Achieving optimal results requires establishing full accountability by all parties involved:
- Within the Secretariat, flowing both to and from the Secretary-General, Senior Managers, and staff.
- From the UN to its Member States, by striving to ensure that we work and deliver as one to meet the mandates governments adopt.
- From Member States to the UN, by building on responsible governance, including support that is commensurate with the mandates given to the Organization.
- From Member States to each other, in carrying out respective responsibilities to ensure mandates can be effectively implemented, and that necessary institutional changes are undertaken through the intergovernmental process.
- From UN bodies and their Member States to the global public - especially those most in need.
Over time, the UN has developed a robust accountability system which rests on internal controls and oversight mechanisms, and tools to promote transparency and integrity. In recent years a special focus has been given to ensuring the integrity of procurement processes. (See A/64/640, Annex 1 for “Components of the accountability system in the United Nations Secretariat”).
While much has been done, accountability is by its very nature a work in progress, as expectations and demands on the system continue to evolve. Achievements to date include:
Strengthened internal controls and oversight
- Strengthening of the Office of Internal Oversight Services (OIOS): Key leadership positions in OIOS are being filled, and vacancies in all areas are being actively managed, using innovative recruitment strategies to ensure competent, motivated candidates are attracted and retained. In addition, OIOS management capacity is being strengthened to ensure appropriate allocation of, and accountability for, oversight resources to respond to fluctuating demands. Key oversight procedures have been updated and standardised and quality assurance processes added to improve reliability and usefulness of results to improve United Nations operations. Transparency of results is also assured, with reports now accessible to all UN member states.
- In 2008, the UN established the Independent Audit Advisory Committee (IAAC) to assist the General Assembly in fulfilling its oversight responsibilities. It provides expert advice on the scope, results and effectiveness of audit and other oversight functions, and on other issues such as risk management, internal controls, accounting and disclosure.
- The UN Management Committee was established in 2005 to ensure leadership and strategic direction on internal change and management-related issues and effective follow-up on the findings and recommendations of oversight bodies. In the same year, the Management Performance Board was created to strengthen accountability and monitor the performance of senior managers.
- In 2006, the UN introduced Senior Managers’ Compacts, annual agreements between the Secretary-General and his senior-most officials, that set specific programmatic objectives and managerial targets for a given year, and that outline clear roles and responsibilities at the highest levels. In 2010, we broadened the Compact regime to include Heads of Peacekeeping and of Special Political Missions as well.
Increased transparency and integrity
- The UN established the Ethics Office to sustain an organizational culture based on accountability, integrity, and transparency. We adopted a whistleblower protection policy to protect staff members who report misconduct. Further, we issued a policy to safeguard a workplace free of harassment, sexual harassment and abuse of authority.
Female UN Police officers investigate a domestic abuse case in Timor Leste.The UN launched a new Internal Justice System in 2009 to professionalize internal dispute resolution.
- Over the last few years, we established a framework to address conduct issues in peacekeeping missions and instituted a “zero tolerance” policy regarding sexual exploitation, abuse, and other misconduct. This includes the deployment of Conduct and Discipline Teams in missions, and the maintenance of an oversight and advisory capacity at Headquarters.
- The UN has rigorously implemented a financial disclosure programme for senior officials and relevant procurement officers to ensure that potential conflicts of interest that may arise from staff members’ private holdings, affiliations, or activities can be identified and addressed appropriately.
- In 2010, the UN issued a policy on the “Reporting, Retaining and Disposing of Honours, Decorations, Favours, Gifts or Remuneration.”
- In 2009, the UN issued “Guidelines on the cooperation between the United Nations and the Business Sector” to ensure the integrity and independence of the Organization while fostering new partnerships.
A special focus on procurement
The Procurement Task Force (PTF) operated between January 2006 and December 2008 to address specific allegations of fraud and corruption related to the Oil-for-Food Programme. While the PTF recommended legal action in 13 cases, its efforts did not expose widespread corruption at the United Nations (see Board of Auditors report A/63/167). Acting on Task Force recommendations, in the past few years the Organization has made it a priority to strengthen internal control and oversight mechanisms, optimize the acquisition process, and manage the UN procurement function more strategically.
- In 2006, the UN issued a UN Supplier Code of Conduct that stipulates that suppliers must comply with the values enshrined in the United Nations Charter.
- In 2007, we put into effect a policy on post-employment restrictions for UN staff entrusted with procurement functions.
- In 2008, we amended the governance structure of the UN Procurement Division to further enhance internal controls and oversight.
- In 2010, the UN amended the Award Review Board and formed the Senior Vendor Review Committee to strengthen internal control, transparency, accountability and risk mitigation in the UN procurement process.
- Currently, the Department of Management is undertaking a comprehensive review of delegation of authority.
- Launch of the Integrity Awareness Initiative, with mandatory training for all staff on ethics, integrity and a workplace free of harassment, sexual harassment and abuse of authority.
- We are strengthening and establishing capacity for Results-Based Management and Enterprise Risk Management.
- The UN is introducing the International Public Sector Accounting Standards (IPSAS) to improve the quality and transparency of financial reporting.