BUDGET COMMITTEE TAKES UP SIXTH PROGRESS REPORT ON CAPITAL MASTER PLAN; EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR SAYS PROJECT ‘ON SCHEDULE AND ON TRACK’

4 March 2009
GA/AB/3890

BUDGET COMMITTEE TAKES UP SIXTH PROGRESS REPORT ON CAPITAL MASTER PLAN; EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR SAYS PROJECT ‘ON SCHEDULE AND ON TRACK’

4 March 2009
General Assembly
GA/AB/3890
Department of Public Information • News and Media Division • New York

Sixty-third General Assembly

Fifth Committee

30th Meeting (AM)


BUDGET COMMITTEE TAKES UP SIXTH PROGRESS REPORT ON CAPITAL MASTER PLAN;


EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR SAYS PROJECT ‘ON SCHEDULE AND ON TRACK’

 


Committee Also Begins Consideration of Report of Joint Inspection Unit


Members of the Fifth Committee (Administrative and Budgetary) this morning welcomed significant progress in the implementation of the Capital Master Plan during the past year, but expressed concern over high associated costs that had been requested by various departments in connection with the renovation project.


Presenting the latest progress report on the Capital Master Plan, its Executive Director, Michael Adlerstein, said that it was “on schedule and on track”.  Construction of the temporary North Lawn building was well under way; all swing space leases had been finalized; and some early relocations had been completed.  Significant progress had also been achieved in the design of the project, taking into account the changes in connection with the accelerated strategy, the value engineering exercise and incorporation of substantial greening measures and blast protection.


Regarding the financing of the Plan, he said that the adoption of the accelerated strategy and additional design and value engineering had resulted in a projected completion cost that was $97.5 million over the approved budget of about $1.88 billion ‑‑ $120 million below last year’s estimate.  “We are still over budget, but the gap has been halved,” he said, ensuring the Committee that his Office would continue to seek opportunities to align the project to the budget.


Presenting a report on the associated costs, United Nations Controller Jun Yamazaki, said that, for several years, it had been understood that, during construction, temporary increases in staffing and operational costs would be required in certain departments.  Those costs had not been included in the Capital Master Plan budget.  The project would be delayed and its success would be put at risk if resources for the associated activities were not provided on the same timeline as the Capital Master Plan.  For example, the Plan could not proceed unless there were adequate safety and security staff in place to inspect all trucks and deliveries to the construction site.


The representative of Mexico, speaking on behalf of the Rio Group, was among the speakers who expressed concern over the associated costs.  The Assembly had approved a budget not to exceed $1.8 billion, but additional costs of up to $186 million represented nearly 10 per cent of the total cost, he said.  He was also worried about the fact that some proposals that had been presented as associated costs were actually not associated to the Capital Master Plan.  That practice could increase indefinitely the costs of the project, which would be unacceptable.


New Zealand’s representative, also speaking on behalf of Australia and Canada, said that he did not believe that associated costs had been addressed and presented to Member States appropriately.  They should have been foreseen many years ago and considered in the context of the biennium budget, in accordance with normal budget processes.  At the same time, delays in the Capital Master Plan at this stage could prove costly to Member States.  Therefore, he would support separating for early consideration any associated costs that must be dealt with immediately, to avoid delays.


Most speakers this morning reiterated their strong support for the Capital Master Plan, welcoming the efforts to reduce the costs and keep work within schedule.  However, many delegates shared the concern of the Advisory Committee on Administrative and Budgetary Questions (ACABQ) over delays in the relocation of Secretariat staff and urged the Secretary-General to take all necessary measures to avoid any further slippages.


Other issues addressed in the debate included sustainable design incorporated into the project, the impact of the current economic crisis, donations from Member States, accessibility for people with disabilities, asbestos removal, and appointment of the advisory board for the project, which had been requested by the Assembly during its fifty-seventh session.


As the Committee turned to the report of the Joint Inspection Unit, several speakers expressed appreciation for the reports of that body, whose 119 action-oriented recommendations in 2008 were geared at enhancing effectiveness and efficiency throughout the United Nations system.


The representative of the Sudan, speaking on behalf of the “Group of 77” developing countries and China, commended the Unit for its programme of work and looked forward to endorsing its strategic framework for 2010-2019.  He also reiterated the Group’s support to the continued relevance of the Unit and its mandate and welcomed the steps taken by the Unit to:  strengthen its follow-up system; move towards a results-based management approach; improve collaboration with participating organization and other oversight and coordinating bodies; and adopt principles and procedures to conduct investigations.


Several delegations also addressed the process of recruitment for the post of the Executive Secretary of the Unit, which had remained vacant for the last 14 months.


The Chairman of the Unit, Even Fontaine Ortiz, said that, in violation of established procedure, the Senior Review Group had decided to re-interview the six shortlisted candidates, without any justification other than its members’ impressions with respect to “their vision and fresh ideas”.  He noted that the importance of the independence of oversight mechanisms had been recognized by Member States through several General Assembly resolutions and said that the Unit deeply regretted that the Secretary-General had not taken any action to remedy that “uncomfortable situation”.


Victor Kisob, Chief of the Staffing Service, Strategic Planning and Staffing Division of Human Resources Management, explained in that regard that the Unit had submitted its recommendation of a sole candidate for the post.  But, it was the Secretary-General’s policy that at least three qualified candidates must be recommended at the D-2 level, including at least one female.  Since the Unit had declined to put forward more than one candidate, the Senior Review Group had decided to gain additional information about all other shortlisted candidates, in order to make its recommendation in accordance with that policy.  The Group had recommended three candidates to be considered ‑‑ including the candidate put forward by the Unit ‑‑ for the Secretary-General’s consideration.


The recommendation of the Unit had been carefully considered as part of the Senior Group review, he said.  In addition, the Office of the Secretary-General continuously communicated with the Unit throughout the process, in accordance with the Secretary-General’s duties under the Charter, the Joint Inspection Unit Statute and resolutions regarding geographic distribution and gender.  The consultation process set forth in article 19 of the Unit’s Statute did not abrogate the Secretary-General’s obligation to make the final decision on the Executive Secretary appointment.


Statements were also made by representatives of the Czech Republic (on behalf of the European Union), United States, Singapore, Japan, China, Russian Federation and Iran.  Other reports before the Committee were introduced by Chair of the ACABQ, Susan McLurg; Director of External Audit of South Africa and Chair of the Audit Operations Committee of the Board of Auditors, Imran Vanker; Under-Secretary-General for Internal Oversight Services, Inga-Britt Ahlenius; the Chairman of the Joint Inspection Unit, Mr. Ortiz; and Director of the Secretariat of the United Nations System Chief Executives Board for Coordination, Adnan Amin.


The date of the Committee’s next formal meeting will be announced.


Background


The Fifth Committee (Administrative and Budgetary) met this morning to discuss the Capital Master Plan and the report of the Joint Inspection Unit, as well as a report by the Independent Audit Advisory Committee on the high number of vacancies within the Office of Internal Oversight Services (OIOS).


Capital Master Plan


According to the sixth annual progress report on the Capital Master Plan (document A/63/477), the projected cost for completing the project, as at September 2008, was estimated at around $1.97 billion.  Actual expenditure since 2003 amounts to around $239.5 million.  In August 2008, unpaid assessments amounted to $80.2 million.  However, the Capital Master Plan Office was able to give sufficient assurance to the construction manager, Skanska Building USA, that funding for the Plan is adequate to cover the cost of construction.  Even though a letter of credit was authorized by resolution 61/251, it had not been necessary to establish one.


The temporary building on the North Lawn is expected to be fully built by mid-2009, the report says, and preparations have been finalized for the temporary relocation of staff.  Swing spaces are expected to be fitted out between February and May, and swing space is being created in the third basement and in parts of the Library and South Annex Buildings.  Work on the Conference Building will be completed by mid-2011, and on the General Assembly Building approximately two years later.  The Secretariat Building and South Annex Building will be done in early 2012 and the Library in 2013.  The temporary building on the North Lawn will then be disassembled in 2013.


As a result of renovations, environmental performance at Headquarters is expected to improve.  Among other things, the Capital Master Plan Office is examining the use of solar and wind energy, and is studying the feasibility of purchasing electricity from renewable sources.  In addition, the Secretariat is working to explore ways to increase procurement opportunities for vendors from developing countries and countries in transition.


Also according to the report, the Secretary-General has stated his intention to enter into commitments of $22.7 million to cover some of so-called “associated costs” ‑- relating to support of the Master Plan and relocation of the secondary data centre.


The Secretary-General’s separate report on associated costs (document A/63/582) estimates those costs at $186 million gross, or $7.75 million less than what was reported in a previous document on the matter (document A/62/799).  Temporary increases in staffing and operational costs will be required in the Department for General Assembly and Conference Management, the Department of Public Information, the Department of Management and the Department of Safety and Security.  Efforts were made to absorb those costs within the approved Capital Master Plan budget, but the Secretary-General has determined that it was not possible without adverse effect on the project itself.  Compared to the approved budget of some $1.88 billion, the cost overrun in this connection was projected at $97.5 million.


The Secretary-General reports that the first round of intensive value engineering has been completed to bring the project within the approved $1.88 billion mark.  The savings that have been identified so far ($106 million) are across all areas of the project, the largest in the mechanical and electrical systems.


For the biennium 2008-2009, the Assembly is requested to approve the associated costs in the amount of $35.82 million net.  The Assembly is also asked to decide that, for 2008-2009, the provisions for the application of credits under the Financial Regulations and Rules of the United Nations be suspended in respect of the amount of about $38.19 million gross, which would otherwise have to be surrendered.  Estimated requirements of some $147.81 million for the period 2010-2013 would be considered in the context of the proposed budgets for relevant bienniums, taking into account any available balances within the approved Capital Master Plan budget.


The Board of Auditors, in its report on the Capital Master Plan for the year ended on 31 December 2007 (document A/63/5/Vol.V), says that 5 of its 11 recommendations for 2006 have been implemented, 4 are in the process of being implemented, and 2, including the recommendation concerning the establishment of an advisory board, have not been implemented.


The Board’s main recommendations for 2007 focus on project management.  It recommended that the Administration:  include an update on the schedule and a new global cost estimate for the project in the next annual Capital Master Plan report; detail economic assumptions on which cost estimates are based, and monitor the changes in those assumptions and the impact of those changes; develop a summary scoreboard to describe the situation of the operation at any given time; and create the advisory board requested by the General Assembly in its resolution 57/292.


According to the report on the OIOS comprehensive audit of the Capital Master Plan (document A/63/266), overall, the activities of the Office of the Capital Master Plan were adequately controlled.  For example, the Office has the necessary skills to perform the diverse functions required, but is not overstaffed.  Also, it is clear that substantial efforts have been made to develop and apply suitable project management procedures.


The OIOS identified some areas in which controls could be improved and made recommendations to strengthen procedures and contribute to efficiencies.  The most important of the recommendations relates to avoiding delays by streamlining procurement procedures for contractual amendments; that is, giving the Executive Director the authority to spend up to a pre-approved contingency sum for each guaranteed maximum price contract.  The OIOS recognizes the need to establish adequate controls for such a procedure and, therefore, recommends that a committee be established to carry out an ex post facto review of contractual amendments and change orders over $200,000.


In connection with associated costs, OIOS notes a need to identify and monitor all such costs to ensure that adequate funding continues to be available for the duration of the Capital Master Plan.  It is also necessary to determine which associated costs should be attributed to the Capital Master Plan, as opposed to those costs which should be funded from regular departmental budgets.  Recommendations are also made with regard to leadership succession planning, management coordination, delegation of procurement authority, performance targets and stakeholder management.


The Advisory Committee on Administrative and Budgetary Questions (ACABQ), in a related report (document A/63/736), recommends that the Assembly take note of the progress made and requests the Secretary-General to continue reporting on all relevant issues, also providing updated information on the cash position of the Capital Master Plan fund and the working capital reserve, as well as on the status of contributions and expenditures.  The ACABQ also stresses the importance of providing the most accurate estimate of the overall cost of the project and emphasizes the critical importance of close cooperation among the departments involved.


On the advisory board, ACABQ was informed that all potential candidates for that body had declined to serve owing to liability concerns.  The Secretary-General is suggesting that an appropriate role for the board at this stage would be to offer views on how to address the long-term space needs, particularly in light of the Assembly’s request to examine the feasibility of constructing a permanent building on the North Lawn.  The Board might also be tasked with examining the larger question of the Organization’s space needs, given continued expansion of the United Nations presence in New York, likely termination of certain leases and availability of other space options.  The Advisory Committee considers that the Secretary-General should proceed with the establishment of the board as initially intended and that any proposed changes to its mandate should be considered by the Assembly.  The ACABQ also urges the Secretary-General to take all necessary steps to avoid any further slippages in the relocation schedule.


While continuing to see merit in value engineering, the Advisory Committee recommends a cautious approach to ensure that the quality of the project is not undermined.  Noting that the Board of Auditors recommendation regarding specifying the value engineering fees in the cost estimate has not been implemented, the ACABQ requests the Secretary-General to provide that information to the Assembly.  In awarding remaining guaranteed price contracts, every effort should be made to derive maximum benefit from prevailing economic conditions.  The Advisory Committee is supportive of the donations policy, but recommends considering broadening its scope to include donations in kind.  All donations should be documented and reported to the Assembly.


The Advisory Committee does not recommend approval of the overall level of associated costs at this time, particularly since favourable market conditions may lead to significant cost reductions.  Estimated resource requirements for the next two bienniums should be presented in the context of future budget proposals.  At the same time, ACABQ expresses concern about the way in which the request for associated cost resources has been presented and points out that a number of associated requirements listed in the report do not relate directly to the Capital Master Plan.


The report recommends approval of a total of some $31.77 million gross for associated costs, including the amount of $995,300 for the Department for General Assembly and Conference Management, on the understanding that every effort will be made to absorb those requirements.  An amount of $3.82 million is recommended under the public information section of the budget.  The Advisory Committee has doubts that the resources requested for a broadcast facility can be regarded as Capital Master Plan associated costs, but nevertheless recommends approval of $3.5 million for that “invaluable asset to the Organization”.  In 2008-2009, that funding would be used for consultancy services, on the understanding that every effort will be made to absorb those requirements and that consultants will be used only where no in-house capacity exists.


The Advisory Committee recommends taking advantage of the establishment of the Office of Information and Communications Technology to assign all the information and communications technology functions associated with the Capital Master Plan to existing staff members.  It also recalls that, in its resolution 63/262, the Assembly decided not to approve the proposal for a new secondary data centre, and the Secretary-General is currently preparing a report on how the risks associated with the migration of the primary data centre could be mitigated.  As it is difficult to judge the level of resources until a viable solution is agreed upon, the Committee encourages the Secretary-General to identify such a solution in the most expeditious manner.


The Advisory Committee further recommends approval of some $13.36 million for the Office of Central Support Services; $4.52 million under construction, alteration, improvement and major maintenance; and some $7.58 million for safety and security.  The ACABQ believes that the number of Professional positions requested for the Department of Safety and Security could be reduced, since some of the proposed functions duplicate existing capacity.  While cognizant of additional security demands as a result of the relocation to multiple locations, ACABQ comments on the absence of a fully justified proposal, as well as the fact that reduced requirements for security in the Secretariat and Conference buildings during the renovation could allow for redeployment of some staff.


Joint Inspection Unit


The report of the Joint Inspection Unit for 2008 and programme of work for 2009 (document A/63/34) says that the Unit published six reports, four notes, one management letter and one confidential letter containing 119 recommendations on ways to improve management.  It also contains an outline of the Unit’s long- and medium-term goals and objectives for 2010-2019.


In line with its decision to implement results-based management, the Unit has requested an 8.9 per cent increase in its budget submission for 2010-2011 to add three Professional posts for evaluation and inspection, and to introduce a Web-based follow-up system.


In addition, the report devotes several paragraphs on the post of Executive Secretary, which was vacant for 14 months after its advertisement in December 2007.  In July 2008, the Unit submitted to the Secretary-General an evaluation of six candidates, together with its recommendation for appointment.  The Unit then informally learned through an internal memorandum that certain provisions in the selection process had been modified to include a requirement that there be at least one female candidate among three candidates proposed.  The report says “it was clear that there was an attempt to impose a female candidate for the post”.


A note by the Secretary-General on the report of the Joint Inspection Unit for 2008 (document A/63/731) indicates that the executive heads of United Nations entities are to consult with one another to coordinate their comments regarding any of the Unit’s reports that concern them.  Consultations are to take place within the framework of the United Nations System Chief Executives Board for Coordination (CEB), and some effort has been taken to enhance dialogue between the Unit and the Board.


At its sixteenth session in September 2008, the high-level Committee on Management met to consider, among other things, ways to improve communication procedures within their respective organizations to encourage a better flow of information between them and Unit focal points.  In addition, the Chief Executives Board for Coordination, at the Unit’s request, implemented a “consultation process” for providing input to the Unit’s 2009 programme of work.  The note says a closer informal working relationship between the secretariats of the two bodies has resulted in an increased response rate and more involvement by organizations when preparing reports.


Independent Audit Advisory Committee Report


And finally, in its report on the high number of vacant posts (over 27 per cent) in the OIOS (document A/63/737), the Independent Audit Advisory Committee (IAAC) urges immediate action to have those vacancies filled.


Given the length of time that recruiting appears to take, there is a risk that the programme of work of the Office may not be accomplished owing to insufficient staff capacity, the Audit Advisory Committee states.  It also notes that the Assembly, which, in its resolution 63/265, expressed concern over a number of vacancies in the OIOS Investigations Division since the beginning of 2008, and requested the Secretary-General to make every effort to fill them as a matter of priority.  The IAAC advises that all possibilities within the United Nations regulations and rules be explored, including judicious use of temporary staff to minimize the adverse impact of vacant posts on the completion of the OIOS programme of work.


Of particular concern to the Committee is the fact that all three Director positions within the OIOS are vacant and are currently encumbered by staff in an acting capacity.  There is disagreement between the management and OIOS regarding appropriate recruitment and selection process at the Director level.  The IAAC is also concerned with the recruitment of the Director of the Investigations Division, where strong leadership and management are critical:  175 cases have been transferred to it from the Procurement Task Force, and its major restructuring is awaiting the Assembly’s final decision.  Therefore, there should be a streamlined and expedited process for filling this post.


In this respect, the Committee notes the Office’s “operational independence” under resolution 48/218 B and the Secretary-General’s delegation of authority contained in administrative instruction ST/AI/401, which, inter alia, provides that “the Under-Secretary-General for Internal Oversight Services will have authority to appoint all staff members whose appointments are limited to service with the Office up to the D-2 level”.  The IAAC has provided advice to assist in the resolution of the matter, but it still remains unresolved.


Capital Master Plan


MICHAEL ADLERSTEIN, Assistant Secretary-General, Executive Director of the Capital Master Plan, introduced the sixth annual report on the project, saying that the Plan was on schedule and on track.  The completed temporary building would first house the functions of the General Assembly Building and provide office space for the Secretary-General, President of the General Assembly, the offices of the ACABQ and a number of other important functions.  The South Annex, with the staff cafeteria, would remain in operation during that phase, and the dining area would be divided to create staff and delegates’ dining areas.  The steel structure of the temporary building had been completed, the concrete slabs were being poured, and the metal skin would soon be installed.  Interior work could then commence.  In addition to the temporary building, existing space in the basements of the complex would provide swing space for offices and other functions, including temporary storage.


He also described three new leases that would provide for the office needs of the departments as they located from the Secretariat.  Most staff would be moved either to the newly leased space or to existing leased space in the vicinity.  One of the three new leases, the one at 380 Madison Avenue, had been finalized after approval of the accelerated strategy.


The migration of the conference function to the North Lawn building would start this November, he continued.  Less than two years later, late in 2011, the Conference Building renovation would be completed and the North Lawn building would be reconfigured to host the functions of the General Assembly.  As for the Secretariat building, some early moves of staff off campus had already been completed.  The main bulk of moves, including staff, files, commercial services, the press and other functions, would occur between June and August, when it would be least disruptive to the work of the Organization.  Most offices would be relocated during weekends, again to limit disruptions.


“We can all be proud of the level of sustainable design incorporated into the project ‑‑ the greening of the United Nations,” he said.  Energy consumption was projected to be reduced by 44 per cent, which was an improvement over the 40 per cent figure reported last year.  A critical goal of the Plan was also to improve the security conditions within the compound.  He also described the efforts to remove all trucks from under the occupied portions of the compound, parking arrangements, procurement and donations.  On the latter, he said that as the Secretariat had no funds available for restoration and conservation of art work, some Member States had agreed to temporarily assume custody of gifts.  The project would require relocation of most of the gifts that the Organization had received over the years.  The relocation of exterior artwork on the North Lawn had already been completed, and the planning for other gifts was under way.  The temporary building would be used as a display area for the gifts, when feasible.  Many Member States had also contacted his Office regarding the prospects for special donations towards specific rooms, spacing or building elements in the complex.  A donation policy had been promulgated in January, and many countries had expressed interest in participating in the donation initiative.


Regarding the financing of the plan, he said that, while last year’s progress report had estimated the cost of the project at about $219 million above the approved budget level, this year’s report reflected the reduction of the estimated cost by about $120 million.  The adoption of the accelerated strategy and additional design and value engineering had resulted in a projected completion cost that was $97.5 million over the approved budget of about $1.88 billion.  “We are still over budget, but the gap has been halved,” he said.  His Office would continue to seek opportunities to align the project to the budget.


He added that actual commitment amounted to some $679 million at this point, with over 35 per cent of the project “already bought”.  The budget risk was thus diminishing and his confidence that it would be possible to reduce the overrun further was growing.  The current economic crisis would likely have a positive impact on future Capital Master Plan bids, although it also raised risks of business failures.  The progress made had allowed his Office to sharpen the schedule.  Today, he could report that the project remained on schedule and would be completed by mid-2013.  Given the outstanding support from Member States’ financial contributions, the financial position of the project was strong.  The need for additional funds was not foreseen.  However, at this point, he was not optimistic that it would be possible to also absorb the associated costs.


United Nations Controller, JUN YAMAZAKI, introduced the report on the associated costs.  He said that, for several years, it had been understood that during the construction period, temporary increases in staffing and operational costs would be required in certain departments.  Those costs had not been included in the Capital Master Plan budget, as adopted by the General Assembly.  The project would be delayed and its success would be put at risk if resources for the associated activities were not provided on the same timeline as the Capital Master Plan.  For example, the Plan could not proceed unless there was adequate Department of Safety and Security staff in place to inspect all trucks and deliveries to the construction site.  Additional Department of Safety and Security personnel were also needed to provide a secure perimeter for the swing spaces.  In that context, he noted that the current estimated costs of delaying the implementation of the Capital Master Plan would amount to some $14 million per month.


On the commitments already entered into, he said that, to ensure that momentum was not lost, the President of the General Assembly had been advised by the Secretary-General in June that it was his intention to enter into limited financial commitments with respect to the project for the balance of the year pending consideration by the legislative bodies.  Thus, the amount of $4.2 million had been recorded against that authority.  In the absence of secure funding for associated costs for 2009 and pending consideration of the Secretary-General’s report, on 24 December 2008, the Fifth Committee had been advised on the need to continue with limited commitments for 2009, so as not to affect the progress of the project.  Accordingly, at this time, a limited financial commitment in the amount of $9.8 million had been established.


Director of External Audit of South Africa and Chair of the Audit Operations Committee of the Board of Auditors, IMRAN VANKER, introduced the Board of Auditors report.


Introducing the ACABQ report, its Chair, SUSAN MCLURG, noted that the project remained on schedule.  However, the renovation of the Secretariat and Conference Buildings could not begin until staff currently occupying those areas were relocated to office swing space.  Given that the relocation of some departments and offices had already been postponed, the Advisory Committee urged the Secretary-General to take all necessary steps to avoid any further slippages.


With regard to the Board of Auditors recommendation on the creation of the advisory board, the ACABQ noted that, while the Assembly had first requested the establishment of that body in its resolution 57/292, to date no follow-up had been given to that request.  The Advisory Committee encouraged the Administration to pursue expeditious implementation of all the Board’s recommendations.


On associated costs, she said that, since the Advisory Committee considered that it was too early to take any decision on the estimated resource requirements for the next two bienniums, it had confined its specific recommendations to the resources requested for 2008-2009.  While considering that the request of the Department for General Assembly and Conference Management for the biennium was reasonable, the ACABQ was recommending a reduction of 40 per cent in the resources requested for general temporary assistance and corresponding non-post resources requested for the Office of Central Support Services and Office of Information and Communications Technology.  Some of the temporary positions requested by the Secretary-General appeared to be mission critical and, as such, should already have been provided for in the Capital Master Plan budget.  Others seemed to entail functions that could be performed by existing staff.  A similar 40 per cent reduction was recommended in the resources requested for the Department of Safety and Security.


INGA-BRITT AHLENIUS, Under-Secretary-General for Internal Oversight, introduced the report of that Office on the audit of the Capital Master Plan.


MOHAMED YOUSIF IBRAHIM ABDELMANNAN (Sudan), speaking on behalf of the “Group of 77” developing countries and China, said the Group had always supported plans to renovate the ageing and unsafe Headquarters.  He welcomed efforts made by the Executive Director of the Capital Master Plan, adding that the Group thought it “desirable” for Mr. Adlerstein to be able to devote his work entirely to the Capital Master Plan project, and that he not be called on “to carry out unrelated construction work elsewhere in the world”.  The Group welcomed the fact that the cost of the project was closer to the approved budget than at the time of the fifth progress report, though it understood that delays in the fit-out and renovation schedules could result in a significant increase in costs.  He agreed with the ACABQ and Board of Auditors on the importance of providing Member States with the most accurate estimate possible.


He said the Group’s view on the advisory board requested in resolutions 57/292, 61/251 and 62/87 was that it be established urgently, and looked forward to the chance to discuss ways to overcome problems in doing so.  Such a board would help provide increased oversight over that complex and expensive project.  The Group disagreed with the idea of modifying the mandate of the advisory board to discuss long-term space needs, and particularly opposed the construction of a permanent building on the North Lawn.  The Group also wanted assurances that the $100 million savings derived from value engineering would not compromise the quality, durability and sustainability of the renovated materials and original design of the Headquarters.  The Secretariat should not confuse the savings accrued from value engineering with those accruing from external market factors.  Value engineering involved costs that should be disclosed so as to allow a proper cost-benefit analysis.  The uncertain economic environment could reduce construction prices, but those should not be regarded as part of the value engineering exercise.


He said the Group would like further clarification on procurement related to the project.  Agreeing with the ACABQ, he noted that the sixth annual report contained little information on concrete measures to increase procurement opportunities for developing countries and economies in transition.  “To say that information is being ‘widely communicated by all appropriate means’ was not enough,” he said, adding that Skanska had not used subcontractors from developing countries so far and that the report did not respond adequately to requests of resolution 62/87 regarding subcontracting.  More information was also requested on “environmentally friendly procurement”, which the Assembly had not yet approved.  A report on that issue had been requested in time for the Assembly’s sixty-fourth session.  The introduction of such a concept “at this stage” went “against United Nations rules and procedures” and “General Assembly resolutions governing procurement”.


Touching on the construction of the $2.7 million fire doors, as a result of an understanding reached between the United Nations and host city, he said the Group was concerned that they did not comply with pertinent General Assembly resolutions, especially those relating to accessibility of staff, delegations, visitors and tourists, and above all, to the provisions of accessibility established within the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities.


He sought assurances from the Secretariat that adequate and suitable office space was being provided for the Group of 77 and China office suite on the 39th floor, during the period of the Capital Master Plan and after its completion.  It would seek further information on that issue during informals.


On the donation policy being implemented by the Secretariat, he voiced support for the idea of accepting in-kind donations.  He requested clarification on the minimum amount of $1 million for the donations.  The donation policy should follow the practice for other voluntary contributions to funds and programmes, and it should be left to Member States to decide the amount to be contributed.


On the elimination of 350 parking spaces, which he said “contradicts the wishes of the [United Nations] Membership”, he stressed the sole prerogative of the General Assembly to decide on major changes to the project.


Turning to the report of the Board of Auditors, he said the Group agreed on the need for the Accounts Division and the Office of the Capital Master Plan to coordinate their actions.  The $9.5 million which the Secretary-General drew down from the available cash balance in the Capital Master Plan account, following the establishment of a financial commitment authority on 18 July 2008, was followed with a further commitment authority in the amount of $9.8 million on 13 January 2009.  It had been done to proceed with elements of certain “associated costs”.  The Group believed that such practices could have been avoided.  He said the Secretariat must have prepared an estimate of such costs by taking account of activities incurring those costs, which had been “genuinely known” to the Secretariat since the adoption of Assembly resolution A/60/282, by which it approved Strategy IV, effective 1 July 2006.  It must also have taken into account that the accelerated Strategy had minimal impact, if any, on those requirements.


He agreed with the ACABQ that a number of those requirements did not relate directly to the project but rather to ongoing capital improvements.  Those should not be considered “associated costs”.  The Group also agreed that, with almost four years remaining until the project completion date, it was too early to conclude that some or all of the associated costs could not be absorbed within the approved project budget.  He placed emphasis on the ACABQ recommendation to the Secretary-General to submit requirements for associated costs in the context of separate biennium budgets and limit them to those dealing with ongoing capital improvements.  Associated costs relating to the Capital Master Plan project should be discussed separately, with a view to absorbing them in the approved budget.


He also voiced the Group’s “firm position” against the suspension of the provisions for the application of credits under certain provisions of the Financial Regulations and Rules to finance additional resource requirements.


He invited the Secretariat to consider practical measures regarding the creating of a smoke-free United Nations, for example, by creating special smoking areas to respect the rights of smokers and non-smokers alike.


IVANA KRAHULCOVÁ ( Czech Republic), speaking on behalf of the European Union and associated States, reiterated the Union’s strong support for the project.  It was encouraged by the success of value engineering and the project’s healthy cash balance.  The Secretary-General was trusted to continue to pursue ways to bring the costs of contracts and operations down, given the present economic climate, and the Union would seek further details on that during informals.


She said the Union shared concerns voiced by the ACABQ on delays in the construction of the temporary North Lawn building and the relocation of Secretariat staff to the various swing spaces.  She asked to be brought up to date on that matter.  On associated costs, which she would pursue further during informals, she said the Union was “not convinced” that there was no scope to absorb them within the approved budget, particularly given current market conditions.


PHILLIP TAULA (New Zealand), also speaking on behalf of Australia and Canada, noted that the Capital Master Plan was largely on track, in spite of some delays in the relocation of staff and the fit-out of the swing space.  He was confident that under the able leadership of Mr. Adlerstein and his team, those issues would be managed effectively.  He supported the value engineering approach and welcomed the cost savings achieved so far.  He expected the current economic situation would lead to the realization of further savings, without undermining quality and functionality.


Continuing, he joined others in highlighting his concern about the associated costs.  He did not believe that those costs had been addressed and presented to Member States appropriately.  They should have been foreseen many years ago and considered in the context of the biennium budget, in accordance with normal budget processes.  At the same time, delays in the Capital Master Plan at this stage could prove costly to Member States.  Therefore, he would support separating for early consideration any associated costs that must be dealt with immediately, in order to avoid such delays.  The ACABQ had provided some helpful guidance in that respect.  He was also open to further discussion of the options available for the funding of any immediate associated cost requirements.


CARLOS RUIZ MASSIEU (Mexico), speaking on behalf of the Rio Group, said that the successful conclusion of the Capital Master Plan would mean that both United Nations staff and Member States could have a more adequate working space, adapted to new needs.  While the Assembly had approved a budget not to exceed $1.8 billion, the Group was concerned about the existence of additional costs of up to $186 million, which represented nearly 10 per cent of the total cost.  He was also worried about the fact that some proposals within the sections of associated costs were actually not associated to the Capital Master Plan.  That practice could increase indefinitely the costs of such a project, which would be unacceptable.


That was directly related to what the ACABQ had pointed out in its report regarding the possibility of finding a window of opportunity in the current financial crisis, due to the cost-cutting in labour and material, besides the fact that inflation did not represent a risk for the project itself anymore.  The Group was aware that the factors related to the financial crisis should not be mixed or confused with the implementation of value engineering.  In addition, the Secretariat had registered donations to the Capital Master Plan, which could be deducted from the associated costs and from its budget as a whole.  On the other hand, the Secretary-General had acknowledged the existence of savings of up to $100 million, due to the implementation of value engineering.  That was a good example of ways that could be used to keep the Plan within its approved budget.


Continuing, he acknowledged the new needs that had been detected, as the Secretary-General had pointed out in his report.  However, without questioning the urgent nature of that situation, the Group was not ready to give additional resources to issues that were not even considered associated costs to the Capital Master Plan.  In particular, he was referring to the broadcasting facilities of the Department of Public Information.  That issue should be considered under the corresponding agenda item in the future.  Regarding the Office of Central Support Services, he agreed with the Advisory Committee that the furniture required should be purchased closer to the date of conclusion of the Plan, and that the 13 temporary posts requested should be really necessary, in order to be approved.  The same principle was applicable to the Department of Safety and Security, which lacked an adequately justified proposal, since existing staff could be redeployed.


Stressing that the Capital Master Plan should fully comply with the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities in all its phases, he expressed regret with the measure undertaken, without the prior consultation with Member States, for the installation of fire doors at Headquarters, which evidently obstructed access of persons with disabilities.  In that regard, the Group reiterated its concern over the unsatisfactory answers provided by the Secretariat and hoped to receive accurate information on the implementation of the regulations and guidelines on accessibility.


Regarding the creation of an advisory board, he asked why it had not yet been appointed.  The board would be useful in its current format, and he was reluctant to support the idea of modifying its functions, particularly to promote ideas beyond what had been approved by Member States.  He also underscored the OIOS audit report of August 2008, which presented the status of its recommendations to the Department of Management.  He was concerned that there was no updated and public record of the gifts received from Member States.  Taking into account that there was still time to have some control over “the trajectory” of gifts and pieces of art from Member States, he urged the Secretary-General to take measures in that direction. EOB


BRUCE RASHKOW (United States) expressed appreciation for the efforts of the Office of the Capital Master Plan and Michael Adlerstein in working to bring the “enormous undertaking” of the Capital Master Plan project on track.  He then expressed agreement with that of others regarding the Secretary-General’s sixth annual report on its implementation, saying that a revised global cost estimate should be provided to Member States as soon as possible.  It should account for changes associated with the adoption of the accelerated strategy and value engineering process.  He also urged that everything possible continue to be done to avoid a further slippage in schedule.


On associated costs, he said the United States was concerned about the Secretary-General’s requests relating to those costs.  “There is firstly the matter of what actually meets the definition of associated costs, and secondly, the best way to pay for those costs.”  He recognized that not all costs associated with the Capital Master Plan were included in the approved budget, and that some of those were legitimately associated with the project.  But those for the proposed new broadcast facility, or $33.8 million of the total $176.5 million requested, ought to be considered as capital costs that should be addressed separately.  He said he agreed with the ACABQ’s opinion that expenses related to temporary relocations should be limited by using existing resources.


He urged, as did the ACABQ, that the Secretary-General present Member States with a viable solution, even if temporary, for the back-up data centre to ensure that “data migration that is on the critical path for the CMP will not result in delays to the project”.


He said he agreed with the Committee’s conclusion that, with the construction phase just beginning, it was not possible to know whether those costs could be absorbed within the approved project budget, as urged by the General Assembly.  In addition, his Government was “guardedly encouraged” by the current favourable bidding climate.


The United States did not concur with the Secretary-General’s proposal on how to cover the associated costs in the current biennium, he said.  The Secretary-General had requested approval to suspend certain regulations of the Financial Regulation and Rules of the United Nations and use up to $30.27 million in surplus funds from the approved programme budget to cover those costs.  Those funds had already been identified for return to Member States.  Although additional funds might be needed at some future point to cover associated costs, he pointed out that the Capital Master Plan currently had sufficient funds on hand to cover the anticipated associated costs for the current biennium.  Member States would have to consider approving additional funds for associated costs as part of a future biennium budget as the budget progresses, but the United States did not see the need to do so at present.  It was concerned that such action would set a precedent for using regular budget funds that might otherwise be refunded to Member States.


LOY HUI CHIEN (Singapore), aligning himself with the Group of 77 and China, welcomed the commencement of the “historic renovation” of United Nations Headquarters and encouraged all relevant Secretariat departments to coordinate closely with each other to ensure the project remained on track.  He encouraged the Secretariat to continue keeping Member States updated on progress made.


He said Singapore recognized that unforeseen costs might arise beyond the approved budget, but concurred with the ACABQ that a distinction must be drawn between ongoing capital improvements and costs that were related to the Capital Master Plan project.  Having said that, he remarked that a “penny-wise, pound-foolish” approach might save money today, yet cost more in the long-run.  For that reason, Member States should prepare to take a long view.  Delays were costly; ultimately it was Member States who would bear the financial cost of such delays, which he noted were estimated at $14 million per month.  He said he would seek further clarification on the matter during informals.  He then reiterated his suggestion that the new United Nations premises should be smoke-free in accordance with General Assembly resolution 63/8.


KENICHIRO MUKAI ( Japan) addressed the issues of value engineering and associated costs.  On value engineering, he said he concurred with the ACABQ on a definition of that concept, which he himself understood as “the process of reviewing the objectives of the project and actual design work, and finding ways of achieving the same objectives at a lower cost”.  In addition to that, every effort should be made to derive the maximum benefit from prevailing market conditions.  Moreover, the additional initiative of “greening the United Nations” should be pursued within existing resources, and he asked to see a cost-benefit analysis of those sustainability initiatives.


On associated costs, he stressed the necessity of distinguishing those costs that were attributable to the Capital Master Plan project and those that should be funded from regular departmental budgets.  He reiterated Japan’s request to the Secretary-General to absorb truly associated costs within the project budget, particularly in light of the global financial crisis and the healthy cash situation that the fund presently enjoyed.


He then addressed several so-called associated costs directly.  Broadcasting equipment requested by the Department of Public Information did not relate directly to the Capital Master Plan project, but rather to ongoing capital improvements.  As for proposed costs for a consultant for the broadcast facility and audio-visual archives, they should be absorbed within the current departmental budget.  Investment costs or long-term commitments should be requested through the normal, regular budget cycle.  Similarly, information and communications technology support services requested by the Department for General Assembly and Conference Management should be absorbed within existing budgets.  As for furniture, they should be used in temporary facilities and office swing space.  Disposing of furniture now was premature and not environmentally friendly.


He said Capital Master Plan tasks and Office of Central Support Services tasks could be performed by existing staff members in the Capital Master Plan Office, Office of Central Support Services and the Office of Information and Communications Technology.  Resource requirements for the Department of Safety and Security lacked justification and he asked whether existing posts and equipment could be redeployed to off-campus locations, based on a presumed reduction in security requirements for Headquarters and conference buildings during renovations.  He requested that the Secretary-General submit a Department of Safety and Security redeployment plan of the personnel and equipment to the second part of the sixty-third session or the main part of the sixty-fourth.


He said Japan was not in a position to approve the overall level of associated costs and held the view that costs for the 2008-2009 biennium should be absorbed in the Capital Master Plan budget or the regular budget.  He did not favour the proposal to suspend certain regulations of the Financial Regulations and Rules of the United Nations, and believed that the Secretariat should comply with established regulations and rules that state that the remaining balance of any appropriations retained would be surrendered and credited back to Member States.  Japan saw no reason to take note of a preliminary estimate for coming bienniums, and that requirements for 2010-2011 and 2012-2013 should be submitted in the proposed programme budgets for those bienniums.


YU HONG ( China) endorsed the position of the Group of 77 and said that the Capital Master Plan had a very big budget and long execution period, with projects that were difficult to implement.  It was necessary to ensure that projects were carried out according to schedule and budget to avoid over-expenditure, and she welcomed the Secretariat’s efforts in that regard.  Expressing concern over the risk of construction delays and subsequent large increases in cost, she said that her delegation hoped that the Secretariat would carry out projects according to the expected schedule and provide timely reports to Member States on their status.


Control and management needed to be strengthened to keep the expenditures within the approved level, she continued.  The progress report had mentioned that the value engineering exercise had resulted in some $100 million in potential savings, reducing the overrun to some $97.5 million.  She welcomed those efforts, but also agreed with the ACABQ that the concept of value engineering should be further clarified and that the efforts to reduce costs should not be at the expense of construction quality.  She hoped to learn about specific details as to how money had been saved through value engineering.


Regarding associated costs, she wanted to know what measures had been taken to absorb them in accordance with relevant General Assembly resolutions.  She supported the ACABQ assessment that, with four years remaining until the completion of the project, it was premature to conclude that some or all associated costs could not be absorbed, particularly with the possibility that the costs would come down in connection with the economic crisis.  That was a good opportunity to complete the project with a cost reduction.


She added that the Secretary-General had been asked to report on the specific steps and progress to increase procurement for vendors from developing countries and economies in transition, but the progress report did not provide any detailed information in that respect.  She wanted that information to be made available.


DMITRY CHUMAKOV ( Russian Federation) stressed the importance of meeting the deadlines for the Capital Master Plan implementation, in particular in connection with the need to prevent a growth of costs, which had already exceeded the budget approved by the General Assembly.  He welcomed the Secretariat’s efforts to bring the project back to the agreed amount by using value engineering, which should not affect quality.  The potential of value engineering was enhanced in the context of the current global economic situation.  If there were at least some people for whom the financial crisis was a good piece of news, that might be Mr. Adlerstein.


Continuing, he expressed surprise at the scale of associated costs, saying that his delegation intended to carefully discuss their justification on the basis of the recommendations of the ACABQ.  He also supported speedy implementation of the recommendations of the Board of Auditors, in particular on the establishment of the advisory board to monitor the large-scale financial operations for construction and fit-out being done by various subcontractors.  Given the scale of the project and proposed delegation of broad authority to the managing company, it became particularly important to meticulously comply with relevant resolutions and regulations.  In its desire to use green technologies, the Secretariat must be guided by clear criteria for their selection, including the analysis of their cost benefits and effectiveness ‑‑ not just pursuit of the environmentally popular.


He also noted proposals for additional donations for fitting out conference rooms and welcomed the efforts to minimize the impact of the work on the activities of Member State representatives and staff.  Those included the work to deal with parking space issues and technologies for handling asbestos.  It was his understanding that, as requested, more detailed information in that regard would be provided to Member States during informals.


JAVAD SAFAEI(Iran), aligning himself with the Group of 77 and China, addressed the issue of delays in fit-out and relocation schedules, saying further delays ought to be avoided.  On procurement, he recalled that General Assembly resolutions 61/251 and 62/82 requested the Secretary-General to increase procurement for vendors from developing countries.  Skanska had not used any subcontractors from such countries so far.  On the Capital Master Plan donation policy, he noted that cash donations were deemed to be the only acceptable form of donation, and concurred with the ACABQ that the Secretary-General should consider broadening the scope to include in-kind donations.  In addition, the Secretariat was not in a position to decide on the level of acceptable donations.  On the proposal to eliminate 350 parking spaces due to security considerations, Iran believed that such a major change should be subject to General Assembly approval, in accordance with resolution 57/292.


Joint Inspection Unit


EVEN FONTAINE ORTIZ, Chairman, Joint Inspection Unit, introduced the Unit’s annual report for 2008 and programme of work for 2009 (document A/63/34).  He recalled that the Unit’s mandate was to ensure the United Nations’ optimum use of resources, and to provide advice to individual United Nations entities on ways to improve coordination among them.  In that regard, the Unit proposed to produce eight system-wide reviews per year, instead of the average 5.5 reviews of the last eight years.


He also recalled that the Unit produced three main documents for use in results-based management:  a programme of work; an annual report; and its budget.  Its budget was included in the United Nations regular budget and its consideration followed a separate procedure, because the Unit’s expenditures were shared by the participating organizations.  Since the Unit submitted its programme and budget separately ‑‑ unlike the Secretariat, which submitted its programme and related budget in a single document ‑‑ the Unit should be treated as a special case.


He said the Unit’s programme of work contained expected results and associated indicators, while the proposed budget set out the required resources.  The Unit’s annual report was its accountability tool.


The Unit had concluded that, to better serve its stakeholders and to maintain consistency with its own advocacy on results-based management, it should apply its results-based management benchmarking framework to its own activities.  Such changes would require resources in the long and medium term, which the Unit assumed would be made available in time.  There must be “coherence” and “compatibility” between budgeting and programme decisions, so that budget cuts should correspond to specific identified programme cuts.


He recalled a proposal by the United Nations Evaluation Group, upon request by the Chief Executives Board for Coordination, to create a new system-wide independent evaluation unit.  The Unit had expressed a willingness to expand coverage to satisfy the Group’s needs, since it possessed the required mandate, independence, credibility and experience.  It only lacked the resources to properly discharge the function.  It was for that reason that the Unit requested an increase in resources in its 2010-2011 proposed programme budget.


He also touched on the post of Executive Secretary, which the Unit was in the process of recruiting.  In violation of established procedure, the Senior Review Group, a central review body that made selection decisions in conjunction with the head of the Unit, had decided to re-interview the six shortlisted candidates so as to propose a different list of candidates to the Secretary-General, without any justification other than its members’ impressions with respect to “their vision and fresh ideas”.  The Unit was convinced that the Senior Review Group was not more knowledgeable about the Unit’s need than the Unit itself.  The Unit deeply regretted that the Secretary-General had not taken any action to remedy that “uncomfortable situation”.


He noted that the importance of the independence and oversight mechanisms had been recognized by Member States through several General Assembly resolutions.  Resolution 48/218 B stated that the Office of Internal Oversight Services should exercise operational independence, and the Unit had expressed its belief that similar operational independence was required of all oversight mechanisms, particularly for mechanisms such as the Joint Inspection Unit.


He said the Secretary-General’s position on the appointment of D-2 officials could have a negative impact on the independence of oversight and expert bodies.  The Unit, as a subsidiary body of the Assembly, would strongly urge the Assembly to pronounce itself on the subject, in particular, to request the Secretary-General to comply with the provisions of the statute of the Joint Inspection Unit.


On other matters, he noted that the Unit had deleted from the programme of work its review of administrative arrangements for United Nations Truce Supervision Organization (UNTSO), United Nations Disengagement Observer Force (UNDOF) and United Nations Interim Force in Lebanon (UNIFIL), because it was already being reviewed by the Secretary-General at the ACABQ’s request.  He also sought the Committee’s help in resolving the delay faced by the Unit’s Officer-in-Charge in obtaining a United States entry visa, which had been requested on 21 January.


Next, ADNAN AMIN, Director of the Secretariat of the United Nations System Chief Executives Board for Coordination, introduced the note by the Secretary-General on the Joint Inspection Unit’s report (document A/63/731), saying his Secretariat and the Unit had been able to collaborate closely to facilitate the speedy preparation of Joint Inspection Unit reports.  The Chief Executives Board for Coordination had worked more quickly, as well, to produce its companion reports to system-wide Unit reports.


Regarding the appointment of the Joint Inspection Unit Executive Secretary, VICTOR KISOB, Chief of the Staffing Service, Strategic Planning and Staffing Division, Human Resources Management, said that, as the Chief Administrative Officer of the Organization, the Secretary-General appointed staff in accordance with Article 101 of the Charter and under the regulations established by the Assembly.  Article 19 of the Joint Inspection Unit Statute incorporated Article 101 of the Charter and governed the appointment of the Executive Secretary of the Unit.  Consequently, the Unit and its inspectors had operational independence and were not subject to the Staff Rules and Regulations of the United Nations or other administrative issuances of the Secretary-General.


Nevertheless, as set out in article 19 of the Statute, the Executive Secretary was a staff member of the Secretariat and his/her appointment should follow all applicable rules for senior appointments, where authority had not been delegated by the Secretary-General, including the review and recommendation of the Senior Review Group.  There was, therefore, an obligation to ensure that his selection met the criteria set forth in the Charter, was in accordance with the regulations established by the General Assembly and was in keeping with the consultation procedure set out in the Unit’s Statute.


In accordance with the procedures established for the appointment of staff at the D-2 level, the Joint Inspection Unit had submitted its recommendation of a sole candidate for the post, which had then been forwarded to the Senior Review Group for its recommendation.  Since 1994, the Senior Review Group had had a consistent and substantive role in advising the Secretary-General on the candidacy of the Executive Secretary for the Joint Inspection Unit.  With regard to the appointments at the D-2 level, it was the Secretary-General’s policy that at least three qualified candidates must be recommended, including at least one qualified female.  Since the Joint Inspection Unit had declined to put forward more than one candidate, the Senior Review Group had decided to gain additional information about all other candidates shortlisted by the Unit in order to make its recommendation in accordance with that policy.  Based on its independent assessment, the Group had recommended three candidates to be considered ‑‑ including the candidate put forward by the Unit ‑‑ for the Secretary-General’s consideration.


The recommendation of the Unit had been carefully considered as part of the Senior Group review.  In addition, the Office of the Secretary-General regularly and continuously communicated with the Unit throughout the process in full compliance with the Secretary-General’s duties under the Charter and in accordance with the Joint Inspection Unit Statute, as well as relevant resolutions regarding geographic distribution and gender.  The consultation process set forth in article 19 of the Statute did not abrogate the Secretary-General’s obligation to make the final decision on the Executive Secretary appointment.


Mr. ABDELMANNAN (Sudan), speaking on behalf of the Group of 77 and China, said that the Group highly valued the work of the Joint Inspection Unit as the sole independent, external oversight body of the United Nations system.  Over the years, the Unit had presented valuable reports on the issues that were relevant to the entire United Nations system.  He appreciated the high priority accorded by the Unit to management and efficiency issues, as well as its useful long-standing perspectives on the United Nations system.  The Fifth Committee could and should continue to benefit from the quality input provided by the Unit.


The Group agreed that 119 concrete, action-oriented recommendations contained in the documents issued by the Unit, if accepted and implemented, should resulted in tangible management improvements through enhanced effectiveness and efficiency gains, he continued.  That was why the Group appreciated the steps taken by the Unit to strengthen its follow-up system, by monitoring the status of the acceptance of its recommendations and identification of action required by the participating organizations.  He urged all those organizations to provide the information on the status of implementation, as requested by the Unit.


He was also pleased to note the Unit’s commitment to the necessary internal reforms in response to relevant Assembly resolutions, he said.  In particular, he appreciated the Unit’s effort to conduct a self-evaluation.  He welcomed the Unit’s decision to move towards a results-based management approach; the measures to improve collaboration with participating organization and other oversight and coordinating bodies; and the adoption of principles and procedures to conduct investigations.  Those actions showed the Unit’s determination to make itself a more reliable tool in bringing about cost-effectiveness and coherence to the United Nations system.  The Group had a positive view of the description of the resources needed by the Unit in the coming biennium.


He went on to express concern over the circumstances surrounding the appointment of the Executive Secretary of the Unit, whose post had been vacant for the last 14 months after its advertisement in December 2007.  The problem should have been resolved in a timely manner in accordance with relevant provisions of the Unit’s Statute, and administrative instructions regarding staff selection, the guidance provided by Assembly resolutions, and a basic sense of constructive cooperation by all the parties involved.  There was no choice for the Group but to seek clarifications on the matter during informal consultations.  He urged all parties to find an expedited solution, so that the work and independence of the Unit were not negatively affected.


In conclusion, he commended the Unit for its programme of work.  The Group looked forward to endorsing the Unit’s strategic framework for 2010-2019 and reiterated the Group’s support to the continued relevance of the Unit and its mandate as an oversight body.


JUN YAMADA ( Japan) said that the Joint Inspection Unit should fully exercise its functions, powers and responsibilities in accordance with its Statute and the mandates by the Assembly.  The Unit should fulfil its responsibilities to present recommendations, by which the United Nations and other relevant organs might improve management, achieve greater coordination and improve the efficiency and effectiveness of their activities.  He welcomed the efforts by the Unit to streamline its working processes, procedures and human resources management.  Efforts for reform should be continuous and the Unit should persevere in its efforts to improve its working methods in the coming years.  The programme of work for 2009, however, did not touch upon that matter.  His delegation wished to hear the views of the Unit Chairman on his endeavours to further improve its working methods.


The report of the Unit addressed results-based management, with reference to the proposal by the United Nations Evaluation Group to create a system-wide independent evaluation unit, he continued.  The Unit also presented, in the annex to its report, a strategic framework for 2010-2019 as a way to implement its results-based management benchmarking framework.  However, the report did not fully explain, or adequately evaluate, the context and content of the Evaluation Group’s proposal.  During informal consultations, he wished to hear the positions of the Evaluation Group and the Unit on that matter in greater detail.  As for the strategic framework, he noted that a systemic review of the administration and management of each participating organization was proposed.  During informals, he would like to find out how the Unit envisioned enhancing its efficiency and effectiveness in the face of such an increase in its workload.


Regarding the appointment of the Executive Secretary, he said the issue should be resolved through the discussion between the Secretary-General and the Unit.  He hoped that the Secretary-General and Unit would make expedited efforts towards appointing the Executive Secretary in a timely manner.  He also trusted that the issue would be resolved in accordance with the Unit’s Statute.  The managerial independence of the Unit should be differentiated from its operational independence.


YURIY P. SPIRIN( Russian Federation) said it was important to continuously improve the Unit’s activities.  Its new organizational structure, which provided for a thematic approach to its evaluations, had been effective in that regard.  He asked to hear more details on the principles and rules endorsed by the Unit in 2008 for conducting its investigations.  While commending the Unit for its work in 2008, he said that, in the future, his Government would expect a more aggressive approach from the Unit to pinpoint weaknesses in the United Nations management process.  He was also pleased to note that there had been no visa-related problems in 2008, with respect to travel visas for inspectors.


Mr. RASHKOW ( United States) stressed the important role of oversight bodies in enhancing the effectiveness of the United Nations system.  The United States recognized the output of the Unit in 2008, despite the high level of staff turnover.  Out of 23 assignments, 11 had been completed, with the remaining 12 expected to be completed this year.  That had culminated in 119 recommendations geared at improving the efficiency of participating organizations.  He noted the work of the Unit to include more information on the status of the implementation of its recommendations, as well as its efforts to enhance its follow-up system.  He was concerned that some agencies had not provided information to the Unit on the status of recommendations, as well as the low level of implementation by some organizations.  It was important that all organizations provided the necessary information in a timely manner.  His delegation was disappointed that the report did not directly respond to the Assembly’s request for a feasibility study on a Web-based follow-up system to monitor the implementation of the recommendations.  Automation would undoubtedly assist the Unit secretariat in that regard.  He trusted the Chair of the Unit would comment on that further during informals.


He commended the Unit’s decision to implement results-based management, he continued.  He was also encouraged by the Unit’s efforts to engage in long-term planning, with the framework for 2010-2019.


Turning to specific reports, in connection with the review of the Universal Postal Union, he was pleased to see the efforts by the Unit to maintain a common standard of accountability and oversight within the United Nations system.  He hoped the Universal Postal Union would fully implement the recommendations on ethics, oversight and evaluation.  On corporate consultancies in the United Nations system, he said that his delegation had long been concerned about the lack of accountability in the use of consultancy and hoped the report would strengthen the monitoring and evaluation of consultant performance.  He would like to see a concerted effort by all organizations to enhance controls in awarding consultancy contracts ‑‑ and all contracts, for that matter.  Finally, on the review of the management of the World Meteorological Organization, he was grateful to the Unit for continuing to follow-up on several issues of concern.  He hoped the Unit would continue that proactive approach, when warranted, in other organizations.


He added that his delegation was troubled by reports regarding the selection of the post of Unit’s Executive Secretary, which had been vacant for 14 months.  The Unit had submitted six candidates to the Secretary-General, along with its recommendation for the appointment of the most qualified and experienced one.  While he was not familiar in detail with established procedures and past precedents, he understood that the Secretary-General had usually appointed the candidate recommended by the Unit, after consultation with the Unit and Chief Executives Board for Coordination.  If that was accurate, he would be concerned about any report that the procedures for the selection and appointment had been changed and applied after the fact to a recruitment process already under way.  He noted that the Unit was a subsidiary body of the General Assembly that served the entire United Nations system, and not just the Secretariat.  If, indeed, the circumstances were as he understood, his delegation would be concerned that that action could undermine the operational independence of the Unit.


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