INTERNAL OVERSIGHT OFFICE ‘AN INTEGRAL, EFFECTIVE PART OF PROCESS TO REVITALIZE AND STREAMLINE UN’, BUDGET COMMITTEE TOLD

5 November 2001
GA/AB/3475

INTERNAL OVERSIGHT OFFICE ‘AN INTEGRAL, EFFECTIVE PART OF PROCESS TO REVITALIZE AND STREAMLINE UN’, BUDGET COMMITTEE TOLD

5/11/2001
Press ReleaseGA/AB/3475

Fifty-sixth General Assembly

Fifth Committee

23rd Meeting (AM)

INTERNAL OVERSIGHT OFFICE ‘AN INTEGRAL, EFFECTIVE PART OF PROCESS

TO REVITALIZE AND STREAMLINE UN’, BUDGET COMMITTEE TOLD

Independence the Cornerstone of Effective

Oversight, Says United States Representative

The annual Office of Internal Oversight Services (OIOS) report was an important status document on the administrative health of the United Nations and its programmes, the representative of the United States told the Fifth Committee (Administrative and Budgetary) this morning as it took up several reports related to the work of that body.   

[Established in 1994, the Office provides a comprehensive range of internal oversight services, with particular emphasis on strengthening internal controls and improving management performance.]

Since its inception, the OIOS –- the Organization’s internal “watchdog” -– had been an integral and effective part of the process to revitalize and streamline the United Nations, she said.  Independence was the cornerstone of an effective oversight mechanism because auditors, investigators and inspectors needed to operate free of influence from those on whom they reported.  The OIOS should be technologically savvy and should ultimately become a model “state of the art” oversight body.  The emphasis should be placed on the implementation of critical recommendations most likely to result in savings and benefits.  The Office should be commended for its exemplary work in reviewing subsistence allowance rates at several peacekeeping missions.

The representative of Belgium (on behalf of the European Union and associated States) said the role of the Office was all the more important as the General Assembly had just approved greater accountability from programme managers.  The OIOS had identified some $58 million in savings for the year under review.  The Union was concerned with cases of bribery and extortion of refugees referred to in the annual report and the incidents implicating private persons in fraudulent operations identified in a number of peacekeeping operations.  Those cases demonstrated the need for strengthening the role of monitoring bodies, including the enhanced presence of resident auditors. 

No scope of coverage on behalf of the OIOS would lead to any significant results without scrupulous compliance with its recommendations, the representative of the Russian Federation said.  Noting an increase in the indicators of compliance as compared with the previous period under review, he welcomed the

creation of data bases to monitor the implementation of the recommendations.  Regarding the audits of peacekeeping operations, he was alarmed by the serious violations of financial provisions and procurement instructions, as well as financial scheming exposed by the OIOS.

Introducing the reports before the Committee, Under-Secretary-General for Internal Oversight Services, Dileep Nair, said that as of August 2001, more than 50 per cent of OIOS’ recommendations had been implemented and that 27 per cent of the recommendations had far-reaching implications for the Organization.  He also spoke about the new proposed organizational structure of the OIOS, which would merge the monitoring, inspection, evaluation and management consulting components and allow a more integrated approach the OIOS oversight.

Also this morning, the Director of Programme Planning and Budget Division, Warren Sach, introduced to the Committee the reformulated narrative of the proposed programme budget sections on Legal Affairs and Office of Human Resources Management, saying that it had been brought “more closely in line with the provisionsof the medium-term plan for 2002-2005”.   The changes were also intended to reflect the resolutions adopted following the approval of the medium-term plan for 2002-2005.  [The reformulation had been recommended by the Committee for Programme and Coordination (CPC) following its consideration of the proposed programme budget for 2002-2003.]

Several speakers in the ensuing debate, however, questioned the relevance of the proposed changes.  The representative of Iran (on behalf of the Group

of 77 and China) said that the brief document on human resources management did not properly reflect the provisions of a related General Assembly resolution.  The representative of Egypt insisted that no discussion of the reformulated narrative on Legal Affairs could take place, unless the document on that section was reissued, for its reference to the report of the CPC did not reflect the views of Member States.  Regret was also expressed that the representatives of the Office of Human Resources Management and the Office of Legal Affairs had not been present to introduce the sections in question.

Also speaking this morning were the representatives of Syria and Saudi Arabia. 

The Committee will continue its consideration of the OIOS reports and take up the United Nations common system at 10 a.m. tomorrow.

Background

When the Fifth Committee (Administrative and Budgetary) met this morning, it was expected to take up reports of the Secretary-General on the activities of the Office of Internal Oversight Services (OIOS).  Also, before the Committee, were the revised narrative of the proposed budget sections on legal affairs.(document A/C.5/56/11) and on the Office of Human Resources Management (OHRM) (document A/C.5/56/10).  Information on those documents is contained under the section “Introduction of Documents and Statements”.

The Committee had before it the Secretary-General’s note contained in document A/56/381, which transmits to the Assembly the seventh annual report of the Office of Internal Oversight Services, covering the period from 1 July 2000 to 30 June 2001.  The Secretary-General takes note of the activities presented in the report and expresses appreciation for the Office’s efforts to improve its relationships with programme and other oversight bodies, including the Board of External Auditors and the Joint Inspection Unit.

Responding to the call by last year’s Millennium Summit to improve the effectiveness of the United Nations and make best use of resources in accordance with the established rules and procedures, the OIOS has maximized its impact on the Organization by carrying out balanced and objective oversight activities, the report states.  Its audits, inspections and investigations addressed such administrative bottlenecks as management inefficiency, poor deployment of staff and improper use of resources.  Priority is given to peacekeeping and humanitarian activities, human resources management, procurement and problems associated with establishing new bodies.  The OIOS has placed resident auditors at most peacekeeping missions and resident investigators in Kosovo and East Timor.  During the reporting period, a total of 2,015 recommendations have been issued,

53 per cent of which have been implemented.  Some 27 per cent of those have been classified as critical to the Organization, calling for improvements to productivity, savings and recoveries, as well as accountability for fraud, waste and abuse, among other things.

Highlighting the achievements of the OIOS, the document reports that the Office has led a multinational task force to investigate allegations that refugees were asked to pay bribes to obtain registration and resettlement documents from the Nairobi branch office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR).  The investigation has led to the arrest of nine individuals by Kenyan authorities.  Also, as a result of a review of mission subsistence allowance rates at a number of peacekeeping missions, the rates at the Ethiopia, Eritrea and Georgia missions were reduced, resulting in projected annual savings of some

$3.6 million.  Recommended reductions at other missions are aimed at saving an estimated $45 million annually.

Regarding the inspection of the Office for Drug Control and Crime Prevention (ODCCP) in Vienna (see separate report below), the OIOS reports that poor management has affected the fulfilment of its mandate.  There was no consistent system for programme oversight, and the lack of clearly defined delegation of authority to programme managers from the Executive Director clouded accountability.  Since, the Executive Director of the ODCCP has accepted all the recommendations and provided a time frame for their implementation.

On the United Nations Crime Prevention and Criminal Justice Programme, the report states that the OIOS found the level of implementation of its previous recommendations to be “somewhat disappointing”.  However, recommendations on the servicing of intergovernmental meetings, information and dissemination functions and cooperation with other relevant organizations were implemented satisfactorily. The OIOS is planning to follow up on all aspects of the implementation.

Also according to the report, the OIOS has identified potential savings of $1.7 million at the UNHCR emergency operation in Kosovo.  The Office found that partner organizations failed to disclose exchange rate gains made with UNHCR project funds and did not comply with procurement procedures.  So far, a total of $1.24 million has been recovered.  An inquiry into an allegation of corruption at United Nations Interim Administration in Kosovo (UNMIK) uncovered evidence that a staff member had, on two occasions, embezzled Kosovo's consolidated funds.  The staff member has been summarily dismissed and criminal charges are pending.  The OIOS also reviewed policies and procedures for the recruitment of international civilian staff for peacekeeping and other special missions.  The audit recommended enhancing transparency in the existing procedure in order to meet the needs of field missions more effectively.

The report also contains information regarding internal improvements in the work of the Office as a result of a strategic planning exercise recently undertaken by the new head of the OIOS.  A new organizational structure has been proposed, merging the monitoring, inspection, evaluation and management consulting components of the OIOS.  To cope with an increasing number of investigations, the relevant subprogramme would be reinforced through seeking additional posts, establishing an investigations section in Geneva and elevating the similar structure in New York to a division.  Monitoring, evaluation and consulting would also be established in Geneva. 

The OIOS is developing a consolidated annual work programme in coordination with other oversight bodies.  The OIOS expects that additional investigation offices will be established in Geneva, the Democratic Republic of the Congo and at other peacekeeping missions during the next reporting period.  With the additional offices, a greater amount of resources will be dedicated to investigation matters away from Headquarters.  The OIOS Geneva office would be headed by the Chief of the UNHCR Audit Service.  Various functional units of the office would report directly to the respective chiefs of division in New York.  Similar structural arrangements are under consideration for Nairobi.

By his note contained in document A/56/128, the Secretary-General transmits to the General Assembly a report conveyed to him by the Under-Secretary-General for Internal Oversight Services, on the audit of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees Operations in Albania.

According to the document, the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) spent approximately $56 million for emergency assistance to Kosovo refugees in Albania.  In November 1999, the OIOS conducted an audit of the UNHCR operations there, which disclosed serious shortcomings in the management of the emergency operations by the UNHCR and its implementing partners.  For instance, procurement did not always meet the standards, nor did it achieve best value for money.  Assets and commodities were not properly tracked and could not be fully accounted for.  Also, programme monitoring and budgetary control by implementing partners were inadequate; taxes on purchases made by the UNHCR and its partners were not refunded; and staffing during the emergency phase was inadequate.

A follow-up audit, which was conducted in November 2000 to determine whether the problems had been resolved, showed significant progress in addressing initial shortcomings.  The UNHCR has improved procurement procedures; introduced a requirement for pre-qualification of implementing partners prior to delegating major procurement to them; and identified assets valued at an estimated

$8.7 million, which had not been accounted for at the time of the initial OIOS audit.  It also strengthened controls over the remaining commodities and the tracking of stock movement, and obtained a refund of taxes levied on purchases made directly by the UNHCR.  The OIOS found, however, that the UNHCR could still improve the staffing of emergency operations to ensure their continuity and internal control, as well as its monitoring of partners.  Its asset management system should more accurately reflect both assets on hand and those provided to partners.

The auditors recommended ensuring that emergency operations are adequately staffed, and that key positions in programme, finance and supply chain management are filled on time.  Rotation should be kept to a workable minimum and, where required, appropriate hand-over arrangements should be in place.  From the beginning of an emergency, the UNHCR should immediately establish adequate systems for the tracking of assets and commodities.  Also recommended is a review of rules and procedures for financial management, procurement and asset management as related to emergency situations.  The UNHCR should renegotiate, as appropriate, existing cooperation agreements with host governments to ensure that tax exemptions granted to the UNHCR under the 1946 Convention on the Privileges and Immunities of the United Nations are extended to programme purchases made by implementing partners with UNHCR funds.  Without such tax exemptions, local purchases by implementing partners should be kept to a minimum.

In addition to the general OIOS report, the Committee also had before it a Secretary-General’s note contained in document A/56/83, transmitting a report of the Office of Internal Oversight Services on the inspection of programme management and administrative practices in the Office for Drug Control and Crime Prevention (ODCCP).  In February 2001, the OIOS reviewed the programme management and administrative practices of the ODCCP in Vienna.  The review included

follow-up to earlier recommendations and a 1997 review of programme management in the Crime Prevention and Criminal Justice Division.  The Secretary-General takes note of the findings of the inspection as well as measures being taken to correct certain issues addressed in the review.

The OIOS notes that "the Executive Director brought to the helm of ODCCP a keen interest in the subject".  While recognizing his efforts to raise the Office's public profile and make it more "action-oriented", the OIOS was concerned with the centralized and arbitrary manner in which the Office was run.  The Executive Director's management style concentrated authority in his front office without a sufficient system of checks and balances.  At the time of the inspection, mechanisms of collective guidance and programme coordination were not functioning.  Among the issues identified by the OIOS was a lack of consistent programme oversight:  important decisions were taken with little or no consultation and delays in approving projects and programmes were common.  The absence of clearly defined delegation of authority from the Executive Director to programme managers clouded accountability and paralysed decision-making during his absence from Vienna.

While recognizing the Office's major strengths, which include clear mandates, committed staff and a strong field presence, the OIOS was concerned with the view of some Member States that poor management had affected the Office's ability to fulfil its mandates and implement some projects.  The OIOS urged the Executive Director and his senior managers to institute drastic and immediate change.  The OIOS also took note of measures taken since January to improve the situation, which include setting out procedures, defining areas of responsibility and delegating authority to appropriate levels.  The OIOS reports that it will closely monitor the situation.

Also before the Committee was a relevant section of the first report of the Advisory Committee on Administrative and Budgetary Questions (ACABQ) on the proposed programme budget for 2002-2003 (document A/56/7), in which the ACABQ commends OIOS for presenting objectives, expected accomplishments and indicators of achievement that are precise and attainable.  While it recommends accepting OIOS' proposal for new posts, the ACABQ is not convinced of the need to reclassify a P-4 auditor post and upgrade two Director-level posts.

Regarding the structural changes to realign four subprogrammes into three (audit, monitoring, evaluation and consulting and investigations), the ACABQ welcomes the new emphasis on management auditing and consulting and stresses the need for balance within the new programme allocation.  The Advisory Committee requests that the 2004-2005 proposed programme budget include information on the performance of the new structures.  Evaluation is an integral part of implementing results-based budgeting, and its outcome must be taken into account when preparing the medium-term plan and when formulating and approving the programme budget.  The ACABQ also stresses the need to fund information technology -- a central management tool -- from the regular budget.

Introduction of Documents and Statements

WARREN SACH, Director of Programme Planning and Budget Division, introduced the reformulated narrative of the proposed programme budget sections on Legal Affairs and Office of Human Resources Management (documents A/C.5/56/10 and A/C.5/56/11).

He said that following its consideration of the proposed programme budget for 2002-2003, the Committee for Programme and Coordination (CPC) had recommended that programme narrative of sections 27C, Office of Human Resources Management, and 8, Legal Affairs, be reformulated.  Accordingly, the Secretariat had reviewed the sections in question, bringing their narrative “more closely into line with the provisions of the medium-term plan for 2002-2005”.  The reformulation was also intended to reflect the effects of the legislation adopted following the adoption of the medium-term plan.

In particular, the Secretariat had reviewed the expected accomplishments and indicators of achievement of section 8, he continued.  Also, the narrative of section 27C had been reviewed in the light of the provisions of resolution 55/258, by which the Assembly had “largely endorsed the proposals of the Secretary-General contained in his report on human resources management reform, including new approaches to recruitment, placement and promotion and mobility.  It also emphasized the necessity for the United Nations to develop a culture of continuous learning and endorsed proposals concerning performance management and career development”.

Speaking on behalf of the "Group of 77" developing countries and China, SEYED MORTEZA MIRMOHAMMAD (Iran) said that while he appreciated the presentation of the documents, he did not think it was a correct response to the recommendations of the CPC.  The Group intended to present proposals to improve the text.  Regarding the document on the Office of Human Resources Management, he would have preferred to hear from the representative of the OHRM, especially Assistant Secretary-General for Human Resources Management, Rafiah Salim, when the documents were presented.  It was also important that she should hear the comments of Member States.

As proposed by the CPC, the revised narrative on human resources management was supposed to reflect properly the provisions of the resolution on human resources management.  While he appreciated the attempt by the Secretariat, he did not think that the brief document before the Committee took the provisions of that important resolution properly into account.  The text contained only some very simple references to the resolution, which would be added to the current text of the section.

He said that perhaps the only substantive submission contained in the document was the reference to resolution 55/258, stating that the Assembly had endorsed the proposals of the Secretary-General.  However, that resolution reflected very substantive consideration of the proposals on human resources management.  It was not a simple endorsement of recommendations, limited to recruitment and mobility.  It contained other provisions, including those on the administration of justice and the role of the OHRM in guaranteeing the principle of equitable geographical distribution and establishing a robust monitoring mechanism for the delegation of authority.

LAURENT LEMAIRE (Belgium), speaking on behalf of the European Union and associated States, suggested that the question of the revised narratives to section 27C and the new formulation of section 8 be taken up in informal consultations.  It was appropriate to address the question after sufficient time for reflection and constructive debate in informal consultations.  The Union did not wish the decision on the problem to be taken in a formal session, before discussion in an informal setting.

The Acting Chairman of the Fifth Committee, JOHN ORR (Canada) said the plan of action was to send the matter to informal consultations.

AYMAN M. ELGAMMAL (Egypt) supported the view of the Group to submit new documents to the Committee so that they could be added to informal consultations.  He had a problem with the first paragraph of the reformulated narrative of

section 8, Legal Affairs, which said that in paragraph 114 of the CPC report particular reference had been made to subprogrammes 1 and 2 of the section in question.  Paragraph 114 was part of other paragraphs under discussion by that body.  The discussion paragraphs, however, were for the information of Member States only and not for the Secretariat to use them or consider them in its reports.  The Secretariat should be limited only to the parts that had to do with the recommendations of the CPC.  Regarding the proposal of the European Union to consider the budget sections in informal consultations, he preferred that the documents be reissued without reference to paragraph 114 of the CPC report.

In response, Mr. SACH said that regarding the substance of budget document on the Office of Human Resources Management, the Secretariat had been faced with the problem of synthesizing a 10-page resolution.  There were four references in the overview which focused within the context of implementing resolution 55/258.  There were also references in the document to three subprogrammes to ensure a response to the new mandate under resolution 55/258.  Regarding the reference to a “robust monitoring mechanism”, he referred to subparagraphs c and d of paragraph 2 of the document A/C.5/56/10.  In subparagraph d, “monitoring” would be replaced with “robust monitoring mechanisms”.  The document was a starting point for discussion.  He would brief those involved in the OHRM on what had been said in the Committee.  The question of how to move forward was procedural and for the Committee to decide.

Regarding the revised narrative of section 8, he said the Secretariat did not consider the last sentence of paragraph 1 to be binding in the sense that only subprogrammes 1 and 2 could be considered in the context of reformulated narratives.

ABDOU AL-MOULA NAKKARI (Syria) said he had expected that the budget documents would have been submitted by the Office of Legal Affairs and the Office of Human Resources Management.  On the revised narrative for human resources management, the CPC had asked the OHRM to reconsider the position of ombudsman.  He could not find any reference to an ombudsman.  To which Office would that post belong?  Regarding the revised narrative for Legal Affairs, he noted the reference to paragraph 120, a recommendation of the CPC, in which that body asked for the reformulation of indicators of achievement.

Noting the reference to paragraph 114, he said that paragraph did not reflect the opinion of the CPC as a whole but of one observer.  The Office of Legal Affairs dealt with that as if it were a recommendation.  If there was an office that should know the language of the Organization it was Legal Affairs.  It was strange for that Office to make such a mistake.  Representatives of Legal Affairs and Human Resources Management should be present in the Committee during the formal discussion and their explanations included in the formal records.  He noted that the Office of Legal Affairs considered paragraph 114 as a recommendation.  The revised narrative did not answer the recommendation of the CPC.  It answered only half of its requirements.  He expected that the representatives of the two Offices would come to the Committee.

Mr. M. ELGAMMAL (Egypt) said his delegation was grateful for the comments by Mr. Sach.  However, as had already been correctly pointed out, paragraph 114 of the report of the CPC only reflected the views of one representative on the Legal Affairs section.  It was not a product of a wide debate by Member States.  The discussion of document A/C.5/56/11 in the Fifth Committee should not take place, unless its paragraph 1 were reformulated and presented without reference to the CPC report. 

Mr. ORR (Canada), the Acting Chairman, said the consideration of the matter would continue tomorrow, with the representatives of the OHRM present at the meeting.

Mr. ELGAMMAL (Egypt) suggested reissuing the document on the reformulated narrative of section 8, Legal Affairs.  He would not accept discussion of the document as presented to the Committee.

VLADIMIR BELOV, of the Office for Programme Planning, said the issues raised in the discussion on the two narratives would be taken into account and possible options discussed with the Departments concerned.  His Department would be of service to the Fifth Committee, be it in open or closed meetings.

Mr. ELGAMMAL (Egypt) reiterated his position that the document should not be considered, either formally or informally, unless it was amended.

Mr. ORR said that the Committee would revert to the issue at a later meeting. 

Introduction of Reports on OIOS

Under-Secretary-General for Internal Oversight Services, DILEEP NAIR, introduced that body’s annual report, saying that the OIOS had sought to maximize its impact on the Organization by carrying out balanced and objective oversight activities in partnership with Member States and managers at all levels.  Audits, inspections and investigations had addressed areas such as management inefficiency, poor deployment of staff, administrative bottlenecks and improper use of resources.  Oversight activities covered areas including programme management and administration, finance, payroll, personnel and procurement.  The OIOS had also conducted evaluations of population and sustainable development programmes as mandated by the CPC. 

As of August 2001, over 50 per cent of the OIOS’ recommendations had been implemented and 27 per cent of the recommendations had far-reaching implications for the Organization, he said.  The recommended savings and recoveries suggested that good management practices and controls could potentially yield large dividends in reduced expenditures.  Annual savings depended on the concerted efforts of programme managers.  The new organization structure he had proposed for the OIOS, merging the monitoring, inspection, evaluation and management consulting components, would leverage the OIOS’ limited resources and allow a more integrated coordinated oversight services.

Turning to its report on the inspection of the ODCCP, he said that the OIOS had tried to reach out to the largest number of ODCCP staff -- both in Vienna and in the field -- and its stakeholders through detailed questionnaires and structure interviews.  Their dedication to the ODCCP mission and sincere concerns about obstacles to carrying out that mission had provided invaluable support.  One of the major concerns in the report was the low morale of staff.  The view held was that there was no transparency in executive decisions, especially concerning personnel matters. 

The report contained fourteen recommendations on how the serious drawbacks should be corrected, he said.  The thrust of the OIOS findings had been presented to the Executive Director at the end of the inspection.  It had been made clear that the management situation the ODCCP should not be allowed to continue.  The OIOS had noted the self-critical response of the Executive Director to the inspection’s findings and his assurances that remedial actions would not be delayed.  The OIOS was examining some of the actions reported by management as completed.  The OIOS reserved judgement on the overall progress of implementation of its recommendations until carrying out an on-site review, tentatively scheduled for the spring of 2002.

Describing the situation in the report of the OIOS on the audit of the UNHCR operations in Albania, he said further efforts were needed to reduce the risk of similar problems recurring in future emergency operations.  Key positions needed to be efficiently staffed; adequate systems for tracking assets and commodities established from the outset; and, rules and procedures reviewed to determine whether they should fully apply under emergency conditions.  The OIOS was glad to note that the UNHCR was working towards strengthening its systems and being adequately prepared for future emergencies.

Statements

Mr. LEMAIRE (Belgium), speaking on behalf of the European Union and associated States, endorsed the annual report of the OIOS.  The role of the Office was all the more important as the General Assembly had just approved greater accountability from programme managers.  The Union welcomed the new presentation of recommendations, which were of critical importance to the Organization, and the fact that some 53 per cent of them had been implemented.   He asked that the next annual report contain information on the percentage of implementation of recommendations over the past three years.  The Union welcomed an improved presentation of implementation of critical recommendations by dealing separately with recommendations which had been implemented, those in the process of being implemented and those for which no process was under way. 

He hoped that the reorganization of the OIOS would produce synergies to further improve its work.  He asked that the next annual report include a review of the reorganization.  The Union welcomed the commitment of the OIOS to use available resources to accomplish results that added value to the service provided to the Organization.  The Union encouraged the OIOS to synthesize the recommendations contained in the report.  While noting that the OIOS had identified some $58 million in savings for the year under review, the Union was concerned with cases of bribery and extortion of refugees referred to in the annual report.  The Union was also concerned by incidents implicating private persons in illicit fraudulent operations that had been identified in a number of current peacekeeping operations.  Those cases demonstrated the need for strengthening the role of monitoring bodies, including the enhanced presence of resident auditors. 

Regarding the report on the ODCCP, he endorsed the OIOS’ recommendations on the need to improve management.  He noted that the ODCCP had already taken  measures to address the problem and had invited the OIOS to produce a report on the implementation and effects of those measures.  On the audit of the High Commissioner for Refugees Operations in Albania, the Union noted with satisfaction the efforts of the High Commissioner to address the OIOS’ recommendations.

M. DEBORAH WYNES (United States) said the annual OIOS report was an important status report on the management and administrative health of the United Nations and its programmes.  Since its inception seven years ago, the OIOS –- the Organization’s internal “watchdog” –- had been an integral and effective participant in the process to revitalize, modernize and streamline the United Nations.  Independence was the cornerstone of an effective oversight mechanism because auditors, investigators and inspectors needed to operate free of influence from those they reported on.  The head of the oversight unit needed to be free to undertake any assignment deemed necessary to fulfil oversight functions and be able to disclose the results in an objective and timely manner.  The credibility of the Office built up over the years was in large part due to the operational independence that it had exercised since 1994. 

She commended Under-Secretary-General Nair for his efforts to enhance the capacity of the Office and to foster collaborative and productive relationships with other oversight bodies.  The United States was a strong proponent of OIOS’ capacity-building efforts because the outcomes of oversight activities were only as good as the people and the technology employed to produce them.  The focus should be to enhance the capacity of its people and technology.  The aim should be to make OIOS technologically savvy and ultimately a model “state of the art” oversight body. 

Commenting on the OIOS recommendations, she believed that the new classification system would be useful in determining where the emphasis on implementation should be.  Other oversight bodies should consider adopting that approach as a means to prioritize remedial actions.  The emphasis should be on the implementation of critical recommendations that were likely to result in the greatest savings and benefits. 

She singled out the excellent work of the OIOS at the UNHCR branch office in Nairobi.  There, the Office had spearheaded a multinational task force that had unravelled evidence of criminal activities involving individuals taking advantage of refugees for profit.  As a result of the evidence, nine suspected individuals from five different countries had been put behind bars.  The United States also commended the Office for its exemplary work in reviewing subsistence allowance rates at several peacekeeping missions.  Thanking Mr. Nair for producing a high quality report, she said the onus was now programme managers to ensure the speedy implementation of all the recommendations so that the savings and benefits identified in the report could be realized. 

AHMED FARID (Saudi Arabia) said his delegation supported the activities of the OIOS, which had been created in 1994 to strengthen the monitoring functions within the United Nations and intensify the auditing, inspection and investigative functions.  Several aspects presented in the reports before the Committee were a source of concern, however.  For example, according to document A/56/381, the OIOS review of the policies and procedures for the recruitment of international civilian staff for peacekeeping and special missions had revealed shortcomings in the management of recruitment functions.  He was concerned over the fact that standard job descriptions for mission posts were yet to be fully developed, and the selection process was not transparent. 

Also according to the report, approximately half of the mission staff were not trained in the use of critical field information technology systems, despite their importance.  Stressing the importance of standard job descriptions and training for mission staff, he said that improvements in those fields could lead to better professional performance within the missions and facilitate the application of internal oversight there.

VLADIMIR A. IOSSIFOV (Russian Federation) said his delegation consistently advocated comprehensive oversight and monitoring structures within the United Nations.  Expressing satisfaction with the activities of the OIOS since its creation, he noted that practical output from its activities was growing every year, leading to significant savings for the Organization.  The Russian Federation supported the priority areas for audits, inspections and investigations, especially in the field of peacekeeping, human resources management and procurement.  The latter, as a result of a large volume of financial operations involved, created many temptations for violations and abuses. 

He stressed, however, that no scope of coverage on behalf of the OIOS would lead to any significant results without scrupulous compliance with its recommendations.  In that connection, he noted an increase in the indicators of compliance as compared with the previous period under review, and welcomed the creation of data bases, which allowed the client bodies to renew information on the implementation of the recommendations. 

As for the practical activities of the OIOS, he took a positive view of the audits of peacekeeping operations, although his delegation was alarmed by the serious violations of financial provisions and procurement instructions, as well as financial scheming exposed by the OIOS.  He hoped that all the violations would be duly studied and that their perpetrators would be punished.  He also welcomed coordination and cooperation between the OIOS and other monitoring bodies, including the Board of Auditors and the Joint Inspection Unit.  He was pleased that it was synergetic in nature and did not represent a simple duplication of efforts. 

His delegation carefully followed the issuance of reports on specific reviews, he said.  It would also be appropriate to conduct periodic briefings on the investigations by the OIOS.  Such reports should be considered in the Fifth Committee along with relevant items on its agenda. 

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For information media. Not an official record.