FIFTH COMMITTEE APPROVES 11 TEXTS CONCERNING WORK OF UNITED NATIONS OVERSIGHT BODIES

24 October 2002
GA/AB/3528

FIFTH COMMITTEE APPROVES 11 TEXTS CONCERNING WORK OF UNITED NATIONS OVERSIGHT BODIES

24/10/2002
Press ReleaseGA/AB/3528

Fifty-seventh General Assembly

Fifth Committee

15th Meeting (AM)

FIFTH COMMITTEE APPROVES 11 TEXTS CONCERNING WORK

OF UNITED NATIONS OVERSIGHT BODIES

Taking action on four draft resolutions and seven draft decisions this morning, the Fifth Committee (Administrative and Budgetary), in particular, addressed the work of the United Nations oversight bodies, including the Board of Auditors (BOA), the Office of Internal Oversight Services (OIOS) and the Joint Inspection Unit (JIU).

The Committee approved, without a vote, three draft resolutions related to a series of reports by those structures, by which the Assembly would take note of those documents and accept the financial reports and audited financial statements, as well as audit opinions and recommendations of the BOA. 

To improve the implementation of the auditors’ recommendations, the Assembly would request the Secretary-General and the executive heads of funds and programmes of the United Nations to examine the governance structures, principles and accountability throughout the system, making proposals on the future format and consideration of the BOA reports.  The Secretary-General would also be requested to ensure that the auditors’ observations and recommendations were fully taken into account in elaborating the Organization’s revised strategy for information and communications technology for the United Nations. 

By the text on the activities of the OIOS, the Assembly would, among other things, request a further audit of the policies and procedures for recruiting staff for the Department of Peacekeeping Operations.  As for the internal oversight mechanisms in operational funds and programmes, the Assembly would reaffirm the prerogatives of those bodies to decide their own oversight mechanisms and their relationship with the OIOS.

Regarding the JIU, the Assembly would reiterate its request to executive heads of participating organizations to observe fully the time frame for submitting their comments, and identify concrete managerial, administrative and programming questions aimed at providing the General Assembly and other legislative organs of participating organizations with practical and action-oriented recommendations.

By the terms of other texts approved today, the Committee recommended that the Assembly take note of reports on gratis personnel; trends in extrabudgetary resources at the Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean; the delivery of advisory services; the construction of additional office facilities at

the Economic Commission for Africa in Addis Ababa; the statistical report of the United Nations System Chief Executives Board for Coordination on the budgetary and financial situation of the organizations of the United Nations system; videoconferencing at the United Nations; and decentralized budgetary and financial arrangements for central services.

Also this morning, as the Committee concluded its consideration of the pattern of conferences, the representative of Venezuela (speaking on behalf of the “Group of 77” developing countries and China) advocated better planning and coordination in the utilization of conference services in order to avoid waste and encouraged the Committee on Conferences to continue monitoring the situation in that regard.

As the Group considered timely, easy and rapid access to documents in the six official languages of the United Nations as an essential element for the success of intergovernmental processes, he stressed that proposed structural changes in the Department for General Assembly and Conference Management (DGAACM) should not have a negative effect on the production and distribution of documents.  Neither should it affect delegations’ access to those documents in their present form in all six official languages simultaneously.

Speaking on behalf of the Pacific Islands Forum, Fiji’s representative stressed that participation and partnership should be key in efforts to improve the management of conference services in the future.  Due to the small size of their permanent missions, members of the Forum encountered difficulties in absorbing and acting adequately upon reports due to their volume and late submission.  They also faced a mountain of official documents and an ever-expanding United Nations agenda and schedule of meetings.  In the face of that challenge, a profound change in the operations of conference management was justified and necessary.

Responding to the delegates’ concerns, Under-Secretary-General for General Assembly and Conference Management, Jian Chen, said they would continue to be the focus of the Department in the months ahead.  The primary causes of deterioration in the quality of interpretation and translation were unsatisfactory work methods as a result of increasingly late submission of documents and sheer volume of documentation.  There was also a problem of finding qualified translators with the desired language combinations.  Due to competition, the Organization had to pick its candidates from a shrinking pool of qualified professionals.

Also participating in today’s debate were representatives of the Russian Federation, Nigeria, Morocco, China, Latvia, Syria, Cuba, Japan and Canada.

The Committee will continue its work at 10 a.m. tomorrow, 25 October, when it is expected to consider the means of improving the financial situation of the United Nations and the Capital Master Plan.

Background

This morning, the Fifth Committee was expected to act on a number of drafts (see Action on Drafts section, below) and continue its consideration of issues related to the pattern of conferences and provision of conference services.  (For detailed information on documents introduced to the Committee in this regard, see Press Release GA/AB/3235 of 21 October.)

ASDRUBAL PULIDO (Venezuela), speaking on behalf of the “Group of 77” developing countries and China, expressed his appreciation for continued inclusion in the Secretary-General’s reports of meeting statistics of United Nations bodies and regional and other groupings, including statistics for meetings held at the United Nations Office in Nairobi (UNON).  He particularly welcomed the efforts made to increase utilization of the conference centre at Bangkok.  He fully concurred with the conclusion by the Committee on Conferences that the loss of conference services resources, for whatever reason, should not be encouraged.  The Group advocated better planning and coordination in the utilization of conference services in order to avoid waste, and encouraged the Committee to continue monitoring the situation and make pertinent recommendations.

Turning to UNON, he welcomed the fact that the number of events held there increased by 10 per cent, and that the meetings at which interpretation services were provided had increased by 23.5 per cent during 2001.  There was no doubt that the establishment of a permanent interpretation service at UNON had attracted many major events and increased utilization of the facilities there.  He asked about the status of implementation of the Assembly’s request for modernization of the UNON facilities, taking into account that the Nairobi Office was the only United Nations office in the developing world.  Also noting that vacant posts in the interpretation service in Nairobi had not been filled, he said the Group sought more information on that matter.

Given the chronic problem of late issuance of documentation, he reiterated the need to ensure strict compliance with the six-week rule.  Timely issuance of reports affected the quality of the decision-making process throughout the Organization, and he called on the Department for General Assembly and Conference Management (DGAACM) to redouble its efforts to improve coordination with the author departments and identify and resolve the constraints that gave rise to a low rate of compliance with relevant rules.  Any reduction in the length of reports should not affect either the quality of presentation or the content of documents.

It was important to preserve the institutional memory of the Organization, he continued, and the Group considered that timely, easy and rapid access to documents in the six official United Nations languages was essential for the success of intergovernmental processes.   He stressed the importance of summary and verbatim records in all those languages; and expressed concern over continued delays in their issuance.  The Group would also like to receive more information on the proposal to transfer staff from the editing section of official documents to translation services.  He wanted to know the possible effect of such a proposal on the Organization’s ability to issue documents and on the accuracy of official document translation.  The proposed structural changes in the DGAACM should not have a negative effect on the production and distribution of documents, or on delegations’ access to those documents in all six official languages simultaneously.

Regarding the programming of meetings, he said that the Group concurred with the Advisory Committee on Administrative and Budgetary Questions (ACABQ) recommendation cautioning against imposing too strict rules in that respect.  Instead, he favoured a pragmatic approach to avoid introducing unnecessary restrictions on the ability of intergovernmental bodies or conferences to reach a successful conclusion.  He endorsed the proposal to put interpretation services for meetings of regional and other major groupings on a more predictable and formal basis, and to avoid daily scheduling difficulties.  Corresponding expenses should be included in the programme budget for the next biennium.

VLADIMIR A. IOSSIFOV (Russian Federation) said his delegation was prepared to approve the revised draft programme of meetings for 2003 as presented to the Fifth Committee.  He also welcomed the fact that in preparing that document, the Secretariat had taken into account the Orthodox Good Friday.

He supported the coordinating and consultative role of the Committee on Conferences as far as efforts to make optimal use of conference resources were concerned.  His delegation intended to continue paying particular attention to translation and interpretation services, stressing the importance of full compliance with existing rules on the use of official and working United Nations languages.  All Member States should receive translation and interpretation services of equal quality and volume.

Turning to the problem of late issuance of documentation, he said that it continued to be a source of concern, and it was time to take specific steps to resolve the situation.  He advocated establishing an effective system of accountability for timely presentation of documentation.  Delay in issuance was directly related to the effectiveness of work on particular agenda items.

Regarding the Secretary-General’s report on the improvement of work by the DGAACM, he said the new strategy proposed in that document appeared logical.  It was important that the document should contain a critical analysis of the Department’s shortcomings.  As for the innovative ideas contained in the report, he supported maintaining the six-week rule for presenting documentation, which was not always observed.  He did not believe that the situation could be rectified by switching to a four-week deadline, and saw no firm guarantees for improvement under that scenario.

On the proposal to replace summary records with digital recordings in all six languages, he had no objections to such an experiment, provided it was clearly understood that no additional appropriations would be required.  He commended the plans for use of advanced technology and pointed out that it was important to maintain the existing division of functions and services between the DGAACM and duty stations.  He supported the ACABQ recommendations in that respect, and did not consider it necessary to further centralize administration within the proposed global management system.  That was not in line with the Secretary-General’s reform plans as far as responsibility and accountability were concerned.  Increased responsibility and accountability of management should be at the centre of efforts, being a prerequisite for more effective use of human resources and finances.

NONYE UDO (Nigeria) said her delegation had paid careful attention to the report on conference services because of its importance for the smooth functioning of the intergovernmental process.   She endorsed the Committee on Conferences’ satisfaction at the higher percentage of meetings held by regional and other major groupings provided with conference services during the period under review.  Her delegation was further encouraged that efforts to improve utilization of UNON had yielded dividends.  However, the facilities in that Office needed to be upgraded to be on a par with other United Nations offices worldwide.

It was critical that the General Assembly should know the exact status of the report on the Office’s facilities, and that all remaining vacant posts for interpreters should be filled to enable the Office to offer better services to Member States.

AICHA AFIFI (Morocco) considered the recommendations of the Committee on Conferences to be entirely well-founded and believed that measures must be taken to optimize utilization.  Her delegation welcomed the increase in the utilization rate by regional groups, and efforts to increase and strengthen capacity on utilization of conference services in Nairobi.  However, the four posts for the Arab group remained vacant although Arabic was one of the official United Nations languages.  It would be wise to establish an incentive system for those posts.

She was concerned by the chronic problem in issuance of documents and requested that the problem be rectified.  The solution would require effective coordination between all parties involved.  Her delegation supported any proposal that would optimize the use of new communication and information technology.  The Organization should avoid, however, placing developing countries at a disadvantage, and should bear in mind that information technology was not as advanced in those countries.

AMRAIYA NAIDU (Fiji), speaking on behalf of the Pacific Island Forum, said the Secretary-General had made a compelling case for change in the way in which conference services would be managed in the future.  He looked forward to concrete benefits in the implementation of his ideas.  The two key principles in that respect were participation and partnership.  The Pacific Island Group comprised mostly small countries, and their participation in the Organization –- while guaranteed by virtue of their membership –- was constrained by the small size of their Permanent Missions.  The United Nations had a chronic problem with excess documentation.  The difficulty faced by Member States in absorbing and acting upon reports -- because of their volume and late submission -- was particularly acute for small delegations.  They faced a mountain of official documents and an ever-expanding United Nations agenda and schedule of meetings.  In the face of that challenge, a profound change in the operations of conference management was both justified and necessary.

He fully supported the efforts of the Secretary-General to streamline the number and length of United Nations documents and establish systems to ensure timely receipt of reports.  The Group would like to see further consolidation of reports and issues, including increased use of joint debates to streamline paperwork and conference time.  As for the principle of partnership, Member States and the Secretariat had the ability to implement changes that would lessen the burden on the system created by so many meetings and documents.  For its part, the Pacific Island Forum Group would review the number of sets of documentation it requested in order to reduce their number.

Commenting on the meeting statistics contained in document A/57/228, he said that there might be disagreement about what could be meaningfully discerned from data on finishing meetings early.  However, there could surely be no confusion about the waste of resources that resulted from starting meetings late.  Rather than apportioning blame, he saw the collection of that data as an opportunity to move forward in an informed and constructive way.  He welcomed the fact that in future the DGAACM would work more closely with the Secretaries, Chairs and Bureaus of the committees to improve meeting management.

WANG XINXIA (China) took note of the fact that for various reasons, there had been a decline in the overall utilization rate for 2001.  She hoped the offices concerned would seriously sum up their experiences, strengthen their planning process and make timely adjustments in their work programmes to reduce waste of resources caused by poor planning.

She went on to say that the DGAACM had now come up with a proactive approach, which focused more on coordination, planning and management of conference services and documentation.  Such a change would give the Department more control, greater accuracy and predictability in the planning of meetings, increase its efficient use of resources and enhance the quality of meeting and documentation services. She supported the establishment of a coordinating body of the six secretariats of the Main Committees to jointly prepare meetings.

As for the proposed new slotting system for processing reports, she believed it could really redress the problem of late issuance of documents and ensure timely distribution of high-quality documents to Member States.  Of course, the implementation of the proposed measures would also require coordination and support from all departments concerned.  As for the page-limit rule, the Organization was still struggling with lengthy documents from some departments. She supported and encouraged the Secretariat and author entities in their efforts to comply with the page-limit rule as closely as possible.

Regarding the quality of translation and interpretation, she said that workload was not the only yardstick for the evaluation of performance in that respect.  The quality of translation, a staff member’s attitude towards work, and the incidence of errors all needed to be incorporated in performance indicators. Regular dialogue between delegations and language services could also increase the satisfaction rate.  She also hoped the Secretariat would set up a complete and effective monitoring system with training programmes for under-performers to ensure quality documentation and meeting services.

ANDRIS PELSS (Latvia) expressed alarm that the utilization factor at the four duty stations had dropped 6 per cent below the 80 per cent utilization benchmark.  Better planning and flexible adjustment were the best ways to reduce time lost.  He was particularly concerned that some bodies could be characterized as persistent under-utilizers.  At the same time, certain bodies were consistently unable to observe the allocated meeting time limits because of their extensive mandate.  Further steps to improve that situation should be based on a holistic approach and should include not only persistent under-utilizers but persistent over-utilizers of conference services.

The Latvian delegation strongly supported the Secretary-General’s goal to cut back the increasing number of United Nations meetings.  It was convinced that not only the number of meetings, but also the number of resolutions and reports should be substantially reduced.  Streamlining of the number of meetings, however, should be carried out in a way that increased rather than inhibited the value of the United Nations and its ability to fulfil its core functions.

HUSSEIN SABBAGH (Syria) said he attached importance to the specific nature and the exceptional features of the United Nations.  The Organization had an international personality and was a forum for the exchange of cultures.  Voltaire, he continued, had spoken of the importance of making concepts clear prior to embarking upon discussion, in order to avoid wasting time.  His delegation endorsed that view.  However, many reports under that item, particularly document A/57/289, lacked clarity and preciseness.  They put forward new ideas and concepts without explaining what they were or what their purpose was.  The conclusions were sometimes out of step with the introductory remarks, and there were some contradictions within the reports.  Regarding the proposal to do away with summary records, for example, how could that be an improvement -- particularly when it was proposed that they be replaced with digital sound recordings? 

Allowing delegations to enjoy the institutional memory of the United Nations was one of the most important objectives of providing documentation in the six official languages, he said.  Yet it was not enough to provide delegations with documents and publications.  They should also be provided to Member States, research institutes and universities.  It would be paradoxical to talk about new means of distributing documentation when there was a clear lack of equality in providing information on the United Nations Internet site.  His delegation also had some misgivings about the purpose of those improvements, and was concerned with the potential for bias in favour of certain languages.

There were often great delays in the publication of summary records, verbatim records and General Assembly resolutions.  Furthermore, a large number of documents appeared on the Internet before hard copies were available.  He requested an explanation as to why documents which had not been translated into the official languages were becoming more and more numerous.

EVA SILOT BRAVO (Cuba) associated her delegation’s position with that of the Group of 77 and China.  Having adopted several resolutions on the pattern of conferences, she said, the Assembly had demonstrated its particular interest in the item under consideration.  However, progress could not be achieved without the provision of necessary financial resources.

She went on to say that her delegation had experienced the crunches since the approval of the budget for 2002-2003 and the reduction in conference and support services available to Member States.  Deterioration in that regard was obvious.  Irregularities occurred in publication and translation of documents, and the work of various bodies had been delayed because documents were not available on time.  The principle of multilingualism was compromised.  The General Assembly and the Fifth Committee must thoroughly consider the impact of such a situation and adopt consistent measures to regain efficiency and quality in conference services.  The Secretariat should give priority consideration to the issue, particularly by providing effective coordination among various entities involved on the basis of results-based management.

As for the reports before the Committee, she said that the ACABQ had provided a series of conclusions that were useful for the work of the Committee as far as proposals to improve the work of the DGAACM were concerned.  The importance of the item and the breadth of proposals compelled her to make certain requests for clarification, however.  She wanted a clear idea about what was expected from the consideration of document A/57/289 in the Fifth Committee, and wanted to know how it was to be harmonized with relevant measures contained in the general report on reform.  On the basis of what criteria had a proposal been made to differentiate treatment of conference services provided to various General Assembly bodies and the Security Council insofar as budgeting and planning were concerned?  Were the requests for services to regional groups -- made after the introduction of economy measures -- counted in the statistics on interpretation services which had been presented to the Committee?  Would the proposal for elimination of summary services affect the institutional memory of the Organization?  She also wanted to know how efforts to delegate authority would be harmonized with the centralization proposed for managing conference services for the entire system through the DGAACM.  Her delegation hoped that all due attention would given to those concerns. 

YOICHI NIIYA (Japan) said that he shared the concerns expressed by the representative of Fiji on behalf of the Pacific Islands Forum.  His statement needed to be taken into account when discussing the DGAACM.  He reiterated the important role of that Department, stressing the need to ensure the partnership and participation of Member States.  He hoped the Department would spare no effort to remove any obstacle to such participation. 

Responding to comments and questions from the floor, JIAN CHEN, Under-Secretary-General for General Assembly and Conference Management, thanked the delegates for their input and noted the degree of interest in the reports pertaining to the work of the Department.  In particular, he appreciated support for proposed measures to improve the work of the Department, which would now be called DGAACM.  As some speakers had pointed out, most of the measures incorporated in document A/57/289 were under the purview of the Secretary-General, and the Department had already been requested to begin their implementation.  Still, encouragement and guidance from the Committee would prove very useful, particularly as far as the questions of summary records and the technical secretariats of the Fifth and Sixth Committees were concerned.

On the summary records, he said they were produced by précis writers working on the basis of the language in which a statement was delivered, and then translated into other official languages.  However, as a result of the increased number of reports and other documentation, translation services were unable to catch up with summary records, which were often issued with long delays.  In considering changes to such an unsatisfactory situation, the Department had turned to modern technology in the belief that digital records could become a good replacement for summary records.  At this stage, the Department wanted to make sure whether such a switch would be satisfactory.  The Fifth Committee should consider sanctioning a study of such a replacement.  Following the experiment, it would be up to Member States to judge whether such a replacement was feasible.

As for the Fifth and Sixth Committees secretariats, he said that in his report A/57/289, the Secretary-General pointed out that now that the value of integrating those units with each other and with conference services had been determined, the secretariats would be transferred to the Department.  The Secretary-General had the authority to restructure and regroup secretariats.  However, when there was an impact on the budget, the Fifth Committee had a role to play.  He hoped the institutional memory would be carried over to ensure smooth functioning of the Fifth and Sixth Committees.

He agreed that late issuance of documentation was a continuing concern.  Among the reasons for that situation, he said, were “too many meetings, too many reports”, adding that the DGAACM focused on its internal working procedures in that regard, as well as on consultations and coordination with submitting departments.  While the problem was not expected to be altogether eliminated, he expected certain improvements to take effect in the future.  In particular, efforts were under way to identify bottlenecks.  One of the measures to improve planning was a slotting system, which would ensure a higher degree of predictability. 

Related to the question of documents was the issue of availability of hard copy, he said.  There should be no misunderstanding regarding printing on demand: its purpose was not to eliminate the distribution of hard copy altogether, but eliminate unnecessary distribution.  Efforts were under way to identify the need so that the number of documents did not exceed the demand.  That could be done with the cooperation of users, who should review their documentation requirements.  Documents would be increasingly distributed electronically.

On the quality of language services, he said it would continue to be the focus of the Department in the months ahead.  The primary cause of deterioration of the quality of interpretation, and in particular of translation, was unsatisfactory work methods resulting from increasingly late submission of lengthy documents and sheer volume of documentation.  To complete translation by established deadlines, documents were divided among several translators, who thus lost the view of the whole picture.  Extensive reliance on overnight processing of documents had adverse effects on quality.  Through pre-editing and referencing, the Department was hoping to ameliorate the situation.  Relays from various languages also led to mistakes. 

Another problem was finding qualified translators with desired language combinations, he continued.  Moreover, a large number of retirements had led to a lack of experienced staff and high vacancy rates in some services.  Recruitment freezes in the past had resulted in the loss of a generation of translators who would now be advancing to the senior level in their respective services.  There was also a structural imbalance between the number of translators and revisors. The rate of self-revision was in excess of the desired range of 45 per cent.  It was increasingly difficult to recruit and retain qualified staff because of competition with other international bodies, such as the European Union.  The United Nations set a high standard for its translators, requiring excellent knowledge of at least three languages in addition to their mother tongue.  Thus, the Organization had to pick its candidates from a shrinking pool of qualified professionals.  The Department intended to encourage interpreters and translators to upgrade their skills and expand their knowledge of substantive subjects dealt with by the Organization, but there was a limit to what it could do.

Regarding the elimination of the Official Records Editing Section, he said that in the process of the Department’s self-analysis, a review was carried out to see which parts were more valuable to the Organization and which had less or even marginal value.  It had to be recognized that over the years, the section staff had provided valuable work to the Organization, guaranteeing quality of products presented to Member States and providing concordance of texts among the six official languages.  However, some of the concordance was done not before, but rather after the adoption of documents.  Inevitably, some questions arose.  If concordance was significant, did the Department have the authority to make changes to documents already approved by various bodies?  He believed it was exceeding its authority in that respect.  If changes as a result of concordance were insignificant, on the other hand, would it be more worthwhile to deploy valuable resources to more urgent programmes, including translation and pre-editing?  Thus, it was decided to abolish the unit and transfer staff to translation services to strengthen the pre-editing function.

Concordance would be done to ensure the quality of United Nations products, he said, but it would be done prior to final adoption by the Assembly.  That would occur in the time between the approval of resolutions by the Main Committees and their final adoption by the Assembly, wherever possible.  Thus, delegates would be able to see if the language produced by concordance was acceptable to them before they adopted the documents.  The prerogative of the decision would thus be given back to Member States. 

Regarding global management, he said that the Department was responding to the Assembly’s request to ensure that conference services were managed in an integrated manner.  The Secretariat was seen as an appropriate authority to ensure global provision of conference services and their oversight.  The Department bore in mind the budget and human resources aspects of the issue.  Conference services resources at the main duty stations were integrated under the same budget section.  Economies could be ensured by operational coordination between duty stations, which could foster coherence in their work.  As indicated in the Secretary-General's report, the Department would now enhance monitoring of budget resources at all duty stations, without changing the ratio of allotment.  The same applied to human resources management.  The bottom line was that the Department would enhance centralization at the policy level, but maintain decentralization at the practical level.

As for Nairobi, efforts had been made to fill the vacant posts to the best of the Department’s ability, he said.  While several posts had been filled, candidates for others were being hired.  Several translators had recently passed an examination and were in the process of recruitment.  One interpreter was awaiting training.

The Department would continue to strictly comply with the calendar of meetings and conferences approved by the General Assembly, he said in conclusion.  However, it was up to the Assembly to decide how to accommodate requests for additional meetings through the established mechanisms.

Mr. KRAMER (Canada) asked about coordination between duty stations and if, for example, there were planning tools shared across the system that could forecast the availability of personnel and other matters.  With regard to translation services, he asked about the possibility of increasing the pool of translators, for example through requiring two languages instead of three.  He also asked how productivity and cost were being measured and how delegations could be provided with a better and shared understanding of how improvements were taking place.

Ms. SILOT BRAVO (Cuba) supported Canada’s statement, in particular the need for the Department of Conference Services to establish more specific guidelines. She also asked how the comments and recommendations of the ACABQ on the need for a more flexible programme machinery for conference services were being received and interpreted.  Could the Department find better evaluation tools for regional groups?

Mr. SABBAGH (Syria) said he had heard Mr. Chen say that the Secretary-General had the prerogative to make reforms.  The Syrian delegation respected the mandate of the Secretary-General, but would, however, like more information about the mandate of the administration, especially with regard to the management of conferences.

Ms. UDO (Nigeria), expressing satisfaction with the information on the filling of posts in Nairobi, asked if further details would be given and if delegates would be receiving a report on that subject during the current session or the resumed session.  She also asked for a more detailed explanation of the shifting of technical services.

Mr. FARID (Saudi Arabia) spoke about the need to adjust meetings in connection with Ramadan.

Mr. CHEN, Under-Secretary-General for the Department of General Assembly Affairs and Conference Services, replying to the questions from delegates, said that as a general principle, the Department was guided by decisions taken by the intergovernmental bodies.  With regard to coordination between duty stations, he said there had traditionally been several levels of coordination.  For example, there was an annual meeting between the four duty stations where all matters of conference services were discussed.  That would be further enhanced.  During the whole self-assessment exercise, all the other duty stations had been involved and what was being done presently reflected the common effort of all duty stations.

Regarding the two-way interpretation, he said that the old practice would still be followed but the idea would be examined to see if in-house capabilities could be enhanced.  He fully expected an improved service and enhanced quality in conference services and was working with in-house consultants in seeking a comprehensive implementation plan.  Regional group meetings would continue to be serviced within available resources.  Concerning Ramadan, he said he would come back with further information.

Action

AYMAN ELGAMMAL (Egypt), introduced the text on the financial reports and audited financial statements, and reports of the Board of Auditors (BOA) (document A/C.5/57/L.9).  By its terms, the Assembly would accept the financial reports and audited financial statements, as well as audit opinions and recommendations of the Boards of Auditors.  It would also approve the conclusions of the ACABQ and take note of the comments of the Secretary-General on the matter.  The BOA would be commended for the quality of its reports, particularly with respect to its comments on the management of resources, but the Assembly would note with concern the late issuance of those documents and request the Secretary-General to ensure sufficient priority in completing their editing and translation in order to submit them to the Assembly in accordance with the six-week rule. 

Further by the text, the Assembly would take note of the Secretary-General's report on the implementation of the auditors’ recommendations and request him and the executive heads of United Nations funds and programmes to examine the governance structures, principles and accountability throughout the system, making proposals on the future format and consideration of the BOA reports.  The Secretary-General would also be requested to ensure that the BOA observations and recommendations were fully taken into account in the revised strategy for information and communications technology for the United Nations before such a strategy was taken up by the Assembly.  The draft also invites the Secretary-General, in consultation with the BOA, to review the adequacy of the audit fee when considering resource requirements for the Board.  The Committee approved the text without a vote.

A draft decision on common services (document A/C.5/57/L.14) submitted by the Chairman, by the terms of which the Assembly would take note of the report of the Secretary-General on common services, was also approved without a vote.

By a text on gratis personnel (document A/C.5/57/L.5) introduced by the representative of Pakistan, the Assembly would take note of the annual report of the Secretary-General on gratis personnel provided by governments and other entities covering the period from 1 January to 31 December 2001.  The Committee approved that text without a vote.

It also approved, without a vote, a text submitted by the Chairman (document A/C.5/57/L.8), by which the Assembly would decide to take note of the report of the Secretary-General on the construction of additional office facilities at the Economic Commission for Africa in Addis Ababa.

The Committee then took up a draft submitted by the Chairman (document A/C.5/57/L.10) by which the Assembly would take note of the report of the Secretary-General on videoconferencing at the United Nations.  It approved that text, again without a vote.

By a draft decision submitted by the Chairman (document A/C.5/57/L.11), the Assembly would take note of the report of the Secretary-General on decentralized budgetary and financial arrangement for central services and concur with the recommendations of the ACABQ.  The Committee approved the draft without a vote.

A draft decision on the delivery of advisory services (document A/C.5/57/L.12), by which the Assembly would take note of the conclusions contained in paragraphs 32 to 37 of the Secretary-General’s report on the delivery of advisory services, was also approved without a vote.

By a draft decision (document A/C.5/57/L.13) on trends in extrabudgetary resources at the Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean, the Assembly would decide to take note of the report of the Secretary-General on that matter.  The Committee approved it without a vote.

Also before the Committee was a draft decision on the statistical report of the United Nations System Chief Executives Board for Coordination on the budgetary and financial situation of the organizations of the United Nations system (document A/C.5/57/L.6).  By its terms, the Assembly would take note of the statistical report.  The draft decision was adopted without a vote.

The Committee also approved, without a vote, a draft resolution on the Joint Inspection Unit (document A/C.5/57/L.7) introduced by the representative of Indonesia, by which the Assembly would reiterate its request to executive heads of participating organizations to observe fully the time frame for submitting their comments, and identify concrete managerial administrative and programming questions aimed at providing the General Assembly and other legislative organs of participating organizations with practical and action-oriented recommendations.

Further, by that text, the Assembly would take note of the information contained in the report regarding the proposed new procedure for handling comments of the participating organizations on the findings and recommendations of the

Unit, and invite the Unit to provide detailed information on the new procedure in comparison with the current procedure, together with the comments of the United Nations System Chief Executives Board for Coordination, for consideration by the General Assembly at its fifty-eighth session.

The Assembly would also stress the need for the United Nations to pay special attention to the preparation of reports that were more evaluation-oriented and invite additional efforts by the Unit, the bureaux of the legislative organs and the secretariats concerned to ensure that the relevant reports of the Unit were submitted to the legislative organs of participating organizations and that those organs took specific action on recommendations contained in the report.

Explanation of Position

The representative of Nigeria, explaining her delegation’s position, pointed out that during informals her delegation had made some input into the discussions and hoped that in selecting future points of study the Joint Inspection Unit would take into account all points of view expressed in the informals.

COLLEN VIXEN KELAPILE (Botswana), introduced a further draft resolution concerning the report of the Secretary-General on the activities of the Office of Internal Oversight Services (OIOS).  By the draft, (document A/C.5/57/L.4), the Assembly would take note of a series of reports by that office and request the Secretary-General to conduct further audit of the policies and procedures for recruiting staff for the Department of Peacekeeping Operations and to report to the General Assembly for consideration at its resumed fifty-eighth session.

Further by the draft, the Assembly would reaffirm the prerogatives of the funds and programmes of the United Nations to decide their own oversight mechanisms and their relationship with the OIOS and request the Secretary-General to submit to the General Assembly recommendations of the OIOS that require its approval prior to their implementation.

The Committee adopted the text without a vote.

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For information media. Not an official record.