FIFTH COMMITTEE, OPENING CONSIDERATION OF JIU REPORTS, WELCOMES ESTABLISHMENT OF FOLLOW-UP MECHANISM

8 October 2001
GA/AB/3454

FIFTH COMMITTEE, OPENING CONSIDERATION OF JIU REPORTS, WELCOMES ESTABLISHMENT OF FOLLOW-UP MECHANISM

08/10/2001
Press ReleaseGA/AB/3454

Fifty-sixth General Assembly

Fifth Committee

4th Meeting (AM)

FIFTH COMMITTEE, OPENING CONSIDERATION OF JIU REPORTS,

WELCOMES ESTABLISHMENT OF FOLLOW-UP MECHANISM

The effectiveness of the follow-up system for implementation of the recommendations of the Joint Inspection Unit (JIU) was the focus of attention this morning as the Fifth Committee (Administrative and Budgetary) began its consideration of a series of reports of the JIU.  The reports covered various aspects of United Nations activities, as well as the JIU’s own functioning and programme of work.

The Joint Inspection Unit is an external oversight body which makes recommendations on improving management and coordination within the United Nations system.  Composed of 11 Inspectors who are appointed by the General Assembly but serve in their personal capacity, the Unit has the broadest powers of investigation in matters of efficiency, management and proper use of funds within the United Nations system.  In 1999, by adopting resolution 54/16, the General Assembly endorsed a system of follow-up on the JIU reports, thus providing the Unit with new tools to enhance its functioning and impact.

The representative of Belgium (on behalf of the European Union and associated States) welcomed the establishment of a follow-up mechanism, saying that unfortunately, in only a few cases had legislative bodies of the Unit’s participating organizations taken concrete measures to ensure the implementation of the Unit’s recommendations.

The representative of the United Republic of Tanzania said that despite the fact that the Assembly had acted on the need to have a follow-up mechanism, no formal arrangements were in place to make sure that its recommendations were implemented.  For the JIU to be effective, it was necessary to ensure follow-up in due time.

The representative of the Russian Federation said that the Unit’s work was particularly relevant within the framework of the continuing reform, directed at rational distribution of resources and at the introduction of a system of accountability and personal responsibility.  Any reform was doomed to fail, however, without effective control mechanisms in place.  To strengthen the United Nations internal and external oversight system, it was necessary to ensure the greatest degree of coordination between the Unit and other key oversight structures.  Welcoming the established degree of understanding between the JIU, Office of Internal Oversight Services (OIOS) and the Board of Auditors, he added

that it was also important to clearly delineate each body’s rights and responsibilities to avoid any possible duplication.

Regarding the JIU report on the use of private management consulting firms, the representative of Iran (on behalf of the "Group of 77" developing countries and China) agreed with the Inspectors’ recommendations on the need to regulate their services. He did not think that the proposed regulations were contradictory to the current practices of the United Nations.

Speakers also stressed the timeliness of the report on the management of buildings, in connection with consideration of the proposed capital master plan for the refurbishment of the United Nations complex.  The representative of Japan, however, warned against assuming that such a plan had already been approved by the Assembly.

Various reports before the Committee were introduced by the Chairman of the JIU, Sumihiro Kuyama; Chief of the Oversight Support Unit of the Department of Management, Alida Ferrena Mahmoud; JIU Inspectors Francesco Mezzalama and Fatih Bouayad Agha; Director of the Facilities and Commercial Services Division of the Office of Central Support Services, Andrew Toh; Principal Officer of the Administrative Committee on Coordination (ACC) Secretariat Gary Gabriel; and Chief of the Office of the Under-Secretary-General for Management, Harriet Schmidt.

Also this morning, the Committee took up the proposed regulations governing the status, basic rights and duties of other than Secretariat officials and experts on mission, and approved its revised programme of work for the current session.

The Committee will continue its consideration of the Joint Inspection Unit reports at 10 a.m. tomorrow, 9 October.

Background

The Fifth Committee (Administrative and Budgetary) met this morning to consider a series of Joint Inspection Unit (JIU) reports, including those on the follow-up of its recommendations, the use of private management consulting firms, and the management of buildings.

Several of the reports before the Committee concern the work of the JIU itself.  In particular, the Unit’s 2000 report (document A/56/34) contains a summary of its main activities during the year.  According to the document, the Unit’s budget proposal for 2002-2003 amounts to $7.33 million -- the same as the appropriation for the current biennium.  The proposed increase in post items ($19,900) is fully offset by a similar decrease in non-post items.

Seeking to improve its research capacity, the JIU is asking for abolition of two P-2 posts and creation of one additional P-4 post.  It is also requesting an amount of $60,000 for recruitment of temporary Professional staff.  The report explains that the costs involved would be offset by the abolition of the two P-2 posts.  To justify its request, the Unit points out that entry-level (P-2) staff require a substantial period of training and that the size and the nature of the work of its secretariat do not allow the use of its scarce resources for such

in-house training.  Also, the JIU secretariat is understaffed in terms of General Service positions, and the Unit proposes to create two additional General Service posts.

Also according to the report, the JIU has undertaken a series of comprehensive reviews of the administration and management of its participating organizations, including the International Labour Organization (ILO), United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), International Telecommunication Union (ITU) and the World Health Organization (WHO).  Having produced nine reports and five notes during the reporting period, the JIU has established internal measures to expedite preparation of its reports in order to issue them prior to the meetings of the participating organizations’ legislative organs.  This goal has been often hindered, however, by the tardiness on behalf of some secretariats in providing the Unit with information and/or comments it requests.

By its resolution 55/230 of 23 December 2000, the Assembly invited the Unit to intensify interaction with other oversight bodies of the system.  The matter was pursued during the thirty-second meeting of the representatives of the United Nations internal audit services and multilateral financial institutions (Bangkok, June 2001).  The Unit participated in the fourth oversight coordination meeting between the Board of Auditors, the JIU and the Office of Internal Oversight Services (OIOS) in November 2000.  The Inspectors also report enhanced interaction with Member States and legislative organs, especially on the handling of the Unit’s reports by participating organizations.

Regarding the follow-up to its recommendations, the JIU states that most of its reports have been submitted to the participating organizations’ legislative organs.  However, as before, not many specific actions were taken on the recommendations contained in the reports.  To address the situation, the Unit has been trying to enhance the dialogue with the participating organizations, which have resulted, for instance, in an agreement on follow-up procedures with the WHO.

By his note contained in document A/56/84, the Secretary-General transmits to the Assembly the JIU’s work programme for 2001 and the preliminary listing of potential reports for 2002 and beyond.  In 2001, the Unit planned to undertake   13 new reports and one note on inspections and investigations in the areas of administration, management, technical cooperation and peace operations.  The actual workload of the Unit for 2001 also includes 11 reports and two notes carried over from previous years.  Among the subjects included in the 2001 work programme are the review of outsourcing in the United Nations; the system’s revenue-producing activities; evaluation of United Nations volunteers; and post structure and types of appointments within the Organization.

Also before the Committee was the Secretary-General’s report on the implementation of the recommendations of the Joint Inspection Unit (document A/56/135), providing detailed information on the status of implementation of    six JIU reports.

For instance, regarding common services at United Nations Headquarters, the report states that their development in the past three years has been in close accordance with the framework stipulated by the Unit.  Major progress has been achieved in such fields as the development of Integrated Management Information System (IMIS) and the archive/research centre; harmonization of rules and regulations; and joint inter-agency outsourcing contracts.  Further measures to consolidate and upgrade the common services will be considered with due regard to the Inspectors’ proposals.

On outsourcing, the Secretary-General reports that the Advisory Committee on Administrative and Budgetary Questions (ACABQ) did not support the concept of “core” and “non-core” activities as a basis for selecting candidates for outsourcing, suggesting that decisions on the matter should be made on a case-by-case basis.  It was also not considered appropriate to appoint the proposed outsourcing “facilitators”.  Regarding the recommendation that comprehensive and transparent information on outsourcing should be provided in the budget submissions, the report states that the secretariat’s budget clearly reflects such activities.  The General Assembly did not accept the recommendation to develop a system-wide definition of outsourcing.

The document also provides detailed information about the implementation of the JIU recommendations regarding the United Nations University, the Administrative Committee on Coordination (ACC), International Research and Training Institute for the Advancement of Women (INSTRAW), and the experience of United Nations organizations with results-based budgeting.

Another JIU report on the follow-up of its recommendations is transmitted by the Secretary-General’s note (document A/56/356).  The document describes the action taken so far to encourage systematic tracking of the status of implementation of the Unit’s recommendations, which has been a long-standing cause of concern.  Most recently, in its resolution 50/233 of 7 June 1996, the General Assembly stressed that “the impact of the Unit on the cost-effectiveness of activities within the United Nations system is a shared responsibility of the Member States, the Unit and the secretariats of the participating organizations”.  It also encouraged “the Unit to continue to take the necessary steps to achieve a punctual and systematic follow-up of its recommendations as approved by the legislative organs of participating organizations”.

Also contained in the report is a draft resolution, which the Unit presents for action by the General Assembly.  By the terms of the text, the Assembly would invite the legislative organs of the Unit’s participating organizations that have not yet done so to endorse the follow-up system contained in annex I of the Unit’s annual report for the period from 1 July 1996 to 30 June 1997 (see below) and request the Unit to submit a second report on its experience with the follow-up system on its reports and recommendations to the General Assembly at its fifty-eighth session.

[The proposed system is based on the recognition that the value of a JIU report depends on effective follow-up, which requires that the reports be given active and serious consideration, and concrete action be taken by the legislative organs of the participating organizations.  There should be also expeditious implementation of the approved/accepted recommendations, with full reporting on the implementation measures and analysis of the resulting impact.  The document therefore proposed procedures for tracking and reporting on these actions.]

The follow-up system was endorsed by resolution 54/16 of 29 October 1999, by the terms of which the Assembly also invited the Unit to include in its annual reports information about the recommendations that have not been implemented, as well as action taken and comments by participating organizations.  In response to that request, the JIU also included in its report a series of notes on the handling of JIU reports by individual participating organizations.

The report on the use of the services of private management consulting firms in the organizations of the United Nations (document A/54/702) presents information provided by various organizations of the system, as well as JIU recommendations on the matter.  The Inspectors propose regulating the use of management consulting firms, stating that the participating organizations should “elaborate policies, standards and procedures concerning their utilization, together with rational assessment criteria”.  They also stress the need to develop alternatives to hiring external management consulting firms, including appropriate internal specialist bodies, ad hoc task forces and interdepartmental committees.  Other recommendations address the issues of monitoring and control; follow-up actions; inter-organization coordination; conflicts of interest; regionally based firms; rotation policy and language and country of publication of advertisements for international biddings.

Also before the Committee are the comments of the Secretary-General and the ACABQ on the private consulting firms report (document A/55/979), who acknowledge the useful nature of information provided by United Nations system organizations on the use of private management consulting firms, although the recommendations are of a fairly general nature and are already in effective practice in most of those bodies.  In particular, this applies to the recommendations regarding follow-up actions and the need for rules and regulations.

Also according to the addendum, the organizations of the system do not agree with the recommendation to ascertain, on a case-by-case basis, legislative authority for hiring private firms, since the decision for hiring is within the purview of various agencies’ chief administrative officers.  The recommendation regarding monitoring and control is considered “self-evident for almost all organizations”.  As for interorganizational cooperation, since most organizations follow their respective rules and advertise most contract opportunities, it may not be necessary to incur the added cost and maintain a central roster.  The organizations endorse the recommendation guarding against the conflict of interest when awarding contracts and underline that they are sensitive to the issue.

Referring to the Inspectors’ statement that the United Nations system does not provide “well-structured career development plans” for its staff, the report states that it contradicts the position of the International Civil Service Commission.  Also, few organizations of the United Nations system believe that the rotation of firms can benefit them.  There is, meanwhile, a large consensus on selecting management consulting firms on the basis of merit and cost-effectiveness.

The Committee also has before it the second in a series of reports prepared by the JIU on the United Nations common services in Geneva (document A/55/856), containing the Inspectors’ recommendations based on the case studies of the International Computing Centre, Joint Medical Service, Training and Examination Section, Diplomatic Pouch Service and Joint Purchase Service there.  The purpose of the report is to provide a coherent framework for a unified, comprehensive and centralized common services system for United Nations organizations located at Geneva.  The case studies identify key strengths and constraints of some existing services in order to derive lessons that can be applied in accordance with the plan of action for Geneva common services, 2000-2010.

According to the report, success of some of the services studied “amply demonstrates the feasibility of developing ... similar cooperative arrangements for many other functions now performed internally by each organization”.  Electronic integration of the organizations concerned could make expanded sharing of services even more efficient and cost-effective.  Despite their attractiveness, the potential of existing common services is not being harnessed to its full extent, however, and the JIU underscores the need for high-level leadership and strategic direction for Geneva common services.  Executive heads of Geneva-based specialized agencies and member States have an important role in preserving and perfecting the system.

The document also contains particular recommendations regarding each of the services involved.  For instance, regarding the International Computing Centre (ICC), the Inspectors stress the need to develop linkages within the system, share relevant information, establish a policy of staff exchanges, strengthen strategic information technology management functions and commission independent technical audits to compare quality, efficiency and costs between the Centre’s services and similar services provided internally.  The Inspectors also state that the ICC members who propose to reduce their use of the Centre or have given notice of their intent to withdraw from the cooperative should review their decisions in the light of resolution 54/255, which encouraged the Secretary-General and the ACC to take “concrete steps to enhance common services” and invited legislative organs of other organizations to take similar action.

An addendum to the report (document A//55/856/Add.1) contains the Secretary-General’s comments to the Inspectors’ recommendations, as well as those by the ACABQ.  Regarding the ICC, the document states that discussions have been taking place concerning the adoption of a statute for the ICC that would provide a clear and definite mandate and delineate responsibilities and a governing mechanism within the Centre.  Approval of the statute would also define the mechanisms for participation in the system and withdrawal from it.

The Secretary-General remarks that “current mechanisms by which organizations exchange views about their needs and future activities ... are in line with the operational needs of each organization and achieve the same purpose as that intended in the recommendation”.  Also, “each organization performs these comparisons and determines whether it is in its own interest to outsource services to the ICC or not, taking into account its own strategic and operation requirements”.  Human resources decisions of each organization are based on their specific needs and mandates, and outsourcing of functions to the ICC should not lead to competition or deprive participating organizations of valuable staff.  Neither should it lead to “back door” recruitment of otherwise ineligible staff through the ICC.

Also according to the document, although the expansion of common services might be difficult to reconcile with the policy of further decentralization of management, some steps have been taken to allow the Office in Geneva to take the lead in the area of common services, in particular, through the establishment of the Management Ownership Committee and conclusion of memoranda of understanding between the Office and the service entities.  The Management Ownership Committee consists of heads of all Geneva-based specialized agencies and the United Nations Headquarters Executive Coordinator under the chairmanship of the Director-General of the United Nations Office in Geneva.

Comments of the ACABQ on the common services in Geneva are contained in section 27E, chapter II, of its first report on the proposed programme budget for 2002-2003 (document A/56/7).  The Advisory Committee notes a decrease of $499,400 in requirements for grants and contributions covering the work of ICC due to an anticipated reduction in the demand for its services as a consequence of increased use of IMIS.  The decrease was also due to the fact that ICC does not offer its services at competitive prices.  For example, the ACABQ was informed that elsewhere, the Office could obtain Internet services at prices 40 per cent lower than those offered by the ICC, and the ICC declined an invitation to participate in the bidding for Internet services.

The Advisory Committee recalls that priority should be given to services that are good candidates for common delivery using the criteria of efficiency, productivity and cost-effectiveness.  It welcomes the information that discussions are under way between the United Nations, the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO) and the ITU to cooperate in the further development of Internet services.  Since Geneva has the largest concentration of the organizations of the United Nations system, it would be of great benefit to Member States for those organizations to cooperate fully in the area of planning, design, development and maintenance of an infrastructure for a variety of information technology services amenable to a common approach.  Greater efforts should be made to expand the areas of cooperation.

The Committee also had before it a report of the Secretary-General on common services at Geneva (document A/56/417) which lists areas of existing cooperation among Geneva-based specialized agencies and organizations.  The report also provides an update on progress in setting up a more formal common services structure at Geneva and identifies several priority areas for further development.

Significant collaboration has developed among the executive heads of the specialized agencies and organizations, resulting in increased contacts among counterparts at all levels, the report says.  Regarding information technology, organizations share the data-processing resources of the ICC and collaborate in its management through their participation in the ICC Management Committee.  Progress is also being made in the development of the GDCNET (Geneva Diplomatic Community Network), which links common system organizations and permanent missions, allowing users to listen to ongoing meeting activities in the conference rooms of other organizations.  Through the implementation of the IMIS, the United Nations Office at Geneva provides a computer system designed to address administrative tasks in an integrated manner.

On the management of human resources, the report says common system organizations jointly undertake salary and cost-of-living surveys at Geneva.  They have also worked out a common job classification standard for General Service personnel and a number of training courses.  Other areas of collaboration include budget and finance, telecommunications, travel and transportation, medical services and insurance, security services, procurement and contracting, library and archiving services, management of facilities, mail and diplomatic pouch services and conference activities.  Priority areas under consideration include a joint purchase service, banking and travel services, cleaning services and the provision of electricity.

The JIU report entitled “Management of buildings:  practices of selected United Nations system organizations relevant to the renovation of the United Nations Headquarters” is transmitted by the note of the Secretary-General on the matter (document A/56/274).  It examines operational and financial issues of building management in the light of relevant experience of selected United Nations organizations and contains a series of recommendations aimed at ensuring that the Organization’s buildings in New York are kept structurally sound and well maintained under the new capital master plan.

The Inspectors recommend that the Secretary-General study the feasibility of following other organizations’ practice of operating a special building management account to cover the costs of major repairs, renovation, upgrading and replacement of equipment.  Such a fund could be financed through a mixture of sources, including annual contributions, budgetary surpluses and rental income.  To overcome concerns over the risks of creating exceptions to budgetary standards and discipline, the JIU advocates strict application of general or specific financial rules and regulations, which stipulate criteria for disbursement and implementation of work plans.

According to the report, the Inspectors believe that “this is a viable long-term option, which ensures the financial basis for preventive building management”.  They also recommend that the United Nations take measures aimed at full compliance of its buildings with the local building codes, “with a view to ensuring safety, security and a sound working environment in the United Nations Headquarters”.  Other recommendations concern soliciting financial and non-financial support from the host Government and the local authorities; the use of modern management tools; and ensuring that sufficient number of professional staff supervises the implementation of the capital master plan.

The report also devotes special attention to the rational use of office space.  The Inspectors state that the refurbishing work at Headquarters “presents a unique opportunity to revisit and improve office space management in the whole Organization”.  In this connection, they recommend a revision of the norms and standards for office space allocation in order to avoid discrimination and disputes.  The Secretary-General should report on office space management, indicating the need for possible changes in space standards.

The Secretary-General’s comments on the matter are contained in an addendum to the above report (document A/56/274/Add.1).  According to this document, the Inspectors’ recommendations, notwithstanding the general nature of some, are pertinent and important for the efficient, reliable management of buildings owned or managed by the United Nations.  The issues raised by the Inspectors are consistent with the current practices being adopted at United Nations offices through policy dissemination within the budgetary constraints of each office.

In particular, the Secretary-General encourages creation of a standard policy for the management of buildings.  He notes, however, that such programmes can only be managed through a central building or real estate fund, outside the regular budget cycle.  Supporting the creation of a building/real estate fund for the purpose of covering the cost of major repairs, the Secretary-General states that such a fund would help the Organization to avoid the biennial struggle of requesting adequate maintenance funds.  Any such funds outside the regular budgetary review process must, however, be carefully structured and monitored to assure proper accountability.  There is a need for vigorous oversight in this respect, under the Financial Regulations and Rules of the United Nations.

There is also a need for a long-range plan for capital improvements, which would periodically require large sums to modernize the buildings, the Secretary-General adds.  Agreeing with most recommendations, including those regarding the need for full compliance with building codes, the Secretary-General remarks that they fall squarely within the scope of the proposed capital master plan.  Regrettably, however, the Inspectors did not provide details on the appropriate level of resources that should be set aside for maintenance against the overall value of the buildings.  As for the enforcement of space allocation norms, the report explains that this responsibility has been delegated to the Under Secretary-General for Management, who is to undertake a multi-phased programme of reducing space allocation inequities through the use of uniform space standards.

Concerning the agenda item on a review of the efficiency of the administrative and financial functioning of the United Nations, the Committee has before it a Secretary-General’s report on the proposed regulations governing the status, basic rights and duties of other than Secretariat officials and experts on mission (document A/56/437).  Contained in the report are comments on the eighth meeting of special rapporteurs, special representatives, independent experts and chairpersons of working groups of the Commission on Human Rights, as well as draft regulations to be considered during the current session of the General Assembly.  According to the document, “the meeting considers that, central to the function of mandate holders, is the unique status that they are required to have by virtue of their independence -– a status reinforced by the unpaid character of their work”.

Based on his review of the comments received from the eighth meeting, the Secretary-General recommends consideration by the Assembly of the regulations proposed in his previous report (document A/54/695), as adjusted in his subsequent report (document A/55/928), with a clarification that the regulations and the commentary have been elaborated taking into consideration the independence required of officials and experts on mission.  The draft regulations relate to the status, conduct and accountability of the officials in question.

Introduction of Reports

SUMIHIRO KUYAMA, Chairman of the Joint Inspection Unit (JIU), introducing the Unit’s reports, said its work programme took into account the guidelines provided in successive Assembly resolutions and was subject to change in the course of the year.  New reports might be added, planned reports might be modified, postponed or cancelled when circumstances warranted.  The Unit had continued to comply with the Assembly’s directives, in particular its resolutions 50/233 of 1996 and 54/16 of 1999.  The process of determining the Unit’s programme of work was an important part of its activities, and it had developed a set of yardsticks to expedite orderly preparation of reports so that they might be issued well in advance of meetings of the legislative organs.  That goal, however, had been often hindered, because of failure of some secretariats to provide the Unit with requested information.

On the Unit’s annual report, he said the Unit decided to introduce a new approach to improve its research capacity by reallocating its professional post resources.  The JIU was aware of the policy of rejuvenation of United Nations staff.  Past experience had demonstrated that entry-level staff required substantial training, and the size and nature of the JIU secretariat did not allow its scarce resources to be used for in-house training.  Understaffing of General Service posts was also a problem, with the proportion of General Service staff to Inspectors and Professionals at around 43 per cent, compared with some 58 per cent in the United Nations Secretariat.

During the reporting period, the Unit had enhanced interaction with Member States and legislative organs, especially on the implementation of the Unit’s follow-up system, he said.  The Unit initiated a series of informal meetings with Member States for exchanging views on a number of issues, including its programme of work.  Furthermore, the Unit was not only playing an active role at the annual tripartite oversight coordination meeting between the United Nations Board of Auditors, the Office of Internal Oversight Services (OIOS) and the Unit:  it was also promoting extensive cooperation among all external and internal oversight bodies of the United Nations system.

He said the lack of a solid follow-up mechanism on the Unit’s reports and recommendations, with systematic tracking of implementation of recommendations, had been a long-standing concern of the Member States and the Unit itself.  The major obstacle was the lack of specific legislative action on JIU recommendations.  It was important to reach a common understanding that recommendations addressed to executive heads must also be implemented and subject to follow-up.  The Unit and its secretariat was committed to and involved in a constant quest for improvement.

The Chief of the Oversight Support Unit of the Department of Management, ALIDA FERRENA MAHMOUD, introduced the Secretary-General’s report on the implementation of the Unit’s recommendations.

F. MEZZALAMA, JIU Inspector, then introduced the Unit’s report on the management of buildings.  The maintenance of buildings was a problem that most of the United Nations system organizations had faced in the past and were continuing to face.  The situation of the New York Headquarters was serious and deserved urgent attention.  Despite numerous warnings by the Secretariat and other entities, including the JIU, the state of the building was becoming increasingly critical.

He said objectives of the present report, which fell within the context of the capital master plan, were to examine the operational and financial issues of building management and to assist Member States and the Secretariat in considering measures for timely and systematic maintenance and capital improvements of United Nations Headquarters, he said.  A distinction must be made between the normal maintenance and upkeep of buildings, and major renovations, upgrading and construction projects.

Based on the experience of several organizations of the United Nations system, he outlined the fundamental recommendations of the JIU’s report.  In the context of the capital master plan, a policy on the management of buildings must be urgently elaborated and must be based upon the distinction between “ordinary” and “extraordinary” maintenance.  The management of buildings must ensure full compliance with local security codes to guarantee safety and sound working conditions.  Also, a sound building policy was inseparable from the judicious and cost-effective use of office space.  Finally, the financial role of the host country was essential.  The active participation of the host Government, State and local officials in the capital master plan project, including its funding, must be encouraged.

ANDREW TOH, Director of the Facilities and Commercial Services Division of the Office of Central Support Services, introducing the Secretary-General’s comments on the issue, said that building maintenance was not about aesthetics, but about the safety of its occupants.  Proper maintenance required financial resources, not only in the right amounts but at the right time.  A meaningful maintenance programme based upon a rigid biennial budget process was not possible.  The Secretary-General supported the Unit’s recommendation in that regard.

Mr. KUYAMA, Chairman of the JIU, then introduced the report on common services in Geneva, saying that their utilization could lead to significant cost savings for the organizations involved.  Important progress had been achieved in the enhancement of common services in recent years, and the Unit’s report contained case studies of several bodies, which could lead to lessons learned from their experience.  However, the possibility for cooperation still remained to be fully addressed.  In particular, information and communications technologies represented an area where further efforts were needed.  One of the aspects of the problem related to the compatibility of information technologies at various duty stations.  Integration of medical services was also recommended.  Disparities in insurance coverage at various organizations called for harmonization of insurance policies within the system. 

Continuing, he emphasized that the common services reviewed were not the only services shared by various organizations in Geneva now, but they were a good example.  If they could be strengthened, they could become an effective instrument for implementing the programme of action for further development of common services.  Strengthening of Geneva-based organizations could be a good start for further improving the common system, both at Geneva and elsewhere.

The Principal Officer of the Administrative Committee on Coordination (ACC) secretariat, GARY GABRIEL, introduced the comments of the Secretary-General and the Advisory Committee on Administrative and Budgetary Questions (ACABQ) on common services in Geneva.

Introducing the JIU report on policies and practices in the use of the services of private management consulting firms, Inspector FATIH BOUAYAD-AGHA said that the Unit’s objective had been, at a first stage, to sound an alert regarding a practice which, if badly conceived, threatened to yield more problems than advantages.  It was not possible to do without outside expertise, and it was necessary to give enough thought to the obvious advantages –- both cultural and financial -- which could be derived from the use of the widest range of management consulting firms.  It would become more and more difficult to control those firms, unless the bodies of the United Nations system established sound guidelines for their use. 

Monitoring and control were also important, he continued, as well as guarding against possible conflict of interest when awarding contracts to management consulting firms or hiring former agents or personnel of those firms.  The Unit had concluded that it was desirable for organizations to have recourse to outside expertise, especially when they engaged consulting firms to carry out well-defined, specific tasks, for which client organizations had no in-house expertise.  It was important to bear in mind, however, that it was often the consulting firms that derived most benefits from the projects entrusted to them by international organizations.

In conclusion, he emphasized that the differences between the position of the organizations and Inspectors on many questions were minor.  Many of the recommendations contained in the report could be easily adapted to all contracts signed by the organizations with the consulting firms, which the Inspectors had not yet contacted. 

The CHAIRMAN noted that the relevant comments of ACABQ were contained in its report A/56/7.  That report would be introduced on 15 October, in the context of the introduction of the 2002-2003 programme budget.

Mr. GABRIEL, Principal Officer, ACC secretariat, presented the Secretary-General’s note on the use of private consulting firms.  He noted that the actual report was first presented some time ago, and that many of the Inspectors comments were currently moving into practice.

Statements

MICHEL TILEMANS (Belgium), speaking on behalf of the European Union and associated States, regretted the lateness of the issuance of report A/56/356.  The establishment of a follow-up mechanism was welcome.  Unfortunately, in only a few cases had legislative bodies taken concrete measures to ensure follow-up of the Unit’s recommendations.  Those recommendations should be operational and action-oriented.  While the programme of work was useful, the European Union wondered about the manner in which the JIU coordinated its programmes with other oversight bodes.  He hoped that the JIU avoided duplication of activity with other oversight bodies.

Regarding the use of private management consulting firms, he said the report was incomplete.  Certain of the JIU conclusions seemed to be generalizations or impressions.  Others were not fully justified.  He noted the recommendation on the use of external and internal oversight bodies.  The offer of such services should be done within limits, however, because they could go beyond the framework of the mandate and generate an overrun of costs.  Using the press to advertise international bidding could prove inefficient.  He recommended using the Internet, which would make it possible for all consulting firms to have recourse to the bidding process.  He supported the recommendation which extended cooperation between organizations to share the assessment of services rendered by private firms.  The choice of management consulting firms must be done in conformity with United Nations rules and regulations, on the basis of the highest quality service without preference to region.

Overall, the European Union approved the JIU recommendations, the comments of the Secretary-General and the ACC, as well as the recommendations of the ACABQ on common services in Geneva, he said.  The Union supported the recommendations of the JIU on increased use of common services to ensure the reduction of costs.  However, that objective must be allied to the need to obtain the highest quality of services.  The Union approved the JIU’s recommendations and the Secretary-General’s comments on the management of buildings.  It shared the opinion of the Secretary-General on the relevance of a fund and the timeliness of a feasibility study, taking into account the financial rules of the Organization.

Regarding the capital master plan, professional competence to oversee the plan existed within present personnel resources.  Moreover, the Union stressed the importance of JIU recommendations regarding building management in light of that plan.  On the budgetary aspects of post requirements, the Union would deal with that matter under agenda item 123.

Speaking on behalf of the “Group of 77” developing countries and China, SEYED MORTEZA MIRMOHAMMAD (Iran) said that the focus of the Group’s attention regarding the JIU’s programme of work was on the need for an effective follow-up system for implementation of the Inspectors’ recommendations.  Although some of those recommendations had been implemented, he was concerned that, in many instances, legislative organs of the participating organizations did not take specific actions on them.

Continuing, he drew the Committee’s attention to the fact that one of the reports was submitted only this morning, and requested some clarifications in connection with the reports.  In particular, according to paragraph 12 of document A/56/356, the Secretary-General continued to submit reports on the implementation of the JIU recommendations, but those reports “do not provide systematic and detailed coverage of all accepted recommendations”.  Also according to that report, not all JIU reports of relevance were addressed, but rather “a number of reports, the choice of which appeared arbitrary”.  He would like to hear comments from the Secretariat in that regard. 

Regarding the report on the use of private management consulting firms, he emphasized the need for regulating services provided by such firms.  Clarification was needed regarding the observation in paragraph three of the Secretary-General’s report on the matter (document A/55/979), according to which, based on current management practice, the United Nations sought to reduce regulations, but the JIU, on the contrary, had proposed regulating the use of management consulting firms.  He did not think that the proposed regulations were contradictory to the current practices of the United Nations.  Also according to the paragraph in question, many organizations felt that the objective of the JIU report was to reduce costs “without due regard to quality”.  Again, those issues were not contradictory.

Turning to the JIU report on the management of buildings, he stressed that the document was very timely, especially in view of the consideration of the capital master plan.  He took note of the JIU comments that managers should be fully aware of the costs involved and pay particular attention to the use of office space.  He also highlighted the comment by Inspector Mezzalama that, had such considerations been taken into account, the Organization would not have found itself faced with huge costs of maintenance and repairs at the present stage.

VLADIMIR A. IOSSIFOV (Russian Federation) said that his delegation attached great importance to the activities of the JIU, particularly those aimed at enhancing the Organization’s administrative and financial functioning.  Its work was especially relevant within the framework of the continuing reform of management mechanisms, work towards rational distribution of resources, and introduction of a system of accountability and personal responsibility.

Any reform was doomed to fail, however, without effective control mechanisms in place, he continued.  In that connection, the Russian Federation had consistently advocated strengthening the role and functions of the external and internal oversight bodies.  The JIU was an integral part of the oversight system, and it was necessary to attach particular attention to ensuring the greatest degree of coordination between the Unit and other key oversight structures.  Welcoming the established degree of understanding between the JIU, the OIOS and the Board of Auditors, he added that it was also important to clearly delineate each body’s rights and responsibilities to avoid any possible duplication.

Both the quantity and the quality of the reports the JIU had presented in 2000 testified to its successful practical activity, he said.  The JIU reports contained clear recommendations and should bring practical results.  The United Nations had immense tasks to perform, which required significant human and financial resources.  Enormous amounts were being spent on peacekeeping operations, and Member States had a right to ask for an account of the amounts spent.  Serious miscalculations still existed in that field, and the JIU had not exhausted its capabilities there.

In conclusion, while commending the work by the Unit on the whole, he drew attention to the need to include recommendations directed at enhancing real savings, including analysis of existing programmes.  It was also important to observe the time factor in preparation and presentation of the JIU reports, so that the delegations could carefully scrutinize the recommendations before wide-ranging discussions took place.  He hoped that the JIU would continue to act as an important independent organ of external oversight in the future.

ARATA FUJII (Japan) said his delegation attached great importance to inspection functions, their transparency and accountability.  He hesitated,

however, in discussing the capital master plan.  While the Inspector’s report was useful, it was too advanced and gave the impression that the Assembly had already given the go-ahead.  While he did not oppose discussing the report, all the Committee could do at the current time was take note.

MUHAMMAD YUSSUF (United Republic of Tanzania) said his greatest concern was the issue of implementation of the JIU’s recommendations.  There was no doubt that the JIU had come a long way.  For some time, Member States had complained that the Unit’s reports were long and not reader-friendly, and he wondered how much it cost to prepare one report.  While the reports were increasingly reader-friendly, he was not totally satisfied with them because they failed to provide a deep analysis of the issues involved.  Perhaps, that was due to the subject matter under discussion.

The main issue was implementation, he continued.  The major obstacle, he was told, was lack of specific legislative action.  That was very important.  The recommendations had to be approved by legislative organs.  Without that, there was no way they could be implemented.  The crux of the matter must be examined.  There was no formal mechanism in place to ensure implementation of JIU’s recommendations, despite the fact that the Assembly had approved the need to have a formal mechanism.  For the JIU to be effective, it must ensure that its recommendations were implemented in due time.

As the Committee turned to the proposed regulations governing the status, basic rights and duties of other than Secretariat officials and experts on mission, HARRIET SCHMIDT, Chief of the Office of the Under-Secretary-General for Management, introduced the Secretary-General’s report on the matter.  She said that when the Secretary-General had presented his previous report, the comments from the group of special rapporteurs of the Commission on Human Rights were still outstanding.  Now, comments from the eighth meeting of special rapporteurs, special representatives, independent experts and chairpersons of the working groups of the Commission on Human Rights had been included in the report.

Organization of Work

At the conclusion of the meeting, Committee Chairman, NANA EFFAH-APENTENG (Ghana), informed delegates that the revised programme of work reflected the changes in the schedule of the General Assembly.  Certain items had been moved earlier and others to a later date, in order to accommodate those delegations which had requested that no meetings of the Fifth Committee be held during the general debate of the Assembly.

The Committee agreed with the reformulated programme, on the understanding that adjustments would be made during the course of the session, as necessary.

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For information media. Not an official record.