29 November 2011
General Assembly
GA/AB/4015

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

Sixty-sixth General Assembly

Fifth Committee

19th Meeting (AM)


Deputy Secretary-General Tells Budget Committee Resource Planning Project, Umoja;


Information, Communication Initiatives ‘Cornerstones of Management Reform’

 


Says Investments in Both Areas Will Have Major Returns, Deserve Strong Support;

Umoja Facing Two-Year Delay in Implementation, But Level of Resources Unchanged


Touting the United Nations ambitious projects in information and communications technology development and enterprise resource planning as the “engine and enabler” of the Organization’s reform and strengthening, the Deputy Secretary-General urged delegates in the Fifth Committee (Administrative and Budgetary) today to supply the necessary funds to implement them.


“ICT and Umoja are the cornerstones of management reform at the United Nations.  Investments in both areas will have major returns across the Organization and deserve your strong support,” said Asha Rose Migiro, in a statement to the Committee delivered by Anthony Banbury, Assistant Secretary-General of the Department of Field Support, and alternative member of the Umoja Steering Committee.


Details of those projects were outlined in the Secretary-General’s report on enterprise information and communications technology initiatives for the United Nations Secretariat and his third progress report on the enterprise resource planning project.  Both were presented today by María Eugenia Casar, Assistant Secretary-General and Controller, Office of Programme Planning, Budget and Accounts.  The Advisory Committee on Administrative and Budgetary Questions (ACABQ) weighed in on the projects with its own report, introduced today by its Chair, Collen Kelapile.


The Deputy Secretary-General said the Organization’s four integrated information and communications technology initiatives would consolidate and improve the United Nations’ outdated, fragmented technology operations, reduce costs and improve service delivery.


“If we do not invest in ICT now, the overall costs of our operations will continue to rise, and we will miss significant opportunities to achieve transparency, effectiveness and efficiency in the Secretariat’s substantive work programmes, as well as in its ICT operations,” she said.  “Furthermore, these ICT initiatives will contribute to the Secretary-General’s effort to ‘do more with less’ – an imperative of the current climate.”


Investment in Umoja — a new, improved system of managing human, resource and material resources throughout the United Nations — would produce savings of between $139 million and $220 million annually compared to current spending in administrative support services, she said.


But, challenges to Umoja meant it was running two years behind schedule and would not be fully implemented until December 2015, she said.  She was quick to assure the Committee that every effort, including interim arrangements to strengthen Umoja’s governance structure and a revised implementation approach that would enable the Organization to implement the International Public Sector Accounting Standards (IPSAS) requirements on time, was under way to ensure the project was firmly back on track.  Such adjustments would help ensure proper management of the project, overcome current delays, mitigate risks and costs, and ensure it produced the expected benefits.  Staff would begin using the new system by the end of 2013.


The overall level of resources for Umoja’s implementation, which remained unchanged at $315.8 million, would stay under constant review, she said.


But, several Committee delegates expressed worries over the significant delay in implementing Umoja and echoed the claim in the Advisory Committee’s report that it was due to a failure of management.


Australia’s representative, also speaking on behalf of Canada and New Zealand, said she was particularly disturbed that, while some delays were expected, the project’s current governance issues should have been tackled by senior management before they were allowed to adversely impact the project, especially at such a critical time, and consequently spill over to IPSAS implementation and other important projects.  “We will investigate this further in forthcoming negotiations,” she said.


Moreover, she would closely scrutinize the information and communications technology proposal to ensure the proposed gains were achievable within the appropriate budget.


A representative of the European Union expressed concern that Umoja had been functioning without a permanent Director since 31 May.  She concurred with the Advisory Committee’s recommendation that a permanent governance structure be created by the first resumed sixty-sixth session and that the Secretary-General should give details on the status of staffing.  “Umoja is vital to the UN.  It is unacceptable that its implementation is suffering,” she said.


The United States representative questioned whether Umoja would succeed at all.  He cited industry statistics that showed that more than 60 per cent of enterprise resource planning implementation failed, due mainly to the lack of top management commitment, poor project design and management, and miscalculation of the time and effort required.  Moreover, there was no revised financial analysis to support the Secretary-General’s assertion that the project would be completed within the current budget and deliver the promised benefits.


“The absence of such analysis does little to lessen our doubts regarding future cost overruns and unmet expectations,” he said, calling on the Secretary-General to provide such data before the resumed sixty-sixth session.  Unless critical gaps in recruiting qualified staff and subject matter experts were addressed without further delay, the revised timelines would prove unachievable.  “We ask the Secretary-General:  How much longer will the process take?”


Concerning the information and communications technology initiatives, the representatives of Japan and Republic of Korea supported the Advisory Committee’s recommendation that they be reprioritized, with the former calling for sufficient explanation from the Secretariat on their respective benefits and the latter calling for a reduction in their scope for 2012-2013.


Also speaking today were the representatives of Switzerland (also on behalf of Liechtenstein) and the Russian Federation.


The Committee will meet again at 10 a.m. Friday, 2 December, to take action on a draft resolution on the financing of the United Nations Organization Stabilization Mission in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (MONUSCO) and to consider financing of other peacekeeping operations.


Background


As the Fifth Committee (Administrative and Budgetary) met today to consider its agenda item on the proposed programme for the biennium 2012-2013, it had before it reports on information and communications technology and on enterprise resource planning, Umoja.


The Secretary-General’s report on enterprise information and communications technology initiatives for the United Nations Secretariat (documentA/66/94) gives an update on the status of implementing the four initiatives, which include improving enterprise information and communications technology management, leveraging knowledge through such technology, enhancing its service delivery and creating a resilient information and communications technology infrastructure.


The report also responds to the Assembly’s request that he continue implementing enterprise content management and customer relationship management systems in the context of the proposed programme budget for the biennium 2012-2013 and it contains information on the development of a unified information and communications technology disaster recovery plan and business continuity approach.


According to the report, the initiatives will help overcome the difficulties stemming from fragmented information and communications technology capacities and resources and from high operation costs.  They will significantly improve the Organization’s effectiveness and efficiency and help it implement an organization-wide approach to information and communications technology that is consistent with Member States’ expectations.  In addition, they will enable the Organization to implement strategic programmes, improve knowledge management and service delivery and help the Secretariat meet its mission and programme goals.


In the report, the Secretary-General asks the Assembly to endorse the initiatives and to note the impact costs of delays.  The Assembly is also asked to note that the proposal for the estimated $42.82 million in total resource requirements is financed from among the regular budget, the support account for peacekeeping operations and extrabudgetary resources.  The Assembly is also asked to approve several extra appropriations.


The Secretary-General’s report on the third progress report on the enterprise resource planning project (document A/66/381) gives an annual update on that project known as Umoja, the cornerstone of the United Nations administrative reform efforts aimed at maximizing the productivity of its human, resource and material resources.  The report states that since the Assembly provided it with initial funding in 2009, Umoja has re-engineered hundreds of existing administrative processes across the Secretariat and it is now moving from the design phase to the build phase.  Due to delays, the project timeline contained in the second progress report (document A/65/389) must be adjusted.


According to the report, which includes a summary of the Umoja project’s resource requirements, Umoja’s $315.79 million budget would be funded with the existing cost-sharing formula of 15 per cent under the regular budget; 62 per cent under the support account for peacekeeping operations; and 23 per cent under extrabudgetary resources.


The Assembly is asked to take note of the progress report in implementing the Umoja project presented in the Secretary-General’s report, to approve $17.81 million (net), as presented under Section 29A of the proposed programme budget for the biennium 2012-2013, Office of the Under-Secretary-General for Management, representing the regular budget share for the Umoja project (document A/66/6 (sect.29A) and to note that the $13.27 million (net) requirement for that biennium will be included in the proposed programme budget under Section 29A.  Furthermore, the Assembly is asked to note that the $56 million (net) in future remaining requirements will be included in the subsequent requirements for the support account for peacekeeping operations for the financial periods beginning 1 July 2012.


The second report of the Advisory Committee on Administrative and Budgetary Questions (ACABQ) on the proposed programme budget for the biennium 2012-2013 titled information and communications technology (document A/66/7/Add.1) weighs in on the two above-mentioned Secretary-General reports.  Responding to the Secretary-General’s announcement of an anticipated two-year delay in fully implementing Umoja, the Advisory Committee states that the delay “clearly reflects a failure in management” of the project.  It regrets that the Secretary-General did not provide information earlier to the Assembly on the serious implementation problems and is deeply disturbed and dismayed by the apparent lack of awareness and foreknowledge in the Organization regarding project status.  That situation, according to the Advisory Committee, reflects inadequate project governance, oversight and reporting arrangements.  Also of concern is the departure of the Director of the project and the resignation of the Chair of the Steering Committee in June, which left the project without leadership and a weakened management structure during a critical juncture.


In light of the project’s strategic importance, the Advisory Committee also regrets that closer attention was not spent anticipating and resolving project management issues promptly.  It faults the Secretary-General’s analysis of factors causing the delay for being incomplete, as it does not review the impact of adequacy and effectiveness of the project’s governance, decision-making and risk management structures.  Furthermore, the Secretary-General makes no attempt to attribute responsibility for what caused the delays or to hold anyone to account for them.


The Advisory Committee recommends that the Assembly establish one D-2 post under section 30, noting that the cost of its delayed impact is estimated at $217,200, and approve general temporary assistance equivalent to seven P-4 posts for the Office of Information and Communications Technology in 2012-2013.


It asks the Assembly to approve $19.97 million for that biennium, or half of the amount proposed by the Secretary-General for non-post resources to implement activities related to the “Improve enterprise ICT management”, “Leverage knowledge through ICT service delivery” and “Create a resilient ICT infrastructure” initiatives.


The Assembly is also asked to note that $21.57 million in total resource requirements for the biennium 2012-2013 is to be distributed as follows:


The Assembly is also asked to approve the following extra appropriations:


Introduction of Reports


MARÍA EUGENIA CASAR, Assistant Secretary-General and Controller, Office of Programme Planning, Budget and Accounts, introduced the Secretary-General’s report on enterprise information and communications technology initiatives for the United Nations Secretariat.  She noted that the report proposed the establishment of 14 posts and total resource requirements for the biennium 2012-2013, estimated at $42.82 million.  It proposed that those resource requirements be financed from among the regular budget (15 per cent), the support account for peacekeeping operations (62 per cent) and extrabudgetary resources (23 per cent).


From the regular budget, the initiative would draw $5.64 million, under section 30, Office of Information and Communications Technology, and $784,300, under section 29D, Office of Central Support Services, of the proposed programme budget for the biennium 2012-2013.  From the support account for peacekeeping operations, it would draw $6.64 million for the period from 1 July 2011 to 30 June 2012, to meet the requirements related to all four initiatives for the biennium 2012-2013.


Future remaining requirements of an estimated $13.28 million would be considered in subsequent support account for peacekeeping operations requirements for the 1 July 2012 to 30 June 2013 financial period, while $6.64 million would be included in requirements for the 1 July 2013 to 30 June 2014 period.  An estimated amount of $9.85 million of the overall cost of all projects for the biennium 2012-2013 would be financed from extrabudgetary resources.  Meanwhile, the Assembly was requested to note the cost of the delayed impact, estimated at $2.33 million, should the proposed 14 posts be approved.


Should the Assembly agree with the Secretary-General’s proposals, it was asked to approve extra appropriations in the amounts of $6.42 million, under the proposed programme budget for the biennium 2012-2013, including $5.64 million for section 30, Office of Information and Communications Technology and $784,300 for section 29D, Office of Central Support Services; and $6.64 million, under the support account for peacekeeping operations for the 1 July 2011 to 30 June 2012 period.


Turning to the third progress report on the enterprise resource planning project, she said that the overall level of resources for the implementation of the Umoja project remained unchanged at $315.79 million, to be funded in accordance with the existing cost sharing formula.  The cumulative total of $121.3 million since the inception of the programme was projected to be expanded by the end of the year.  The Assembly was asked to approve $17.81 million, as presented under Section 29A of the proposed programme budget for the biennium 2012-2013, Office of the Under-Secretary-General for Management, representing the regular budget share for the Umoja project.


Additionally, it was asked to note that the $13.27 million (net) requirements for the biennium 2014-2015 will be included in that budget; and note that future remaining requirements estimated at $56 million (net) will be included in the subsequent requirements for the support account for peacekeeping operations for the financial periods beginning from 1 July 2012.


Statement on Behalf of Deputy Secretary-General


ANTHONY BANBURY, Assistant Secretary-General of the Department of Field Support, and alternative member of the Umoja Steering Committee, speaking on behalf of Deputy Secretary-General Asha-Rose Migiro, said the information and communications technology initiatives would bring significant long-term qualitative and quantitative benefits to the Organization.  They would improve information and communications technology operations, standardize and consolidate the technology environment, contain costs, and expedite implementation of Umoja.


“If we do not invest in ICT now, the overall costs of our operations will continue to rise, and we will miss significant opportunities to achieve transparency, effectiveness and efficiency in the Secretariat’s substantive work programmes, as well as in its ICT operations,” he said.  “Furthermore, these ICT initiatives will contribute to the Secretary-General’s effort to ‘do more with less’ – an imperative of the current climate.”


In the past year, the Secretariat had continued its strategic programmes and operations within existing resources and made significant efforts to meet Member States’ requests for revised proposals for the projects included in document A/65/491 and earlier Assembly resolutions, he said.  The overall budget of the Office of Information and Communications Technology, however, had been steadily declining, despite its new mandate and the significant growth in demand for information and communications technology services at Headquarters.  That continuing lack of resources impeded the Office’s ability to fulfil its mandate and posed significant risks to day-to-day Headquarters operations that relied heavily on such technology.


Despite the current tough economic climate, funding of the Office of Information and Communications Technology was essential in the coming years to advance and achieve the goals set forth in the information and communications technology strategy, he said.  Implementation of the four, integrated Organization-wide information and communications technology initiatives would provide the technological foundation required to implement the strategy and address acute systemic problems in several critical areas.


Turning to the third progress report on Umoja, he said Umoja, with its state-of-the-art technology, would enable the Organization to transform resource management and enable the Secretariat to carry out Member States’ mandates more quickly and efficiently, in a time of increased financial pressure.  The current report did not reflect business as usual.  Despite continued progress and hard work, Umoja faced challenges that had caused project delays.  Instead of being fully deployed by 2013, it would now be fully implemented by December 2015.  He assured the Committee that every effort was being made to ensure the project was firmly back on track.  The report described the delays and steps to address them and expedite progress, including interim arrangements to strengthen Umoja’s governance structure.


A phased approach had been adopted, consistent with the “pilot first” implementation endorsed by the Assembly.  The first phase, known as Umoja Foundation, would begin in January 2013 and continue through December 2014; the second phase, called Umoja Extension, would be deployed by December 2015.  The revised implementation approach would enable the Organization to implement the International Public Sector Accounting Standards (IPSAS) requirements by the 2014 deadline.  Staff would begin using the new system by the end of 2013.


Investment in Umoja would reap a return of between $139 million and $220 million annually compared to current spending in administrative support services, he said.  It would also produce qualitative benefits, through increased operational effectiveness and timeliness; improved accountability; the adoption of international best practices and standards; enhanced transparency; higher client satisfaction; and better internal controls.


No additional resources were being requested for the 2012-2013 biennium.  The overall level of resources for Umoja’s implementation remained unchanged at $315.8 million, and it would remain under constant review.  He expressed confidence that the adjustments would help ensure proper management of the project, overcome current delays, mitigate risks and costs, and ensure that the project was delivered with the benefits envisaged.  The Secretary-General was steadfastly committed to Umoja’s implementation.  The Umoja Steering Committee firmly supported the revised implementation approach.


In closing, he said information and communications technology and Umoja had a broad and significant impact on the United Nations work and were the “engine and enabler” for United Nations reform and strengthening.  “ICT and Umoja are the cornerstones of management reform at the United Nations.  Investments in both areas will have major returns across the Organization and deserve your strong support.”


Introduction of Reports


COLLEN V. KELAPILE, Chair of the Advisory Committee on Administrative and Budgetary Questions, then introduced the Advisory Committee’s report on information and communications technology, covering both the Secretary-General’s reports on progress in and implementation of the enterprise resource planning project, or Umoja, and enterprise information and communications technology initiatives for the United Nations Secretariat.  Regarding the progress of Umoja, he noted the anticipated two-year delay for the full implementation of the project.  The ACABQ, for its part, considered that delay to reflect a “failure in the management of the project”, he said.  It also put into question the adequacy and effectiveness of the project’s governance, decision-making and risk management structures.  “The situation also demonstrates a lack of commitment to the project”, he stressed, as well as insufficient cooperation and coordination.


The Committee believed that, at the current stage, all efforts must be directed towards ensuring that the project was put back on track.  It should be fully staffed, and all activities delivered according to plan.  Noting efforts to mitigate the effects of the delay, he stressed nonetheless that, in order to ensure the effective direction and management of the project, a permanent governance structure should be put in place as early as possible.  The post of Project Director should also be filled without further delay.


The first phase of the project, known as Umoja Foundation, would begin in January 2013 and continue through December 2014, he said.  The second phase, called Umoja Extension, would be deployed by December 2015.  Deployment of human resources and budget formulation functions would begin in 2014.  The report also addressed the numerous challenges facing the project, and discussed key issues including the timely recruitment of project staff; the procurement of services; the establishment of an inventory of systems to be interfaced to, or replaced by, Umoja; and the identification of tasks to be completed by user departments.


Turning to the Secretary-General’s report on enterprise information and communications technology initiatives, he noted the current integrated approach taken in that area would indeed avoid a “piecemeal implementation” of the information and communications technology strategy, while allowing the consolidation and streamlining of related reports.  However, the main thrust of the proposals remained unchanged.  The Committee wished to point out that, despite efforts made to lower overall costs, the proposals for the enterprise information and communications technology initiatives still represented a significant outlay.


Moreover, the Advisory Committee was not convinced that the range of activities associated with the four enterprise initiatives had to be implemented at the same time, nor was it convinced that the Secretariat possessed the capacity to do so.  In that context, he said, the ACABQ believed that the Secretariat should avoid launching major new initiatives, allowing instead for the proper analysis and absorption of lessons learned.


The Advisory Committee recommended that the Secretary-General further reprioritize and reduce the scope of the activities envisaged for the biennium 2012-2013 under each of the four enterprise information and communications technology initiatives.  It recommended the approval of the D-2-level post of Director for the Infrastructure Management service, as well as the continuation of seven P-4-level posts to augment the capacity of the Office for Information Technology.  Additionally, it recommended the approval of resources equivalent to 50 per cent of the non-post resources proposed for the implementation of activities in connection with the four enterprise information and communications technology initiatives.


Finally, noting that the report proposed that the four initiatives be carried out over a four-year period from 2012 to 2015 and that they be funded on the basis of the cost-sharing arrangement for Umoja, he recalled that the ACABQ had previously noted that the regular budget share of the resources proposed was not reflected under budgetary proposals for 2012-2013.  Any additional resources approved would, therefore, represent additional requirements, he said.


Statements


CARMEL POWER, a representative of the European Union delegation, supported United Nations management reform as a major step towards modernization and enabling the Secretariat to better manage human and budgetary resources.  She strongly supported implementation of enterprise resource planning.  It was an opportunity to make the Organization much more effective and efficient through streamlined information management and business processes.  Sustained, long-term commitment to its implementation was vital.  That was why she was even more concerned over the significant project delays.  The Secretariat should give priority to avoiding any further slippage, cost overruns and underproductive use of resources.  She stressed the need for careful financial management of Umoja and ensuring it was delivered within the approved $315 million budget.


She expressed concern that Umoja had been functioning without a permanent Director since 31 May.  That was “too long” for a project of such magnitude and complexity that had already experienced delays and other major changes in project governance structure.  She called for a solid and efficient permanent governance structure.  She concurred with the Advisory Committee’s recommendation that such a structure be created by the first resumed sixty-sixth session and that the Secretary-General should give details on the status of staffing, as timely recruitment was crucial for implementing Umoja.  “Umoja is vital to the UN.  It is unacceptable that its implementation is suffering,” she said.


On information and communications technology, she encouraged efforts to create synergies and adopt common standards and solutions within the Secretariat and the Organization at large.  But, she still had doubts about the feasibility of current proposals towards that end.  She agreed with the Advisory Committee that work should be reprioritized.  She wanted each of the four information and communications technology projects to be scrutinized in detail.  She expressed concern about entering into any significant new projects before Umoja and IPSAS were fully implemented.


She supported the Advisory Committee’s recommendation to reduce significantly the scope of the current information and communications technology proposal.  She also suggested reducing its proposed management structures.  The technology projects and the Umoja project should not be intermingled, as each one required an individual, suitable implementation plan and governance structure.  She stressed that a piecemeal approach must be avoided in budget presentation, and expressed concern that the present resource requests were being presented as add-ons to the regular budget.


SHANNON WHITE ( Australia), also speaking on behalf of Canada and New Zealand, strongly supported information and communications technology reform and said she was committed to successful and timely implementations of the Umoja project.  Some of the delays in its implementation were expected, such as recruitment of the right experts.  But other problems, such as the project’s current governance issues, were not expected.  They were particularly disturbing, because they should have been tackled by senior management before they were allowed to adversely impact the project, especially at such a critical time.  She agreed with the Advisory Committee’s assessment that the current anticipated two-year project implementation delay was a failure of management.


“We will investigate this further in forthcoming negotiations,” she said.  She also expressed deep disappointment that the delays affecting Umoja would spill over to IPSAS implementation and other important projects.  She would work constructively with the Committee and the Secretariat to ensure such concerns were addressed and that the project was back on track.  Turning to information and communications technology reform and the Organization’s related strategy, she welcomed the Secretary-General’s efforts to revise the previous proposal for the strategy at reduced cost.  She agreed with the Advisory Committee’s belief that the revised approach would address the piecemeal nature of the Organization’s technology environment, which continued to hamper the Organization’s efficient functioning.


Greater coherence and coordination of technology management was needed, as was greater specificity to achieve quantifiable benefits from the technology strategy, she said.  In the current difficult economic times, it was not enough to simply assert that there would be long-term benefits for the Organization, without clearly demonstrating them.  She would closely scrutinize the proposals in order to ensure the promised gains were achievable within an appropriate budget envelope.


MATTHIAS DETTLING (Switzerland), also speaking on behalf of Liechtenstein, expressed disappointment over the problems in implementing Umoja and concurred with the Advisory Committee that the anticipated two-year delay was the result of failure and inadequacies at different levels.  At the project management level, especially after the unexpected departure of the Project Director, there was no suitable control framework that would have mitigated known risks.  At the project governance level, there was no adequate oversight mechanism that would have prompted the Steering Committee to address the manifold issues in a timely manner.  He supported the Advisory Committee’s recommendation for a thorough internal review of all factors contributing to the delay and for effectively applying lessons learned.  Some of the problems could have been offset by more proactive leadership, rigorous governance and efficient and accountable project management.  Such issues should be promptly addressed.  The Secretary-General should address the project’s governance structure as a matter of priority and he should be asked to clarify responsibilities and define adequate accountability mechanisms.


Meantime, he called on each member of the Steering Committee to do their utmost to ensure that Umoja was put back on track.  Umoja was a critical cornerstone of United Nations management and administrative reform and the backbone of a modern, effective and efficient Organization.  He called on the Secretary-General to demonstrate the necessary leadership to fully implement Umoja within the new timeline.  Umoja must be able to rely on the full support, active engagement and ownership of all relevant stakeholders acting in concert.  In light of the difficulties in implementing Umoja and the related tight timetable for adopting the IPSAS, the Secretariat should exercise prudence in launching new information and communications technology initiatives.  He would carefully consider the extent to which the four proposed initiatives reflected an immediate need and would seek clarification on their size and scope.


SUL KYUNG-HOON ( Republic of Korea) said that his delegation was concerned that the enterprise resources planning project, Umoja, would be delayed for two years.  Such a long delay was regrettable considering the potential ramifications of cost escalation, he added, emphasizing that all efforts should be directed towards ensuring that the project was firmly put back on track.  Turning next to information and communications technology reform efforts, he recalled that the annual expenditure for information and communications technology in the United Nations was estimated at $774 million; despite the huge expense; however, the United Nation’s information and communications technology environments and processes had often been criticized for their decentralization, fragmentation and lack of standardization, which had become major factors in driving up operations costs.


The Republic of Korea, therefore, supported efforts to strengthen information and communications technology in the United Nations system.  “Timely investments in ICT will bring efficiency and effectiveness in the long run, and help strengthen the accountability and credibility of the overall United Nations system,” he stressed.  In particular, integration of information and communications technology management throughout the system would help to overcome chronic problems, such as fragmented capacities and overlapping investments.  Bearing in mind the nature of information and communications technology investments, he added, delayed investments might save money in the short run, but cause the United Nations to lose much larger efficiency gains in the long run.  He believed the four initiatives should be endorsed, to avoid piecemeal implementation of the information and communications technology strategy.  He supported, however, the ACABQ’s recommendation that the four enterprise information and communications technology initiatives be reprioritized and reduced in scope for 2012-2013.


AKIHIRO OKOCHI ( Japan) expressed concern over the two-year delay in implementing the Umoja project.  Given the fact that the project was essential for introducing the IPSAS and that a significant sum, some $120 million, had already been invested in it, he advised against giving up at the halfway mark because of some difficulties.  He strongly encouraged the Secretariat to focus its attention and energies on the project, so that it could be implemented by the end of 2015 within the initial $315 million budget estimate.  The high vacancy rate in the Umoja team, if not addressed, would continue to impede cost-effective, timely project implementation.  He asked the Secretary-General and other senior Secretariat staff to pay sufficient attention to that issue and, if necessary, to address it in person.


He fully acknowledged the problems due to the fragmented state of the information and communications technology resources and that significant benefits would be produced by addressing that issue through greater coherence and coordination of technology management activities.  He understood the need for tighter budgetary discipline, as demonstrated in the Secretary-General’s 2012-2013 proposed programme budget.  He called for further prioritization among the technology projects and looked forward to sufficient explanation from the Secretariat on their respective benefits, as well as the feasibility of the Secretariat successfully executing a large number of complex management reform initiatives concurrently with the Umoja project.


JOSEPH TORELLA ( United States) said he firmly believed in Umoja’s importance but was disconcerted that the third progress report on enterprise resource planning was defined by corrective reactions to events and issues that should have been avoided with better project planning and effective leadership.  He was extremely concerned over the project’s timeline, cost and scope and that the final product would be considerably less capable and more costly than expected.  Industry statistics showed that more than 60 per cent of enterprise resource planning implementation failed.  He cited analysis by McKinsey Consulting showing that only 5 per cent of enterprise resource planning projects were successful, due mainly to lack of top management commitment, poor project design and management, and miscalculation of time and effort required.  He questioned whether that would be the case with the United Nations project, since Umoja’s senior management had thus far been inadequate.  He welcomed the Deputy Secretary-General as Chair of the Steering Committee, but noted it was an ad interim appointment.


Umoja needed a strong executive sponsor with broad executive authority who was personally responsible for the project’s success, he said.  He echoed the Advisory Committee’s call for resolving that, as a matter of priority, before the first resumed session in March.  The revised implementation approach was well articulated, but it did not address potential contingencies and challenges.  Nor was there any revised financial analysis to support the Secretary-General’s assertion that Umoja would be completed at a cost of $315 million and deliver the promised benefits.  “The absence of such analysis does little to lessen our doubts regarding future cost overruns and unmet expectations,” he said, calling on the Secretary-General to give a complete analysis of all potential risk and revise projected quantitative benefits and anticipated associated costs before the resumed sixty-sixth session.  “We ask the Secretary-General:  How much longer will the process take?”  He also expressed concern that, unless critical gaps in recruiting qualified staff and subject matter experts were addressed without further delay, the revised timelines would prove unachievable.


He lauded the insights of Assistant-Secretary-General Choi Soon-hong in recognizing critical problems in the Organization’s fragmented information and communications technology system and developing ways to address them.  Those problems must be addressed, but he did not agree with pouring additional resources into the solutions, particularly as other United Nations entities were proving they could do more with less.  Add-ons must be limited to new mandates that truly could not be achieved within budget.  That was not the case with the information and communications technology proposals.  The supplemental request of $6.4 million was 8 per cent over the Office of Information and Communications Technology 2012-2013 budget of $75.1 billion and a 13.1 per cent increase over the 2010-2011 appropriation.  That was difficult to accept when other United Nations entities had cut their budgets by an average of 3.7 per cent.


VLADIMIR PROKHOROV ( Russian Federation) expressed concern that the Office of Information and Communications Technology used a fragmented approach when it issued budget requests.  In financing the secondary data centre, it had proposed to charge the funding against the contingency fund, despite the fact that the United Nations budget had not been adopted.  That approach eroded United Nations financial discipline.  The Secretariat had portrayed Umoja as the cornerstone of reform and something that was urgently needed.  He was now very concerned to learn that there would be a two-year delay in its implementation.  The fact that it was being implemented without its Executive Director, who had left, and the Chair of the Umoja Steering Committee, who had also resigned, was clear evidence of weaknesses in the project’s management.  Moreover, the Secretary-General had made no attempt to determine who was responsible for those events, or to hold anyone accountable.  He expressed hope that the Secretariat would come to the right conclusions and implement the project within the approved financial appropriations.


Turning to the need to reform information and communications technology management, he said it was vital to reduce administrative costs and determine which administrative resources could be freed up.  The Assembly must address that.  In that regard, the Russian Federation would constructively engage with its partners in order to make the most balanced possible decision that was acceptable to Member States.


Responding to the delegates’ statements, Mr. BANBURY assured the Committee that he had listened carefully to the legitimate concerns expressed regarding the status of implementation of Umoja and the information and communications technology proposals.  He assured them that the Secretariat was acutely aware of those concerns and it was strongly committed to addressing the projects’ shortcomings.


Ms. CASAR echoed those sentiments and said her priority would be to ensure that documents presented to the Committee would have financial substance.


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