3 December 2009
General Assembly
GA/AB/3933

Department of Public Information • News and Media Division • New York

Sixty-fourth General Assembly

Fifth Committee

17th Meeting (AM)


Budget Committee Decision Recommends New Staff Rules Remain Provisional,


Pending Further Consideration at Next Session

 


Also Approves Texts on Office of Internal Oversight Services,

Capital Master Plan, UN Support for African Union Somalia Mission


The Fifth Committee (Administrative and Budgetary) this morning approved a draft decision by which the new staff rules described in a report published by the Secretary-General in August should remain provisional, pending the General Assembly’s further consideration of the new contractual regime at its sixty-fifth session.


That decision was among four texts approved by the Committee today, all without a vote. 


In a short statement to the Committee, Catherine Pollard, Assistant Secretary-General for Human Resources Management, said it had become apparent from the Secretariat’s deliberations, both with the Fifth Committee and the Advisory Committee on Administrative and Budgetary Questions (ACABQ), that the Office of Human Resources Management was not in a position to provide the data needed by delegates to make an informed decision on the new regime, particularly on continuing contracts.


Pledging to brief the Committee on that issue at its resumed session in March 2010, she said the Secretary-General’s report on continuing appointments in particular, also published in August, would be withdrawn and that a new report would supersede it.


The Secretariat’s inability to provide answers had been “a major source of concern and surprise” said the representative of Sudan, who expressed deep disappointment that the Committee had had to postpone consideration of a crucial issue.  Speaking on behalf of the Group of 77 and China, he said ensuring the well-being of the United Nations staff was of utmost concern to the Group, and that the Assembly had had a firm intention to decide on what would have been the final step of the new contractual framework.  He noted that the Secretariat had almost a year to prepare for it.


The representative of Sweden, speaking on behalf of the European Union, also expressed disappointment at learning that pertinent information could not be provided at this time, saying the group was aware of the expectations of United Nations personnel.  He stressed the great importance of completing the reform regime approved by the Assembly at its sixty-third session.


Also today, the Committee approved a draft resolution on the capital master plan, by which the Assembly would endorse the ACABQ’s recommendations on the matter, as listed in its report on the topic.  The ACABQ had recommended that the Assembly approve the Secretary-General’s proposal to appropriate the remaining balance of the $1.87 billion budget approved by Member States in 2007.  Of that amount, nearly $1.19 billion had already been appropriated, leaving over $689.9 million still to be allocated.


The Secretary-General would also be asked to absorb within the approved Capital Master Plan budget $11.64 million requested for 2010-2011 in relation to data migration, according to the draft.  The Assembly would decide that $1.25 million be included in the support account for peacekeeping operations towards that project for the 2010/11 financial year, and $941,640 for the 2011/12 financial year.


However, the Assembly would decide not to approve the overall level of associated costs at this time, bearing in mind opportunities for further cost reductions posed by “economic circumstances”, as well as through savings.  It would note with concern that a number of the requirements set out under associated costs required did not relate directly to the capital master plan, but rather to ongoing capital improvements, investment costs and long-term commitments.


Of those associated costs for 2010, the Secretary-General would be asked to absorb $42.07 million within the existing capital master plan budget, with that total broken down among the Department for General Assembly and Conference Management, the Department of Public Information, the Office of Central Support Services, the Department of Safety and Security, and the Office of Information and Communications Technology.


The remaining two drafts approved by the Committee were on the report of the Office of Internal Oversight Services (OIOS) on its activities, and on financing for activities relating to logistical support provided by the United Nations to the African Union Mission in Somalia. 


The text regarding the OIOS would have the Assembly express “deep concern” with its recommendations concerning the potential efficiency of combining the functions of the Office of the Special Adviser on Africa and the Office of the High Representative for the Least Developed Countries, Landlocked Developing Countries and Small Island Developing States.  It would reiterate its position that the OIOS not propose to the Assembly any change to the legislative decisions and mandates approved by Governments.


As for the text on logistical support for the African Unity mission, the peacekeeping operation in Somalia, it would have the Assembly appropriate $75.64 million to the relevant account towards activities in the 2008/9 period, and $213.58 million for the 2009/10 period, inclusive of $138.80 million previously authorized by the Assembly at the sixty-third session, in addition to $6.10 million already appropriated, also at the sixty-third session.


The Committee also took up items on the International Trade Centre UNCTAD/WTO and the Office of Central Support Services.


Sudan, on behalf of the Group 77 and China, spoke on the International Trade Centre.


Reports before the Committee were introduced by United Nations Controller Jun Yamazaki, and ACABQ Vice Chairman Collen Kelapile.


The Committee will meet again at a time to be announced.


Background


The Fifth Committee (Administrative and Budgetary) met this morning to discuss the financing of the International Trade Centre (ITC) of the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD) and the World Trade Organization (WTO), the status of construction projects in Addis Ababa and Nairobi, and the Office of Central Support Services (OCSS).


ITC UNCTAD/WTO


A report on the proposed programme budget for the International Trade Centre UNCTAD/WTO (document A/64/6 (Sect. 13)/Add.1) estimates the Organization’s share of expenditures for the Centre -- the joint technical cooperation agency of the United Nations and the WTO -- at 2008-2009 rates.  The proposed amount for the 2010/2011 biennium comes to approximately $30.04 million and the revised appropriation for 2008-2009 to $30.87 million.


Commenting on the Secretary-General’s proposals, the Advisory Committee on Administrative and Budgetary Questions (ACABQ), in its corresponding report (document A/64/7/Add.10,) recommends that the Assembly approve them subject to certain recommendations.  In some cases, the ACABQ recommends that posts deemed by it to be short-term in nature should be funded through general temporary assistance, namely the post of Senior Programme Officer in the Trade Institutions Strengthening Section and the post of Associate Graphic Designer.  It recommended against the establishment of one post, that of e-learning coordinator in the Trade Information Services Section of the Division of Market Development, since the functions of the post are not new and should, therefore, be accommodated from within existing capacity.


Construction


A report on the strategic heritage plan at the United Nations Office at Geneva (document A/64/6(Sect.33)/Add.1) summarizes the results of an initial engineering consultancy, which was completed at the United Nations Office at Geneva at the end of August 2009, and provides additional information on the proposed next steps in developing the envisaged “strategic heritage plan” at the United Nations Office at Geneva.  The Secretary-General asks for $1.1 million.


OCSS


A report on the proposed programme budget for the Office of Central Support Services (document A/64/6 (Sect. 28D) and Add.1) places the proposed level of resources for that Office at $173.49 million.  Regular budget resources under this section are complemented by extrabudgetary funding estimated at $134.41 million.


The ACABQ, in its joint report on the two items (document A/64/7/Add.11), recalls the Secretary-General's indication that a strategic capital review would be undertaken at all offices away from Headquarters, which would form the basis of a 20-year strategic capital plan at each office.  The findings of the review would lay the groundwork for future budgets.  The ACABQ believes, however, that the role of the OCSS in that context should be stronger, with clearer lines of authority and responsibility established.  A strategic capital review should address that issue.


Regarding construction, the ACABQ notes that, with respect to the renovation and refurbishment of the Palais des Nations in Geneva (known as the “strategic heritage plan”), a total of $1.1 million was included in the proposed programme budget for phase two, following the completion of phase one in August.  Phase two involves an engineering study, and the ACABQ has recommended approval of the $1.1 million.  A progress report is to be presented to the General Assembly at its sixty-fifth session.  Since no estimates have yet been made of the costs of the entire project, the ACABQ recommends that the Assembly request the Secretary-General to monitor the situation closely and to include in his report to the Assembly at its sixty-fifth session any developments, including those which may have financial implications.


Draft resolutions


Three resolutions were before the Committee for action:  on the report of the Office of Internal Oversight Services (OIOS) on its activities (document A/C.5/64/L.6), on the capital master plan (document A/C.5/64/L.7), and on the financing of the activities arising from Security Council resolution 1863 (2009) (document A/C.5/64/L.8).


Introduction of Reports


JUN YAMAZAKI, Assistant Secretary-General, Controller, introduced the report on the International Trade Centre UNCTAD/WTO (document A/64/6 (Sect. 13)/Add.1).  Among other things, he explained that the ITC’s programme of work would continue to be reviewed annually by the Joint Advisory Group of the ITC, its main intergovernmental policy forum, which was open to members of UNCTAD and WTO.  The Joint Advisory Group also examined the ITC’s activities and made recommendations to the UNCTAD Trade and Development Board and WTO General Council.  The ITC had recently completed a process of change management, based on an external evaluation of ITC endorsed by the Joint Advisory Group. 


He said the ITC’s proposed level of resources for the 2010-2011 biennium was formulated based on the strategic framework approved by the General Assembly.  In that time, the ITC would focus on export strategy, business and trade policy, trade support institutions, trade intelligence and exporter competitiveness.  Extrabudgetary resources during the biennium were projected at 90.6 million Swiss francs.  The ITC was also currently negotiating with donors for the funding of large scale integrated programmes in Africa.


COLLEN KELAPILE, Vice-Chairman of the Advisory Committee on Administrative and Budgetary Questions, introduced that Committee’s related report (document A/64/7/Add.10).  He noted that the Secretary-General estimated that the ITC’s resource requirements for the biennium 2010-2011 stood at 72.1 million Swiss francs, before recosting. This was a net increase of 3.9 million Swiss francs, or 5.8 per cent, compared to the 2008-2009 appropriation. The increase, which was primarily related to the establishment of 12 posts, was partially offset by the abolition of two General Service posts. The contribution of the ITC’s two parent organizations for the 2010-2011 biennium was estimated at 37.6 Swiss francs after recosting, or $31.3 million at an exchange rate of 1.2 Swiss francs to the dollar.


He said the Committee’s report further noted that the number of new posts requested for ITC had decreased from an original request of 19 after an internal assessment.  The Committee was told that the 12 posts requested were technically specific and geared toward the areas of greatest priority.  The Committee was recommending that 8 of the 12 posts be established –- namely one D-1, two P-5s, three P-4s and two P-2s –- and that two other posts –- one P-4 and one P-2 –- be funded through general temporary assistance, since their functions may not be required on a continuing basis.  The Committee also recommended accepting the abolition of the two General Service posts and found the Secretary-General’s proposal of non-post resources acceptable, bearing in mind it would have to be adjusted due to its recommendation on posts.  Noting that the report also included comments on a number of issues relating to ITC and its operation, he said the Committee recommended that the Assembly approve the proposals under section 13, International Trade Centre UNCTAD/WTO, of the proposed programme budget for the biennium 2010-2011.


Statements


MAGID YOUSIF (Sudan), speaking on behalf of the “Group of 77” developing countries and China, expressed strong support for the work of the ITC and stressed the importance of trade as a major contributor to development.  It also stressed the need for trade-related capacity-building activities, as recognized by the outcomes of different United Nations summits.  The ITC provided much needed technical cooperation to increase the trade and export potential of small and medium-sized businesses in developing countries, which had a positive impact on employment and poverty reduction and contributed to the achievement of the Millennium Development Goals. 


He noted that the financial and economic crisis increased the urgency of additional investments in trade-related capacity-building.  Exports from developing countries, particularly the least developed, to the world’s main markets had declined dramatically, which brought concern.  The Group emphasized the need for the ITC to place additional effort to support least developed countries, landlocked developing countries and small island developing States, as well as African countries. 


He further noted that the Secretary-General’s 2008 report on strengthening the United Nations’ development pillar did not contain proposals to increase the ITC’s capacity.  The proposal for new posts in the report currently before the Committee was a timely attempt to bridge that gap.  In that connection, the Group would seek further clarification during informal consultations on why the original estimates for the 19 posts, as contained in the report, were reduced to 12.  The Group would also seek more information on the responsibilities of the Executive Director of the ITC, to ensure that the level of posts were commensurate with increasing responsibilities.


Introduction of Reports


Mr. YAMAZAKI introduced the Secretary-General’s reports on the Office of Central Support Services and the strategic heritage plan at the United Nations Office at Geneva.  As regards the first report, he reiterated the Secretary-General’s proposal to enhance the role of OCSS in coordinating and providing support to overseas duty stations or offices away from Headquarters in all areas of facilities management.  It would be done in full collaboration with the Executive Secretary or Director-General at each office away from Headquarters.


Mr. KELAPILE introduced the corresponding report of the ACABQ, saying in its opinion, the measures set out by the Secretary-General to enhance the role of the OCSS were a step in the right direction, but did not go far enough.  As for the strategic heritage plan, he affirmed the ACABQ’s recommendation that the Assembly approve the request for $1.1 million.  He noted that the addendum before the Committee presented details that had only come to light after the completion of phase one in August, and repeated the ACABQ’s concern at the precedent created by the issuance of addenda to justify resource requirements.  The initial budget submission should form the basis for decision-making, except in extraordinary circumstances.


Action on draft resolutions


The Committee had before it a draft resolution on the capital master plan (document A/C.5/64/L.7), submitted by NICOLE ANN MANNION (Ireland) on behalf of the Chair, PETER MAURER (Switzerland), containing three parts:  a section relating to items touched on in the seventh annual progress report, one on risk mitigation measures to protect data and the information and communications systems of the Secretariat, and one on associated costs.


By the terms of that draft, the Assembly would endorse the ACABQ’s conclusions and recommendations regarding the capital master plan and accept the report of the Board of Auditors for the year ended 31 December 2008.  It would note with concern the findings of the Board of Auditors and would request the Secretary-General to provide, in his eighth annual progress report, steps taken and progress achieved for the full implementation of those recommendations.


The Assembly would, further by the text, request the Secretary-General to make every effort to avoid budget increases.  It would express concern about the merging of the provision for contingencies and that for forward pricing escalation contrary to the outline of the budget as approved by the Assembly at its sixty-first session.  The Secretary-General would be requested to distinguish between the provision for contingencies and that for forward pricing escalation as was done in the previous presentation of the cost estimate for the project. 


The text would also have the Assembly encourage the Secretary-General to pursue value engineering, and request him, in his next progress report, to provide a breakdown of the estimated cost savings to be realized through each value engineering initiative.


By other terms, the Assembly would express concern that the completion of the capital master plan had slipped from mid-2013 to late in 2013, as a consequence of the delay in the construction of the temporary North Lawn building.  It would take note, in that regard, of the accelerated schedule developed by the Secretary-General, which would allow for the completion of the capital master plan on time.  In future progress reports, it would request more information on the cost implications with respect to project delays, and would also express its regret that security concerns and space requirements were not duly considered much earlier.  It would also express regret that the decision to maintain the Security Council within the main complex of buildings had not been part of initial planning, thus resulting in delays, significant changes in project design and additional costs.


Additional provisions of the text would have the Assembly request the Secretary-General to discuss in his next progress report steps taken to ensure that all previous and future amendments to contracts relating to the procurement were in line with the United Nations Procurement Manual.  He would also be asked to report on efforts to involve the Headquarters Committee on Contracts in the adjudication process prior to the signing or amending of contracts, done within the scope of that Committee’s authority and in a manner which would not impede expeditious progress.  It would express concern at the risk posed by the absence of a review of contractual amendments, and would note that some measures taken to avoid delays in the procurement process, in particular the ex post facto review of contracts, risked having a negative impact.  It would reiterate its request to the Secretary-General to ensure that the construction manager, in consultation with the Procurement Division of the Department of Management of the Secretariat, prepare and implement an action plan to promote procurement opportunities for contractors and vendors from developing countries and countries with economies in transition.


As regards measures to protect data and the information and communications systems of the Secretariat, the Assembly would note with concern that the Secretary-General did not move forward with the International Computing Centre to lease services for the transfer of the secondary data centre.  It would urge the Secretary-General to ensure that activities related to the migration and running of the secondary data centre were completed within the specified time frame.  It would request the Secretary-General to continue to negotiate the most cost-effective lease and services possible, and to report on it to the Assembly in his next progress report.


The text would have the Assembly request the Secretary-General to absorb $11.64 million needed for data protection within the approved budget of the capital master plan for the 2010-2011 biennium.  It would also decide that the Secretary-General should include $1.25 million, to go towards that project, in the proposed requirements for the support account for peacekeeping operations for the period from 1 July 2010 to 30 June 2011, and $941,640 for the period from 1 July 2011 to 30 June 2012.


Regarding associated costs, the Assembly would decide not to approve the overall level at this time, bearing in mind opportunities for further cost reductions posed by the present economic circumstances, as well as savings realized by the Secretary-General.  It would note with concern that a number of the requirements set out under associated costs required did not relate directly to the capital master plan, but rather to ongoing capital improvements, investment costs and long-term commitments.


Of the associated costs recommended by the Secretary-General for approval, the text would request the Secretary-General to absorb $42.07 million of that amount within the overall budget approved for the capital master plan, broken down as follows:


-- $645,600 for the Department for General Assembly and Conference Management;

-- $27.03 million for the Department of Public Information;

-- $6.01 million for the Office of Central Support Services;

-- $2.17 million for construction, alteration, improvement and major maintenance activities at Headquarters;

-- $5.60 million for the Department of Safety and Security;

-- $611,800 for the Office of Information and Communications Technology.


The Committee approved the draft resolution without a vote.


It then turned to a draft resolution on the report of the Office of Internal Oversight Services (OIOS) on its activities (document A/C.5/64/L.6), another text submitted by JOSIEL MOTUMISI TAWANA ( South Africa) on behalf of Mr. MAURER.


Among other things, the draft would have the Assembly recall that the OIOS should exercise operational independence under the authority of the Secretary-General relating to the performance of its internal oversight functions.  But, it would also express deep concern with the recommendations of the OIOS in paragraph 37 of its report (concerning the potential efficiency of combining the administrative and advocacy functions of the Office of the Special Adviser on Africa and the Office of the High Representative for the Least Developed Countries, Landlocked Developing Countries and Small Island Developing States), and would reiterate that OIOS should not propose to the Assembly any change to the legislative decisions and mandates approved by intergovernmental legislative bodies.  It would urge the Secretary-General to ensure that the Office of Internal Oversight Services conducts its activities in accordance with its mandates.


The Committee then approved the draft resolution without a vote.


The next draft resolution before the Committee was on the financing of the activities arising from Security Council resolution 1863 (2009) (document A/C.5/64/L.8), submitted by IOANA SANDA STOICA ( Romania) on behalf of the Chair, Mr. MAURER.


Recalling Security Council resolution 1863 (2009) of 16 January 2009, by which the Council expressed its intent to establish a United Nations peacekeeping operation in Somalia as a follow-on force to the African Union Mission in Somalia, the draft would have the Assembly appropriate $75.64 million to the Special Account for the support provided to the African Union Mission in Somalia for the 2008/9 period, and $213.58 million for the 2009/10 period, inclusive of $138.80 million previously authorized by the Assembly at the sixty-third session and in addition to $6.10 million previously appropriated, also at the sixty-third session.


By other terms, the Assembly would apportion among Member States an additional amount of $12.46 million for the period from 1 to 31 January 2010, in accordance with levels updated by the General Assembly in 2006, and taking account of the scale of assessments for 2010 and also taking account of $138.80 million previously apportioned to States.  Some $168,483 from States’ respective share in the Tax Equalization Fund -- representing the additional staff assessment income for the period from 1 to 31 January 2010 ‑‑ would be off-set against the apportionment.  A further $12.46 million would be apportioned among States each month for the period 1 February to 30 June 2010, subject to a decision of the Security Council to extend support to the African Union Mission, and $842,417 of States’ shares in the Tax Equalization Fund would be off-set against those sets of apportionments.


The draft would have the Assembly decide on further off-sets ‑‑ both for States that had fulfilled their financial obligations to the entity and those that had not ‑‑ where their respective share of the unencumbered balance and other income amounting to $3.72 million in the period ended 30 June 2009 would be off-set against their January apportionment.  The Assembly would further decide that the increase of $258,000 in the estimated staff assessment income in respect of the financial period ended 30 June 2009 would be added to the credits from that $3.72 million.


Acting again without a vote, the Committee approved the draft resolution.


The Committee next turned to a draft decision on the provisional staff rules (document A/C.5/64/L.9), submitted by MUHAMMAD A. MUHITH (Bangladesh) on behalf of the Chair, by which the Assembly would decides that the Staff Rules, as referred to in the report of the Secretary-General, should remain provisional pending their further consideration at its sixty-fifth session.


CATHERINE POLLARD, Assistant Secretary-General for Human Resources Management, said the Secretary-General’s proposals were made in response to a request from the General Assembly last year, as part of its review of United Nations contractual reform.  The report addressed the Assembly’s full range of concerns.  However, it had become apparent from the Secretariat’s deliberations with the ACABQ and the Fifth Committee that the Office of Human Resources Management was not in a position to answer their questions on data on continuing needs.  Since it was unable to provide the necessary responses required by the Committee to conclude its consideration of the item, the report on implementation of continuing appointments (document A/64/267) would be withdrawn and a new report would supersede it.  The Committee was to be briefed on the issue during its first resumed session in March 2010.


The Committee adopted the decision without a vote.


The representative of Sweden, speaking on behalf of the European Union and associated States, said the European Union’s stated aim had been to carefully study the proposals on continuing appointments in order to take a well-informed decision.  It was of great importance to complete the reform regime that was adopted by the Assembly at its previous session.  The European Union was aware of the expectations of United Nations personnel, the Organization’s most important asset, and was ready to engage constructively to ensure that the new contractual system met the needs of both the Organization and its staff.  At informals, the European Union had asked for clarifications and supplementary information, and learned that the Secretariat was not in a position to provide that information.  The Secretariat had indicated its intention to brief the Committee at the first resumed session in March next year.  While disappointed, the European Union appreciated the Secretariat’s frankness and open approach.


Sudan’s representative, speaking on behalf of the Group of 77 and China, expressed deep disappointment over the handling of this crucial issue.  The Secretariat’s inability to answer questions raised by Member States was a major source of concern and surprise.  Indeed, the Assembly had firmly intended to take a decision on the final step of the new contractual framework and the Secretariat had almost a year to prepare.  Ensuring the well-being of the Organization’s staff was of utmost concern to the Group of 77 and China, and it approached today’s decision to postpone consideration of implementing continuing appointments with concern.


He recognized that Assistant Secretary-General Catherine Pollard indicated she would inform staff members by video conference today.  This would undoubtedly help to dissipate any possible misunderstanding about the current situation.  The Group of 77 and China hoped to see the staff involved in the work the Secretariat needed to perform in the coming months.  It remained committed to completing the Human Resources Management reform at the earliest opportunity.


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For information media • not an official record