FIFTH COMMITTEE CONTINUES CONSIDERATION OF OFFICE OF INTERNAL OVERSIGHT REPORTS

1 October 2002
GA/AB/3517

FIFTH COMMITTEE CONTINUES CONSIDERATION OF OFFICE OF INTERNAL OVERSIGHT REPORTS

01/10/2002
Press ReleaseGA/AB/3517

Fifty-seventh General Assembly

Fifth Committee

4th Meeting (AM)

FIFTH COMMITTEE CONTINUES CONSIDERATION OF OFFICE

OF INTERNAL OVERSIGHT REPORTS

Questions Raised on Geographical Representation,

Vacancy Announcement Policies, in Department of Peacekeeping Operations

Continuing its consideration of a series of reports by the Office of Internal Oversight Services (OIOS), the Fifth Committee (Administrative and Budgetary) this morning focused on such issues as recruitment practices of the Department of Peacekeeping Operations (DPKO); inspection of management in the Department for Disarmament Affairs; and development of the Integrated Management Information System (IMIS) within the Organization.

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

Stressing the important role of the OIOS and expressing his appreciation for its contributions to improving the functioning of the United Nations, the representative of Denmark (on behalf of the European Union and associated States) appealed to the Office to reduce the number of its recommendations to the extent possible, making them more focused. 

As the Committee took up particular audits and inspections, speakers concurred with the OIOS observation that further improvement should be achieved in observing the principle of equitable geographical distribution when filling posts within the DPKO.  They also pointed out with concern that the recruitment time for that Department in 2001 had significantly exceeded the goal of filling vacancies within 120 days, which had been established under the new staffing system.

The representative of Japan noted that the report before the Committee also indicated inconsistencies and discrepancies in the vacancy notices in the DPKO.  For example, vacancy notices for a particular P-5 post within the Department specified that candidates would be eligible even if they did not possess an advanced university degree, provided they had 15 years’ experience.  However, the vacancy announcement for a P-4 post in the same service specified that an advanced university degree was required.  Vacancy announcements should be issued using generic job profiles, with a view to achieving transparency and attracting a greater number of applicants, as well as fostering mobility of staff.  He added

that as a substantial number of posts had been established in the DPKO under resolution 56/241, the OIOS should audit the Department’s recruitment activities in 2002.

The representative of Jamaica welcomed the fact that the OIOS had emphasized the important role of the Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean (ECLAC).  In her region, she could attest to the invaluable technical assistance provided by the ECLAC office.  The Commission’s restructuring had enhanced its image as a source of innovative research and she was glad that ECLAC had retained its standing. 

On the same subject, Uruguay’s representative expressed concern over the Commission’s financial situation, saying that ECLAC’s considerable output had been achieved with minimal resources.  The recommendation on funding ECLAC from extrabudgetary resources seemed hard to implement, and he hoped the countries of the region would provide funding on a voluntary basis.  Other alternatives could also be explored.  Any reduction in funding, however, would be of concern to his delegation.

The representative of Gabon focused on the inspection of programme management and administrative practices in the Department for Disarmament Affairs, welcoming the fact that overall, the OIOS had arrived at a positive evaluation of the Department.  As for the regional aspect of the Department’s work, he shared the OIOS view regarding the long-term viability of regional centres.  In particular, he advocated providing material and financial support to the Lomé Centre, which was carrying out important work in the field of disarmament.

Also speaking this morning were representatives of the United States, Venezuela, Syria and Algeria.  Under-Secretary-General for Internal Oversight Services Dileep Nair responded to questions and comments from the floor, as did Committee Secretary Joseph Acakpo-Satchivi.

The Committee will continue its consideration of the Organization’s oversight services at 10 a.m. tomorrow, 2 October, when it is scheduled to take up several reports by the Joint Inspection Unit.

Background

The Fifth Committee (Administrative and Budgetary) met this morning to continue its consideration of the reports related to the activities of the Office of Internal Oversight Services (OIOS), which were introduced yesterday.  (For a summary of the documents, see Press Release GA/AB/3516 of 30 September.)

Statements

THURE CHRISTIANSEN (Denmark), speaking on behalf of the European Union and associated States, stressed the important role of the Office and expressed his appreciation for its contributions to improving the functioning of the United Nations.  The reports before the Committee contained a large number of recommendations, which the Union was ready to discuss in informal consultations.  At this point, he wanted to plead for an increased use of critical recommendations –- in other words, for a reduction of the number of recommendations to the extent possible.

On the audit of the International Research and Training Institute for the Advancement of Women (INSTRAW), he said that he was aware of the huge problems facing the Institute.  The European Union took note of the observation by the

OIOS which questioned whether the Institute was capable of being viable and self-sustaining in the long run.  The Union welcomed the report on policies for recruiting staff for the Department of Peacekeeping Operations, and noted with appreciation that, in broad terms, the principle of geographical distribution had apparently been applied adequately when appointing staff to posts approved by the Assembly on an emergency basis.  However, he also concurred with the observation of the OIOS that further improvement should be achieved in that respect.  The Union also noted with satisfaction the efforts by the Department to address the gender balance issue and the recommendations of the OIOS thereon.

THOMAS A. REPASCH (United States) said that overall the United States was very interested in oversight within the United Nations, and fully supported the work of the OIOS.  He wondered why the report on INSTRAW had been left off today’s agenda.  With regard to the report on the recommendation on monitoring the recruitment process in the Department of Peacekeeping Operations (DPKO), he wondered why the OIOS needed to make such a recommendation, which should be part of any management plan.  He hoped he would not hear any more stories about long and difficult recruitment processes, and trusted that some changes had been made.

Turning to the report on the Integrated Management Information System (IMIS), he wondered if the Fifth Committee could be provided with an update on the status of the recommendations in the report, for instance recommendations on the consolidation of IMIS databases or on analysis by the IMIS Steering Committee of technical and functional constraints, as well as paragraphs on the implementation status of those recommendations.  He said he was pleased that the OIOS had given a positive review of the Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean, which had a well-deserved reputation.  Even excellent organizations could be made more excellent, however, and he was curious what action had been taken on the recommendations in paragraphs 44 and 45.  He was also interested in the OIOS discussion of the problems of the recosting exercise, and wondered if the budget office could explain the situation.  Finally, concerning the report on the Department of Disarmament Affairs, he echoed the reaction of the European Union, to the effect that in the future fewer and more critical recommendations should be highlighted.

YOICHI NIIYA (Japan) focused on the OIOS report on the audit of the policies and procedures for recruiting staff for the DPKO, which was a very informative and insightful document.  Acknowledging recent efforts by the Secretariat to shorten the overall recruitment time-frame, he noted with concern that the recruitment time for the DPKO regular posts in 2001 was longer than that of regular posts within the Secretariat in 1999.  While the new staffing system aimed to have vacancies filled in 120 days, that goal could not be achieved without continuous efforts and awareness of the Office of Human Resources Management (OHRM), as well as the DPKO.  Programme managers in the DPKO should make further efforts to shorten the time-frame under adequate monitoring by the OHRM. 

The report also indicated inconsistencies and discrepancies in vacancy announcements in the DPKO, he continued.  For example, according to the report, vacancy announcements for a particular P-5 post within the Department specified that candidates would be eligible even if they did not possess an advanced university degree, provided they had 15 years’ experience.  However, the vacancy announcement for a P-4 post in the same service specified that an advance university degree was required.  Vacancy announcements should be issued using generic job profiles, with a view to achieving transparency and attracting a greater number of applicants, as well as fostering mobility of staff.  He emphasized the role of the OHRM in ensuring consistency between generic job profiles and vacancy announcements. 

Welcoming the analysis of the report on equitable geographical representation and gender balance in the DPKO, he said he particularly appreciated the fact that the report referred to the appointment to the 67 professional posts that were filled pursuant to the approval of 93 emergency-basis posts.  He drew the Committee’s attention to General Assembly resolution 56/241, in which the Assembly “expressed concern over the imbalance in the geographical representation of Member States in the DPKO” and urged the Secretary-General to take immediate measures to improve the representation of underrepresented and unrepresented Member States in the future.  In that connection, he supported the OIOS recommendation that the DPKO should review the current composition of its staff in terms of geographical distribution, and further improve the situation during the next phase of recruitment for the additional posts approved by the Assembly. 

In conclusion, he added that as a substantial number of posts had been established in the DPKO under resolution 56/241, the OIOS should also audit the Department’s recruitment activities in 2002.

JEAN CHRISTIAN OBAME (Gabon) commented on the report concerning programme management and administration in the Department for Disarmement Affairs.  He welcomed the fact that inspection of the Department had arrived at a positive evaluation, and agreed that it was necessary to include the issue of disarmament in all the activities of the Organization.  As for the regional aspect of the Department’s work, he shared the OIOS view regarding the long-term viability of regional centres. 

In particular, he wanted to speak about the Lomé Centre.  Despite its limited resources, the Centre had been able to carry out its responsibilities, and it should be encouraged to go further.  Among the Centre’s important activities had been organization of a regional conference on confidence-building measures in 1998 and establishment of another centre in Central Africa, as well as publication of studies on peace and disarmament.  For those reasons, and in order to ensure institutional memory, he was in favour of providing material and financial support to the Centre.  That would allow it to carry out its activities in the future.

ASDRUBAL PULIDO LEON (Venezuela), responding to the United States’ question on the INSTRAW report, said that in resolution 56/125 the General Assembly had decided to set up a working group to make recommendations on the Institute’s future.  The Assembly was to examine the recommendations before the end of 2002, and they had been transmitted to the Secretariat for publication. The recommendations had still not been published in the six official languages.  The Group of 77 and China had requested that the report should not be examined in the Fifth Committee until the Third Committee had examined it.

JOAN ELAINE THOMAS (Jamaica) said that her country attached great importance to the role of the Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean (ECLAC).  The ECLAC restructuring exercise had enhanced its image as a source of innovative research and she was glad that the Commission had retained its standing.  With regard to the ECLAC office in Port-of-Spain, Trinidad and Tobago, she said that she appreciated the updates on that office but would have liked the comments to be included in the present report.

In her region, she could attest to the invaluable technical assistance given by the ECLAC office.  The emphasis on integrating economic and social components to achieve sustainable development was also useful.  It was necessary to enhance coordination between subregional offices, which would be a further step towards strengthening the region as a whole.

SANTIAGO WINS (Uruguay) said that the OIOS report on ECLAC clearly reflected the opinion of his delegation and confirmed the Commission’s excellent work.  The document also described the difficulties encountered by the Commission.  The recommendation regarding funding ECLAC from extrabudgetary resources seemed hard to implement, and he hoped the countries of the region would provide funding on a voluntary basis.  Other alternatives could also be explored in that regard. As pointed out in the report, ECLAC had done its work with minimal resources, but its output was considerable.  Therefore, any reduction in funding would be of concern to his delegation.  He also advocated full implementation of OIOS recommendations regarding the Commission’s staffing, and hoped the problem of high vacancy rates would be dealt with as soon as possible.

Turning to DPKO recruitment practices, he said that the report before the Committee was of particular interest to his country, because its troops were participating in various missions around the world.  He noted that a number of vacancies rate still remained in the Department, and that generic vacancy descriptions had not been established.  He hoped the Department would be able to achieve the recruitment goals established within the Organization.

HUSSEIN SABBAGH (Syria) asked why the recommendations and conclusions of the OIOS contained in the reports had not been presented in bold type, as required under relevant General Assembly resolutions.

Comments By OIOS Under-Secretary-General

Responding to questions and comments from the floor, Under-Secretary-General for Internal Oversight Services DILEEP NAIR said that he took to heart the requests for reducing the number of recommendations and making them more focused.  Regarding recruitment in DPKO, he agreed that monitoring of recruitment was a

natural OHRM function. Time needed to fill vacancies was among the management indicators, and the question needed to be monitored through a computerized system. 

He said that several recommendations on IMIS were still outstanding, including the recommendation to make resources available for integration of databases and the proposal regarding the implementation of IMIS within the Tribunals.  On the business continuity plan, work had started, but was not completed yet.  Additional resources might be needed to complete the emergency preparedness plan.

Regarding ECLAC, he said that some deficiencies in management had been pointed out, and the Commission had provided an update in a recent conference paper. Regarding the references to “lapses in supervision” and absence of “substantive leadership” on the part of two individuals referred to in paragraphs 44 and 45 of the report (document A/56/930), he said that the problem noticed by the OIOS was not unique to ECLAC.  While possessing substantive skills, a number of managers lacked the management expertise.  The OIOS had made a general comment to ECLAC in that regard.

Regarding the Commission’s recosting exercise, he added that its original budget had been insufficient because some inflation considerations and exchange rates had not been taken into account. The situation had been corrected. 

As for further monitoring of DPKO policies, he said that the Office was constantly monitoring the implementation of its recommendations.  The proposal to conduct a special audit in 2002 would need to be further considered, however. In general, the OIOS tried to produce its reports as quickly as possible to keep them up to date.  The OIOS would appraise the Committee of follow-up to its recommendations and monitor their implementation.  Responding to Syria’s question on why the OIOS recommendations had not been presented in bold, he said that they had not been emphasized as they were directed at management of the bodies involved and not at the Fifth Committee or the General Assembly.

ABDELMALEK BOUHEDDOU (Algeria) said that in paragraph 103 of resolution 56/253 on the programme budget for the 2002/2003 period, the Committee had asked the Secretary-General to make proposals to reinforce anti-terrorism functions.  But resolution 57/152 containing those proposals had been addressed to the Third Committee instead of to the Fifth Committee, under item 102 instead of item 114. That inappropriate approach was not only a violation of the rules of procedure but was likely to create a grave precedent that would enable the Secretariat to decide on the competence of this or that committee.

JOSEPH ACAKPO-SATCHIVI, Secretary of the Fifth Committee, responding to the comments from Algeria, said he did not have any clarifications to offer but would inform the Director of the Budget, who would feel duty-bound to provide an explanation of the document in question.

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For information media. Not an official record.