She explained that the Advisory Committee had learned of a global support strategy being prepared by the United Nations Secretariat, to be presented to the Assembly within a year. The strategy would, among other things, outline the new responsibilities of the Department of Field Support, the Logistics Base, the information technology facility in Valencia and the United Nations logistics hub in Entebbe, Uganda. Believing that the future of the Brindisi Logistics Base should be included in that strategy, ACABQ recommended against approval, for now, of a number of proposed staffing changes estimated at $9.89 million.
In addition, a further $1 million in projects relating to those long-term plans could be trimmed from the budget for the Logistics Base, she said, although $6.1 million in project requirements would still be recommended for approval.
Under other matters, the representative of Switzerland repeated his Government’s call for a legal explanation behind the Secretary-General’s stated intention to retain over $186 million in cash from the accounts of 16 closed peacekeeping missions, in light of needs that had arisen in the 2007/08 and 2008/09 periods.
To his understanding, if the General Assembly did not approve the request to retain the money, the Secretary-General would proceed to administer those accounts “according to United Nations rules and regulations”, he said. The Swiss Government wanted to know the legal basis behind the Secretary-General’s planned moves.
Having received no response to date, he asked that an answer be given within 24 hours, so that the Fifth Committee could reach a decision on the issue before closing its resumed session. That request received the endorsement of the European Union, which was voiced by the representative of the Czech Republic.
The representative of Egypt pointed out that there was “very scarce time left” to discuss an issue which Egypt and other nations were also interested in, but whose queries had been met earlier with protest by the very delegations that had just spoken. Left with only one day in the resumed session, he suggested a more “practical” and “realistic” approach on the treatment of cash balances from closed peacekeeping missions.
He said the next few discussions should not focus on “attempting to show that the Secretary-General was violating financial regulations and rules”, adding: “We have to be more responsible.”
Also today, the representative of the Czech Republic, speaking on behalf of the European Union, expressed regret over the late issuance of several budgetary reports. “This recent trend of late issuances must be stopped once and for all, as the quality and speed of our deliberations depend on this,” she said, adding also that documentation should be distributed in all official languages before each meeting.
The Committee will meet again Friday, 5 June, to continue its consideration of peacekeeping finance.
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