GENERAL ASSEMBLY APPROVES REFORM MEASURES TO STRENGTHEN UNITED NATIONS IN AREAS OF OVERSIGHT, ACCOUNTABILITY, INFORMATION TECHNOLOGY, PROCUREMENT

7 July 2006
GA/10481

GENERAL ASSEMBLY APPROVES REFORM MEASURES TO STRENGTHEN UNITED NATIONS IN AREAS OF OVERSIGHT, ACCOUNTABILITY, INFORMATION TECHNOLOGY, PROCUREMENT

7 July 2006
General Assembly
GA/10481
Department of Public Information • News and Media Division • New York

Sixtieth General Assembly

Plenary

93rd Meeting (PM)


GENERAL ASSEMBLY APPROVES REFORM MEASURES TO STRENGTHEN UNITED NATIONS IN AREAS


OF OVERSIGHT, ACCOUNTABILITY, INFORMATION TECHNOLOGY, PROCUREMENT


Defers Consideration of Issues Concerning

Peacekeeping Funding, Reports on Capital Master Plan


Responding to the Secretary-General’s proposals for a fundamental overhaul of the United Nations, the General Assembly this afternoon adopted an eight-part resolution designed to strengthen the world body, putting in place the first measures to effect the changes requested by the 2005 World Summit, including discretionary spending authorization for the Secretary-General, on an experimental basis and with several provisions, of some $20 million.


Acting on the recommendation of its Fifth Committee (Administrative and Budgetary), the Assembly adopted the eight-part resolution entitled, “Investing in the United Nations:  for a stronger organization worldwide:  detailed report”, which addresses such issues as oversight and accountability, information and communication technology, limited budgetary discretion, financial management practices, improving reporting mechanisms, public access to United Nations documentation, procurement and future consideration of management reform.  To that end, the Assembly approved an additional appropriation of some $4.43 million under the regular budget.


The Secretary-General, in his report entitled “Investing in the United Nations:  for a stronger Organization worldwide”, had outlined 23 broad reform proposals in response to the vision set out by world leaders at the 2005 World Summit.  That report was followed by detailed reports on specific reform issues, including information and communication technology, budget implementation and financial management practices.


On the issue of discretionary spending, the Assembly authorized the Secretary-General –- on an experimental basis -- limited discretion for budgetary implementation for the biennium 2006-2007 and 2008-2009, to enter into commitments up to $20 million in each biennium.  The resolution sets out nine principles according to which the spending should occur, including the stipulation that spending over $6 million per biennium should have prior concurrence of the Advisory Committee on Administrative and Budgetary Questions (ACABQ).  The Assembly further decided not to extend the experiment regarding redeployment of 50 posts as approved in resolution 58/270.


By other terms of the draft, the Assembly requested the Secretary-General to ensure the full operationalization of the Ethics Office.  It also emphasized the need for strengthening oversight and stressed the importance of strengthened accountability in the Organization and of ensuring greater accountability of the Secretary-General to Member States.


In the area of information and communication technology, the Assembly established the post of Chief Information Technology Officer at the level of the Assistant Secretary-General in the Office of the Secretary-General and decided to replace the current Integrated Management Information System (IMIS) with a next-generation enterprise resource planning system or other comparable system.


By other terms, the Assembly approved the Organization’s adoption of International Public Sector Accounting Standards and resolved to increase the Working Capital fund for the 2006-2007 biennium to $150 million effective 1 January 2007.  On the issue of procurement, the Assembly authorized the Secretary-General to enter into commitments up to $706,600 to strengthen the Organization’s procurement system, including by enhancing internal controls and developing business seminar programmes for vendors in developing countries.


Consideration of a proposal for consolidation of peacekeeping accounts, increases in the peacekeeping reserve fund and commitment authority for peacekeeping operations, as well establishment of a reserve fund within the context of the 2008-2009 regular budget would be deferred to the next session.


Explaining his position after action on the text, the United States representative said the measures in the text, while long overdue, represented positive first steps towards achievement of the types of Secretariat and management reform agreed to during the 2005 World Summit.  They would only have value, however, if they were implemented in a timely and cost-effective manner, and if accompanied by additional reforms.  He did not understand why, after agreement to confidence-building measures and delegations’ working together to create a positive spirit over the last week, there still was not a resolution that reflected reforms “that we all know are fundamental and reasonable”.


The section of the text on oversight provided little in the way of concrete actions, merely pushing down the road consideration of improvements that already should have been enacted, he added.  Chief among them was the need to ensure the operational independence of the Office of Internal Oversight Services (OIOS) from the Secretariat.  Another “key deficiency” was in procurement reform.  It was doubtful that, through the small amount of resources provided for badly needed improvements to the inadequate purchasing functions, the “scandal-ridden activity” could be repaired quickly and decisively.


Also speaking after the resolution’s adoption, South Africa’s representative, on behalf of the “Group of 77” developing countries and China, noted that Member States had, for the first time ever, been able to reach consensus on the aspect of limited discretion in budgetary implementation, which had been a very divisive issue in previous negotiations.  The resolution, among other things, paved the way for the Secretariat to move towards the adoption of new accounting standards, which the Secretary-General deemed necessary to strengthen financial management practices.


Noting that the Assembly had agreed to base its future consideration of the issue of OIOS operational independence and the terms of reference for the Independent Audit Advisory Committee on the findings of the external evaluation of audit and oversight to be presented during the Assembly’s upcoming sixty-first session, he regretted that such issues had already been brought into the negotiations on the resolution.  Attempts to change the consensus agreements reached in September and December 2005, and in April 2006, on the need for an external evaluation, had not been productive, and he trusted that they would not be repeated.


General Assembly President Jan Eliasson of Sweden hailed the adoption of the text an important step on the path to implementing what leaders had asked the Organization to do in the field of Secretariat and management reform at the 2005 World Summit.  While some areas of the resolution did not fully meet the concerns of all delegations, the draft had been adopted by consensus.  The Assembly’s collective efforts had now provided the Organization with the first measures to put in place mechanisms to respond to world leaders’ vision for an efficient, effective and accountable Organization.


In other action, the Assembly decided to defer consideration of a number of issues to its sixty-first session, including reports on the Capital Master Plan and reports by the OIOS.


Action on text


Acting without a vote, the Assembly adopted an eight-part draft resolution entitled “Investing in the United Nations:  for a stronger organization worldwide:  detailed report” (document A/60/831/Add.1).  By adopting the text, the Assembly approved an additional appropriation under the regular budget in the amount of $4.43 million.


By the text’s terms on oversight and accountability, the Assembly requested the Secretary-General to ensure the full operationalization of the Ethics Office.  It also emphasized the need for strengthening oversight and stressed the importance of strengthened accountability in the Organization and of ensuring greater accountability of the Secretary-General to Member States.  The Assembly looked forward to considering the results of the independent external evaluation of the audit and oversight system of the United Nations, as well as to consideration of the proposed terms of reference for the Independent Audit Advisory Committee (IAAC).


Regarding information and communication technology, the Assembly decided to establish the post of Chief Information Technology Officer at the level of the Assistant Secretary-General in the Office of the Secretary-General.  The Assembly further decided to replace the Integrated Management Information System (IMIS) with a next-generation enterprise resource planning system or other comparable system.  It decided also to revert to its consideration of policies towards the use of open source software in the Secretariat, as contained in the report of the Joint Inspection Unit (JIU), at its resumed sixty-first session.


By other terms, the Assembly authorized the Secretary-General, on an experimental basis, a limited discretion for budgetary implementation for the biennium 2006-2007 and 2008-2009, to enter into commitments up to $20 million in each biennium for the purpose of meeting the Organization’s “evolving needs” in carrying out its mandated programmes and activities.  It authorized the Secretary-General to utilize the Working Capital Fund to finance implementation of that authorization.  It mentioned nine principles to which implementation of the authorization should adhere, including that the experiment shall not imply any changes in the human resources management policies and that prior concurrence of the Advisory Committee on Administrative and Budgetary Questions (ACABQ) would be necessary when the total amount utilized exceeds $6 million per biennium.


The Assembly decided to review the experiment at its sixty-fourth session.  It further decided not to extend the experiment regarding redeployment of 50 posts as approved in resolution 58/270.  The Assembly recalled its request to the Secretary-General to specifically define accountability, as well as clear accountability mechanisms, and to propose clear parameters for its application and the instruments for its rigorous enforcement, without exception, at all levels.


By the terms on financial management practices, the Assembly decided to approve adoption by the Organization of International Public Sector Accounting Standards.  It resolved that the Working Capital Fund for the biennium 2006-2007 shall be increased to $150 million effective from 1 January 2007.


Under the section “improving reporting mechanisms; public access to United Nations documentation”, the Assembly took note of the Secretary-General’s intention to prepare a single comprehensive annual report, containing both financial and programme information, “aiming at enhancing transparency of the Organization and accountability of the Secretariat to Member States”, but emphasized that the report is complementary in nature and reaffirmed that all reports pertaining to administrative and budgetary matters are subject to the Fifth Committee’s consideration.  The Assembly also took note of the Secretary-General’s proposal on the policy for access to United Nations documentation by Member States and the public, and requested a comprehensive report thereon.


Regarding procurement, the Assembly authorized the Secretary-General to enter into commitments up to $706,600 to strengthen the procurement system, including by enhancing internal controls and developing business seminar programmes for vendors in developing countries.


The Assembly deferred its consideration of a proposal for consolidation of peacekeeping accounts, increases in the peacekeeping reserve fund and commitment authority for peacekeeping operations to its second resumed sixty-first session.  It deferred also consideration of establishment of a reserve fund within the context of the 2008-2009 regular budget.  The Assembly looked forward to considering proposals on governance, oversight and accountability; human resources management; procurement; and administration of justice at its sixty-first session.


The Assembly reaffirmed its intention to continue consideration of reform as intended by the Heads of State and Government in the World Summit Outcome document and pledged to provide the United Nations with adequate resources, on a timely basis, to enable the Organization to implement its mandates and achieve its objectives, having “regard to the priorities agreed by the General Assembly and the need to respect budget discipline”.


In the last part of the text, the Assembly approved an additional appropriation under the regular budget of some $4.43 million.  It also approved an additional appropriation of some $127,300 under section 35, Staff assessment, to be offset by an equivalent amount of income under income section I, Income from staff assessment.


In explanation of position, MARK D. WALLACE ( United States) said the measures in the text, while long overdue, represented positive first steps towards achievement of the types of Secretariat and management reform agreed to during the 2005 World Summit.  They would only have value, however, if they were implemented in a timely and cost-effective manner, and if accompanied by additional reforms.  He did not understand why, after agreement to confidence-building measures and after delegations’ working together to create a positive spirit over the last week, there still was not a resolution that reflected reforms “that we all know are fundamental and reasonable”.


He said the section on oversight provided little in the way of concrete actions, merely pushing down the road consideration of improvements that should be enacted now.  Chief among them was the need to ensure operational independence from the Secretariat of the Office of Internal Oversight Services (OIOS).  “To not provide this independence now, when all of us know it is needed, is short-sighted and ultimately damaging to the Organization’s own credibility.”


Another “key deficiency”, he said, was in procurement reform.  It was doubtful if the small amount of resources to begin badly needed improvements to the inadequate purchasing functions was sufficient for repairing the scandal-ridden activity quickly and decisively.  What qualified procurement officers, for instance, would be willing to take temporary jobs without certainty about longer-term status with the United Nations?


Although he believed in the need for a senior information technology officer, he said the post should be financed through resources that had already been approved.  “We simply don’t understand why, in a $4 billion biennial budget, there aren’t savings and efficiencies to provide for this position.”  Savings from the mandate review and other reforms would be more than sufficient to finance that and other required Secretariat improvements.


SIVU MAQUNGO (South Africa), speaking on behalf of the “Group of 77” developing countries and China, said that in adopting the resolution on “Investing in the United Nations for a stronger Organization worldwide”, Member States were for the first time ever able to reach consensus on the aspect of limited discretion in budgetary implementation, which had been a very divisive issue in previous negotiations.  That resolution paved the way for the Secretariat to move towards the adoption of new accounting standards, which the Secretary-General deemed necessary to strengthen financial management practices.  It also approved the Secretary-General’s request for a more up-to-date information communication technology system by replacing the present system with an integrated enterprise resources planning system or another appropriate solution.  An updated system was essential to implementing the new accounting standards and improving inter-connectivity between the United Nations headquarters offices, regional economic commissions and peacekeeping operations.  Member States should be ready to provide additional resources needed to implement such proposals.


The Assembly’s decision to establish a post for a Chief Information Technology Officer in the Secretary-General’s Office would help ensure that increased funds from Member States during the next few years would in fact lead to improvements in the Organization’s communication technology system, he continued.  The resolution also approved a $150 million increase for the Working Capital Fund.  He supported a greater increase, but said that in the interest of consensus he had agreed to the approved amount.


He said the Assembly had agreed to base its future consideration of the issue of operational independence of the OIOS and the terms of reference for the Independent Audit Advisory Committee on the findings of the external evaluation of audit and oversight to be presented during the Assembly’s upcoming sixty-first session.  He regretted that such issues had already been brought into the negotiations on the present resolution.  Attempts to change the consensus agreements reached in September and December 2005, and in April 2006, on the need for an external evaluation, had not been productive.  He said he trusted that they would not be repeated.  The Group of 77 and China had proposed to provide resources to the Secretary-General to strengthen the United Nations procurement system’s internal controls and develop business seminar programmes in developing countries.  He had been assured that that would suffice until Member States considered the Secretary-General’s requests based on the reports to be submitted to the Committee during the sixty-first session.


General Assembly President, JAN ELIASSON of Sweden, said he was gratified by the draft’s adoption, as it was an important step on the path to implementing what leaders had asked the Organization to do in the field of Secretariat and management reform at the 2005 World Summit.  He was particularly pleased by the constructive atmosphere during the Committee’s difficult negotiations in the past three days.  While some areas of the resolution did not fully meet the concerns of all delegations, the draft had been adopted by consensus.


By adopting the resolution, the Assembly had, among other things, requested the Secretary-General to fully operationalize the Ethics Office, emphasized the need for strengthening accountability in the Organization and decided to establish a post of Chief Information Technology Officer at the Assistant Secretary-General level.  The Assembly had also decided to replace IMIS with a next-generation enterprise resource planning system.  It had also decided to authorize the Secretary-General, on an experimental basis, a limited discretion for budgetary implementation to enter into commitments up to $20 million during 2006-2007 and 2008-2009, enabling him to meet the Organization’s evolving needs.


He said the Assembly had also resolved that the Working Capital Fund for 2006-2007 shall be increased from $100 million to $150 million effective 1 January 2007.  The Secretary-General was also authorized to enter into commitments up to $706,600 to strengthen the procurement system, pending action by the Assembly at the sixty-first session on the Secretary-General’s report on procurement reform.  The resolution looked forward to the results of the Independent External Evaluation of the audit and oversight system, to proposals on ensuring full operational independence of the OIOS, as well as to taking action on the terms of reference of the Independent Audit Advisory Committee with a view to operationalizing it.


As to the future work on management reform, he noted that the Assembly had decided to defer to its sixty-first session the question of the consolidation of peacekeeping accounts and increases in the peacekeeping reserve fund.  At the coming session, the Assembly would consider the Secretary-General’s proposals on governance, oversight and accountability, human resources management and procurement, as well as on administration of justice.  By today’s decision, the Assembly had contributed to strengthening of the United Nations.  Members’ collective efforts had now provided the Organization with the first measures to put in place mechanisms to respond to the vision of world leaders to make an efficient, effective and accountable Organization.


The Assembly also adopted, without a vote, a draft decision (document A/60/609/Add.3) on questions deferred for future consideration.  By its terms, the Assembly decided to defer to its sixty-first session consideration of a series of reports on the Capital Master Plan, as well as reports on administrative and budgetary aspects of the financing of United Nations peacekeeping operations.


Also deferred was a series of reports by the OIOS, including on the management audit of the Department of Peacekeeping Operations and a global review of discipline in field missions led by the Department of Peacekeeping Operations.  The Assembly also decided to defer several reports of the Secretary-General on his report entitled, “Investing in the United Nations for a stronger Organization worldwide:  detailed report”, including on procurement reform and updated terms of reference for the Independent Audit Advisory Committee.


In closing remarks, Mr. ELIASSON said the Assembly had taken a decisive step to make the Organization more effective.  Members had thus begun consolidating a culture of accountability, transparency and integrity in the Secretariat.  He hoped that the cooperative atmosphere experienced in the last few days would prevail and have a positive influence on the continued work on mandate review.  He hoped also to make progress on outstanding issues, such as General Assembly revitalization and debate on Security Council reform.  Some would be leaving New York this month.  He was certain that at the end of August, delegates would work with vigour and determination.  The Assembly also needed to finalize the resolution on the reform of the Economic and Social Council, which was important for strengthening social and economic issues within the United Nations.  He also hoped that members would be in a position to adopt a United Nations counter-terrorism strategy, thereby strengthening international cooperation to combat that evil scourge.


He thanked members for their hard work and noted that delegations would be receiving a letter in which he would spell out the issues in more detail.


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For information media • not an official record
For information media. Not an official record.