Fifth Committee Takes Up Proposed $8.2 Billion Peacekeeping Budget for 2009-2010, Board of Auditors Report on Peacekeeping Operations for Year Ending June 2008
Fifth Committee Takes Up Proposed $8.2 Billion Peacekeeping Budget for 2009-2010, Board of Auditors Report on Peacekeeping Operations for Year Ending June 2008
|Department of Public Information • News and Media Division • New York|
Sixty-third General Assembly
42nd Meeting (AM)
FIFTH COMMITTEE TAKES UP PROPOSED $8.2 BILLION PEACEKEEPING BUDGET FOR 2009-2010,
BOARD OF AUDITORS REPORT ON PEACEKEEPING OPERATIONS FOR YEAR ENDING JUNE 2008
Controller Says Figure 12 Per Cent Increase over Last Budget Period;
Speakers Express Concern over Rise, Express Hope Review Will Yield Savings
With the United Nations’ total peacekeeping budget ballooning to $8.2 billion in 2009-2010, speakers in the Fifth Committee (Administrative and Budgetary) today stressed the importance of austerity in a weakened global economic climate, and timely, full payment of assessed contributions so that peacekeeping missions could effectively carry out their mandates.
Introducing the overview on the financing of peacekeeping operations and proposed 2009-2010 budget, Jun Yamazaki, Controller, said the proposed $8.2 billion budget represented an increase of $0.9 billion ‑‑ or 12.3 per cent ‑‑ from the last period. There was also an unencumbered balance of $494.1 million from the 2007-2008 period.
Japan’s representative said such figures ‑‑ notably the $8.2 billion estimate ‑‑ were inconsistent with hopes that the Organization would practice austerity. “We simply cannot accept such size and growth under the current circumstances,” he said. Past records of unencumbered balances led him to believe that the same ‑‑ or even higher ‑‑ level of achievement could be made with fewer resources.
The United States’ representative concurred, saying that a review of peacekeeping budgets had shown a persistent pattern of over-budgeting for missions. While he expected a review would yield savings, it was important that all peacekeeping undergo reductions. Cross-cutting issues were integral to successful mission mandates and should be fully assessed and reflected. He looked forward to discussing issues, such as the lack of clarity on the role of integrated operational teams and the need for improved fuel management.
The representative of the Czech Republic, speaking on behalf of the European Union, saw the potential for savings in the budgets of individual missions and encouraged the Secretariat to explore synergies between missions operating in the same regions. Also, the use of resources left over from closed missions to make up for a lack of cash was irresponsible, and she called for all assessed contributions to be paid in full, on time without conditions.
Another centrepiece of the debate was the Board of Auditor’s report on peacekeeping operations for the year ended 30 June 2008, introduced by the Board’s Audit Operations Committee Chairman, Imran Vanker. Touching on various matters, he said only 32 per cent of the recommendations made last year by the Board had been fully implemented. Of those partially or unimplemented, at least 20 per cent were two or more years old.
Dovetailing on that point, Nancy Hurtz-Soyka, Director, Policy Coordination and Oversight Support Service of the Office of the Under-Secretary-General for Management, Department of Management, introduced the Secretary-General’s report on the implementation of those recommendations. She noted that information was provided on progress to date, the department responsible, current status, priority and revised target dates, where applicable on each of the recommendations. The Secretary-General was committed to ensuring that recommendations were implemented in a timely manner. The Management Committee continued to follow up quarterly on the status of implementation of oversight recommendations.
In other business, the Fifth Committee approved its programme of work, as agreed by the Bureau, on the understanding that adjustments would be made as necessary during the course of the session.
Other reports before the Committee were introduced by Susan McLurg, Chairman of the Advisory Committee on Administrative and Budgetary Questions (ACABQ); Susana Malcorra, Under-Secretary-General for Field Support; Inga-Britt Ahlenius, Under-Secretary-General for Internal Oversight Services; Xuesong Ma, Officer-in-Charge, Central Planning and Coordination Service, Department for General Assembly and Conference Management; and Barbara Kaudel, Chairman of the Committee on Conferences.
Speaking in general debate on financial reports and audited financial statements, and reports of the Board of Auditors were representatives of the Sudan (on behalf of the “Group of 77” and China), Czech Republic (on behalf of the European Union) and the Russian Federation.
Also speaking in general debate on administrative and budgetary aspects of peacekeeping operations financing were the representatives of Sudan (on behalf of the Group of 77 and China), Canada (also on behalf of Australia and New Zealand), Republic of Korea, Russian Federation, and Guatemala.
Speaking in general debate on pattern of conferences were the representatives of Sudan (on behalf of the Group of 77 and China), Mexico (on behalf of the Rio Group) and Brazil.
The Fifth Committee will reconvene at 10 a.m. Thursday, 14 May.
The Fifth Committee met this morning to continue its second resumed session, for which it has before it several reports on the financial, administrative, budgetary and cross-cutting aspects of United Nations peacekeeping operations.
Financial and Board of Auditors Reports
Before the Committee was the financial report and audited financial statements for the 12-month period from 1 July 2007 to 30 June 2008 and Report of the Board of Auditors (document A/63/5(Vol. II), which presents financial results for United Nations peacekeeping operations in the year to 30 June 2008, and includes the Board’s audit of peacekeeping operations and accounts.
The report’s first chapter provides a financial overview of United Nations peacekeeping operations, and notes that total assessments jumped 25.7 per cent to $6.7 billion, from $5.3 billion in the previous fiscal year. The increase was largely due to the start-up of the African Union-United Nations Hybrid Operation in Darfur (UNAMID) and United Nations Mission in the Central African Republic and Chad (MINURCAT), and the build-up in the United Nations Interim Force in Lebanon (UNIFIL). The increases were partially offset by decreases in assessments for the United Nations Mission in the Sudan (UNMIS).
Unpaid assessments relating to active peacekeeping missions increased 44 per cent to $1 billion at the end of 2007-08, from $707.5 million the previous year. Unpaid assessments relating to closed missions increased marginally to $557.6 million from $553 million over the same period.
Expenditures for the current fiscal year rose 21.7 per cent to $6.3 billion, from $5.1 billion a year earlier. The net increase was due mainly to the start-up of UNAMID and MINURCAT, and expansion of UNIFIL, which were partially offset by the reduced expenditures for UNMIS.
In its second chapter, the report captures findings of the Board of Auditors for the financial period ended 30 June 2008. The Board carried out its work through field visits to 15 active missions and the United Nations Logistics Base (UNLB) at Brindisi, Italy, as well as a review of peacekeeping financial transactions and operations at Headquarters, including the Peacekeeping Reserve Fund, the support account and 25 completed missions.
The Board issued a modified audit report with two emphasis of matter paragraphs on the financial statements for the review period. The first relates to non-expendable property, and notes “significant” discrepancies at various missions when comparison was made between the results of physical counts and the balances shown in the asset records. There was also evidence of surplus assets held at several missions.
The second emphasis of matter relates to expendable property, and observes that note 13 of the financial statements only disclosed strategic deployment stocks valued at $9.31 million as expendable property. However, the total value of such property recorded in the Galileo system amounted to $436.92 million as at 30 June 2008. The Administration explained that expendable property relating to strategic deployment stocks was disclosed on an exceptional basis to provide a full picture of such holdings.
In its recommendations, the Board urges keeping under review the possibility of creating a provision for delays in the collection of outstanding assessments, and thus providing accurate measurement and disclosure of long-outstanding assessed contributions receivable. It recommends identifying the causes for delay in the write-off and disposal of non-expendable property, and taking appropriate measures to expedite all pending write-offs and disposals. Acquisition planning should be undertaken well in advance to allow due processes to take place in line with Procurement Manual requirements, while the monitoring of contracts should be strengthened to avoid extending contracts beyond “not-to-exceed amounts”.
Also before the Committee was the Secretary-General’s report on implementation of the recommendations of the Board of Auditors concerning United Nations peacekeeping operations for the financial period ended 30 June 2008 (document A/63/784), which provides additional information in response to recommendations of the Board of Auditors. The report was submitted in accordance with General Assembly resolution 48/216 B, in which the Secretary-General was requested to report to the Assembly at the same time as the Board submitted its recommendations to the Assembly.
Overall, the Administration agreed with many of the Board’s recommendations, and most of the Secretary-General’s comments were duly reflected in its report. As such, the present report provides additional comments only where required, as well as information on the status of implementation, the office responsible, the estimated completion date and the priority for each recommendation in the Board’s report. It also contains updated information on the status of implementation of the Board’s recommendations relating to prior periods that were reported not to have been fully implemented in annex II of the Board’s report.
In its responses, the Administration notes that the United Nations’ policies, with regard to the accounting treatment of uncollected assessed contributions, complied with General Assembly decisions. It, therefore, had no basis on which to consider a new policy. As recommended by the Board, the Administration will keep the matter under review and make appropriate changes should there be new developments.
As for carrying out acquisition planning well in advance, the Administration notes that prior to arrangements planned for under the sole-source contract, the Department of Field Support was assured by the African Union Mission in Sudan (AMIS) country partners that they would continue with arrangements regarding the provision of catering services to troops until 31 March 2008. In November 2007, when it was clear this assurance would not prevail, the Department sought the advice of the Controller on various anticipated logistical support requirements for UNAMID. Having assessed available options, the Department, in late November 2007, asked the Controller to consider entering into a tripartite agreement to continue catering services to be overseen by UNAMID. As such, the Department believes there was no lack of planning and indeed had available to it various options, given the circumstances.
Administrative and Budgetary Issues
A report on the comprehensive review of the compensation of death and disability benefits to military contingents, formed police units, military observers and civilian police officers (document A/63/550) recalls a proposal in an earlier report (document A/52/369) for a study that would inform the Secretariat on a new method for calculating the rate of death and disability benefits for all categories of uniformed personnel. The new method would standardize the process across categories of personnel. The Secretary-General requests the Assembly to approve that study.
In the report, the Secretary-General also requests approval for a uniform death compensation of $50,000, and a proportionate amount for permanent disability or loss of function. The Assembly is asked not to limit the number of requests made by the Secretariat for documentation from Member States, so that Secretariat officials are not encumbered by incomplete data.
According to the report on special measures for protection from sexual exploitation and sexual abuse (document A/63/720), there were 83 allegations of abuse involving personnel of the Department of Peacekeeping Operations and Department of Field Support. It marked a decrease from 2006 (357) and 2007 (127). Of that number, 34 were considered “egregious” forms of sexual exploitation and abuse, namely sexual exploitation and abuse of minors, including rape. Eighty out of 83 cases have been investigated. Of those involving military personnel, 58 cases had been substantiated; among civilian personnel, 4 cases; and among police and corrections personnel, 3 cases.
There were 28 allegations from January to December 2008 by the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda, Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA), United Nations Volunteers, and the World Food Programme. Of those, 14 cases were unsubstantiated or closed, 2 were substantiated and 12 were under investigation at the time of writing.
The report says the decrease could be attributed to increased training and awareness-raising, but that a change in how data was being collected in the past few years may also have contributed to the lower number. At the same time, however, there was a rise in the number of cases that were able to be substantiated, particularly allegations involving minors. That situation will be “monitored closely”.
Cross-Cutting Issues in Peacekeeping Financing: Overview
According to an overview of the financing of the United Nations peacekeeping operations: budget performance for the period from 1 July 2007 to 30 June 2008 and budget for the period from 1 July 2009 to 30 June 2010 (document A/63/696), total expenditure in the 2007-08 period amounted to $6.28 billion, against an approved budget of $6.77 billion. Expenditure was lower than expected in the following areas: facilities and infrastructure, principally for construction services and mainly in UNAMID and UNMIS; military contingents, principally in UNIFIL, UNAMID and UNMIL; air transportation, principally for the United Nations Organization Mission in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (MONUC), MINURCAT and UNMIS; international staff, principally for UNAMID and UNIFIL; and communications, mainly in UNAMID, UNMIS, the United Nations Stabilization Mission in Haiti (MINUSTAH) and the United Nations Mission in Liberia (UNMIL).
As for the $8.18 billion estimated for peacekeeping operations for 2009-10, the report notes that it is 16.8 per cent higher than the approved level of $7.03 billion for 2008-09. The rise is primarily attributable to the increase in military and police personnel strength of MONUC; higher deployment of military, police and civilian personnel of UNAMID; and the newly authorized deployment of a military component from MINURCAT. However, the new budget also includes “efficiency gains” across 12 peacekeeping operations, gained through sharing of aircraft, use of vehicles with lower maintenance costs, implementation of an energy-saving policy, and similar cost-saving activities. The total saved is estimated at $34.65 million. There is also a net decrease of posts and temporary positions to 28,700 from 29,946 approved for 2008-09, including United Nations Volunteers.
The Peacekeeping Reserve Fund stood at $157.8 million as at 30 June 2008. Short-term loans were made to MINURCAT and UNAMID, which were paid back. But, there are still two outstanding loans: $12.8 million to the United Nations Mission in the Central African Republic (MINURCA), and $2 million in United Nations support to the African Union Mission in Somalia. A balance in the Peacekeeping Reserve Fund in excess of the authorized level may go to the support account for 2009-10, subject to General Assembly approval.
The status of amounts owed to troop- and police-contributing countries for 2007 is $689,121 and for 2008 is $431,489. Using funds from their three-month cash operating reserves, all active missions made quarterly payments to return the amounts owed, except for the United Nations Mission for the Referendum in Western Sahara (MINURSO), United Nations Interim Administration Mission in Kosovo (UNMIK) and the United Nations Peacekeeping Force in Cyprus (UNFICYP) due to their poor cash positions. Also, five closed missions – the United Nations Operation in Burundi (ONUB), United Nations Operation in Mozambique (ONUMOZ), United Nations Angola Verification Mission (UNAVEM), United Nations Operation in Somalia (UNOSOM) and United Nations Transitional Authority in Cambodia (UNTAC) ‑‑ reimbursed $9.3 million for their use of contingent-owned equipment and for “self-sustainment claims”.
In terms of death and disability compensation for 2008, there were 88 claims paid ($1.73 million), with 122 claims pending ($1.5 million).
According to a note from the Secretary-General on the proposed budgetary levels for peacekeeping operations for the period from 1 July 2009 to 30 June 2010 (document A/C.5/63/24), $8.18 billion is required for 14 peacekeeping operations, the United Nations Logistics Base in Brindisi, and the peacekeeping operations support account. It does not include requirements for a peacekeeping operation in Somalia. The breakdown is as follows:
MINURCAT ( Mission in Central African Republic and Chad)
MINURSO ( Mission for Referendum in Western Sahara)
MINUSTAH (Stabilization Mission in Haiti)
MONUC (Organization Mission in Democratic Republic of the Congo)
UNAMID (Hybrid Operation in Darfur)
UNDOF (Disengagement Observer Force)
UNFICYP (Peacekeeping Force in Cyprus)
UNIFIL (Interim Force in Lebanon)
UNMIK ( Mission in Kosovo)
UNMIL ( Mission in Liberia)
UNMIS ( Mission in Sudan)
UNMIT (Integrated Mission in Timor-Leste)
UNOCI (Operation in Côte d’Ivoire)
UNOMIG (Observer Mission in Georgia)
Cross-Cutting Issues in Peacekeeping Financing: Special Subjects
To avoid “unnecessary barriers” in the recruitment of national staff in peacekeeping operations, the Secretary-General seeks the Assembly’s endorsement of several measures contained in the report on national professional officers (document A/62/762). In situations where educational institutions are not functioning, leading to a dearth of candidates with a first-level university degree, missions should be given flexibility to develop practices to address the problem. In situations where national professional officer candidates are unable to produce a university degree that was reported lost or destroyed during hostilities or where it has not been possible to verify prior professional experience, missions should be given the flexibility to recruit candidates based on the information provided in the personal history profile, while continuing to make their best efforts to obtain verification of academic qualifications and/or prior professional experience.
Where it is difficult to identify national professional officer candidates with the required prior professional experience, missions should be given the flexibility to recruit national professional officers who possess a university degree at the entry level of NO-A, without the requirement for any previous professional experience, on a probationary basis. National professional officers should be employed in United Nations peace operations in non-field locations, such as the United Nations Logistics Base in Brindisi and the United Nations Peacekeeping Force in Cyprus, where the functions require knowledge of the local language or institutions.
In his report on welfare and recreation needs of all categories of personnel (document A/63/675 and Corr.1), the Secretary-General recommends introducing minimum standards of welfare and recreation facilities for international personnel in all missions, with specific resource requirements to be considered in the context of individual missions’ future proposed budgets.
According to the report, strengthened welfare programmes will add to the well-being of all personnel and enhance the morale and efficiency of peacekeepers. A minimum standard of welfare and recreation throughout missions will promote adherence to codes of conduct and discipline, help to reduce staff turnover and foster a shared sense of purpose among the personnel.
The document also presents indicative resource projections for the establishment of minimum welfare and recreation “kits” for missions of various sizes. For instance, the cost of establishing minimum welfare and recreation facilities for a small mission with four locations and 300 personnel is approximately $700,000. For a large mission, comprising 2,800 international non-contingent personnel deployed at 20 locations, the cost would amount to approximately $3.76 million. Those estimates include the costs of gymnasium and lounge/library items, and the construction of facilities, including maintenance and freight costs.
It is assumed that missions would defray costs by purchasing supplies locally, when possible, and obtaining equipment from liquidating missions. Some missions could use facilities as a lounge/library during the evening hours and for other purposes during working hours. Missions may also choose to rent facilities in cases where it is more cost-effective than erecting new ones.
In line with the principle of a “level playing field”, missions that have already implemented measures to improve welfare using resources approved by the Assembly would only submit new proposals to the extent that the minimum standards (should they be approved) have not yet been met.
In a report on progress of training in United Nations peacekeeping (document A/63/680) presents key findings of a recent peacekeeping training needs assessment, on the basis of which a new training strategy was approved in May 2008. The Secretary-General concludes that predeployment, induction and ongoing training are steadily improving, and continued progress can be expected in the coming months.
The Secretary-General reports that a Policy, Evaluation and Training Division was created in July 2007 as a resource for the Department of Peacekeeping Operations and the Department of Field Support. Under the new training strategy, that Division’s Integrated Training Service oversees all United Nations peacekeeping training, providing relevant policy, guidance and support. It is also responsible for providing peacekeeping training standards, based on departmental priorities and best practices; managing the training budgets of the Department of Peacekeeping Operations and Department of Field Support; and monitoring and evaluating the effectiveness of training activities.
Over the past year, the Service has developed mechanisms and procedures to ensure standardization and quality control. The system includes an annual training workplan and a review of related resource requirements, which are then considered by the Assembly. New predeployment training standards and training aids will be made available to all Member States and peacekeeping training institutions on an Internet site in 2009. The report also describes the training initiatives being undertaken throughout the Department of Peacekeeping Operations and the Department of Field Support, and details the responsibilities of individual missions and troop contributors in the area of training.
Notwithstanding significant gains made, the United Nations must be realistic about what can be achieved in terms of peacekeeping training, the report states. While the new training strategy establishes clear goals and mechanisms, limited resources mean that not all training needs can be met. Member States and training partners are, therefore, encouraged to continue to support the Department of Peacekeeping Operations and the Department of Field Support in those efforts.
The status of cases for death and disability claims for formed police units, military contingents, civilian police officers and military observers is contained in a report (document A/62/805 and Corr.1) that contains a comprehensive review of the administrative and payment arrangement for such cases. Ninety-four cases are being processed, and 25 cases are under review as at 29 February 2008.
The Secretary-General’s updated report on the review of the methodology for rates of reimbursement to troop-contributing countries (document A/63/697) recalls the proposed method of calculating reimbursement rates as presented in an earlier report (document A/60/725), which was developed in response to resolution 55/274 of 2001. According to the proposal, the reimbursement rate should account for the following cost components: pay and allowances, including specialist pay; personal clothing, gear and equipment; personal weaponry; predeployment medical costs; and travel costs. It was then proposed that periodic surveys of troop-contributing countries be conducted to identify those costs in United States dollars, at the prevailing rate of exchange. Questionnaires would be sent to collect data on the daily allowance for troops.
Additionally, the report notes that the 2008 Working Group on Contingent-Owned Equipment had recommended an increase in recreational leave allowance from 7 to 15 days for each six-month tour of duty, which would carry a financial implication of $17.3 million per year.
The Secretary-General requests that the Assembly approve the proposed methodology and survey mechanism; the use of a “rate of exchange reference date” for the conversion of national currencies into United States dollars; the proposed periodicity of the surveys; the proposed questionnaires to collect data on daily allowance. He also requests approval of the increase in recreational leave allowance.
The Committee also had before it a report of the Office of Internal Oversight Services (OIOS) on the investigation conducted by the Investigations Task Force into fraud and corruption allegations at Pristina Airport (document A/60/720). According to the document, following an investigation into fraudulent activities of a senior staff member of the Kosovo Energy Company, KEK, which led to his criminal conviction and return of $4.3 million, as well as a series of financial and forensic audits of KEK and four other publicly owned enterprises, a decision was taken in mid-2003 to establish a joint investigations task force with a focus on serious misconduct and criminal conduct in those public enterprises.
The first responsibility of the Task Force was to conduct a full investigation into the activities at Pristina Airport. In all, the Task Force submitted 33 reports to the Special Representative of the Secretary-General. In 17 cases, the Task Force addressed institutional shortcomings and provided recommendations for management review. Fifteen cases involved administrative shortcomings and flaws, primarily in the areas of procurement. Nine cases were referred to the UNMIK Department of Justice for further criminal investigation. As some reports addressed more than one issue, the number of cases exceeds the overall total of 33.
The findings of the investigations show a lack of accountability in the operation, management and supervision of the airport. However, in a following exchange of correspondence between the OIOS and the Special Representative, the latter conveyed the message that ‑‑ in most instances ‑‑ no administrative action against airport managers would be taken, citing reasons such as that “staff in peacekeeping missions, including UNMIK, are transient” and the events reported were “historical”. The Special Representative, in his response to the final draft of the report, stated that it was outside OIOS jurisdiction to report to the Assembly on the results of Task Force investigations. Among other things, the Special Representative said: “I must take strong exception to the manner in which OIOS is purporting to adopt [Task Force] reporting as its own, reveal the substance of [Task Force] reports publicly, question and monitor decisions on [Task Force] recommendations that are mine alone to take”.
The OIOS states that it is the responsibility of UNMIK to combat corruption vigorously and address all issues raised by the Task Force. The OIOS is concerned that the Special Representative’s failure to address an exceptionally large number of the recommendations of the Task Force and his reluctance to consider the OIOS recommendations, will allow the ongoing problem of corruption to prevail. In a recent report of the Secretary-General to the Security Council on UNMIK, the Special Representative himself established that “no significant progress was made on tackling corruption”. Nevertheless, certain senior staff members of publicly owned enterprises were, and still are, in the same positions as they were when the reports were issued to the Special Representative.
A report on action taken to improve the timely submission of documents for the Fifth Committee (document A/63/735) explains that an interdepartmental task force comprising Secretariat entities involved in drafting or processing documents on peacekeeping-related issues for the Committee’s second resumed session held three formal meetings to apply and monitor the “slotting system” devised by those entities for the submission of documents.
The task force learned that the Department of Field Support was applying a procedure called “Abacus” to six missions in 2008, where teams were sent out to missions to eliminate the need for multiple rounds of exchanges between field missions and Headquarters. The Office of Programme Planning, Budget and Accounts has a coordinating role, and has sought adjustments to dates from the Department for General Assembly and Conference Management when a report proved lengthier than expected or when new reports were mandated. It had not been possible to issue the reports in all official languages.
The report says that when new mandates are adopted very close to the scheduled meetings of the resumed session, it was not realistic to expect documents to be issued six weeks before the start of the session. Nevertheless, the method for planning the documentation needs of the Fifth Committee had proven effective, and the Task Force will be institutionalized as a standing mechanism.
The first document before the Committee was a 2008 report of the Committee on Conferences (document A/63/32 and Add.1), which contains the Organization’s calendar of conferences and meetings and presents the Committee on Conferences’ deliberations on the utilization of conference-servicing resources and facilities, as well as matters related to documentation, publications, translation, interpretation, and information technology.
A letter from the Permanent Representative of the Philippines (document A/63/830) says that country “fully supports the institutionalization of the task force as a standing mechanism” and “expects the Department of the General Assembly and Conference Management, the chair of the task force [...] to report on the status of documentation any time it is called upon to do so by the Committee on Conferences”.
The Advisory Committee on Administrative and Budgetary Questions (ACABQ), in section II of its related report (document A/63/746), recommends that the Secretary-General’s overview report on peacekeeping operations continue to be issued annually, but notes that not all of the cross-cutting issues need policy direction from the General Assembly on an annual basis. The report should focus on the main challenges and emerging trends, and make clear recommendations for action by the Assembly. Consideration of non-peacekeeping issues during the ACABQ’s peacekeeping session was “disruptive”, and such issues would be better addressed if considered in the context of the regular budget. Separate consideration of peacekeeping matters should be restored.
On the topic of budget preparations, the report notes that benchmarks must be set for quality and timeliness, including in the submission of complete responses to the ACABQ’s requests for information. It is not reasonable that preparation of peacekeeping budgets begins in July and ends in March or April of the following year. The Secretariat should have available all documentation necessary for the ACABQ’s consideration by late January or early February.
As for the budget process at Headquarters, the ACABQ again points out that there are two substantial units in different departments deeply engaged in preparing the same product ‑‑ an inefficient, ineffective and duplicative process. The substantial investment made in the budgeting process for peacekeeping operations should be yielding a better return, and the ACABQ requests the Secretary-General to present options for streamlining the process.
In other matters, the ACABQ welcomes the inclusion of the planning assumptions at the beginning of the budget proposals and their expansion, as recommended in its last general report on administrative and budgetary aspects of the financing of the United Nations peacekeeping operations. It asks that the next overview report provide information on measures taken to enhance efficiency, adding that such gains should be reported in the individual performance reports. It also recommends that the Secretary-General continue to improve the results-based budgeting presentation, in line with the “SMART” principles.
In the area of financial management, the ACABQ considers that budget implementation should be judged on efficiency in the use of resources and achievement of objectives set out in the rules-based budgeting frameworks. As such, a distinction must be made between savings ‑‑ cost reductions achieved through efficiency measures ‑‑ and expenditures, which might reflect delays in the implementation of programmed activities, or their non-implementation.
In addition, the ACABQ had not received full documentation for two missions that had received Abacus visits ‑‑ MONUC and MINURCA ‑‑ and recommends the Secretary-General report to the Assembly on that initiative’s effectiveness. Also, a commitment authority is a short-term funding bridge mechanism, pending the timely submission of fully detailed budgets and, as such, it should be used as sparingly as possible.
In the area of military personnel, the ACABQ suggests that the Secretary-General provide information on existing mechanisms and strategies to deal with challenges related to troop strength, such as a lack of accommodations, transport difficulties and lack of infrastructure to support deployment. As for civilian personnel, it requests a breakdown of human resources staff at Headquarters by function and mission. To address turnover rates, the ACABQ urges that measures be taken to support a minimum period of assignment and that the practice of allowing recently arrived staff to be recruited by other missions be curtailed.
For operational requirements, the ACABQ suggests that the Assembly request the Secretary-General to report, at the second part of its resumed sixty-fourth session, on air management issues including measures to improve the acquisition strategy and optimize integrated air fleet management; a review of experience with demand forecasting; the troop rotation strategy; and a study of how fuel efficiency is taken into account in air services management. Other matters discussed include the liquidation process; conduct and discipline; procurement; safety and security; disarmament, demobilization and reintegration; inter-mission cooperation; cooperation with the African Union; business process improvement; and information and communications technology.
In section III of the report ‑‑ which considers the Board of Auditors report on the accounts of United Nations peacekeeping operations ‑‑ the ACABQ shares concern at discrepancies between the results of the physical counts of non-expendable property at various missions and balances shown in asset records. Accurate recording and disclosure of the value of all expendable property in financial statements would improve transparency.
Moreover, the ACABQ observes that the Board’s findings point to “multiple weaknesses” in the management of peacekeeping operations and inadequacies in internal control that could hinder the efficiency of field missions. It urges the Secretary-General to ensure that management responsibilities are clearly assigned and discharged. On the issue of expendable and non-expendable property, the ACABQ notes the Board’s concern over discrepancies between physical counts and balances shown in computerized asset records, and agrees that complete verifications should be carried out. It urges the Board to continue its scrutiny of asset management matters and provide an update for the 2008-2009 period.
In the report’s section IV, on cross-cutting issues, the ACABQ recommends that the General Assembly endorse the Secretary-General’s proposal to give missions flexibility to develop a consistent practice to address difficulties in recruiting national professional officers in areas where educational institutions had not been functioning for prolonged periods. It sees merit in creating welfare committees at all missions to address such needs and recommends the Assembly to approve the establishment of minimum welfare and recreation standards. In the area of death and disability compensation, the ACABQ recalls the General Assembly’s intention to ensure equal treatment of all categories of uniformed personnel, and believes that, in the process of providing for equal treatment, the award for civilian police officers and military observers should not be lowered from the current compensation level.
To track progress of training in peacekeeping, the ACABQ remarks that the Secretary-General’s report did not provide a comprehensive picture of training priorities, costs or services to Member States, and determines that a comprehensive and transparent statement of resources required for such is “very much needed”. Presentation of that information should be done in a way that enabled programme managers and the Assembly to assess the benefits of training activities in relation to their costs.
In the review of the methodology for reimbursement rates to troop-contributing countries, the ACABQ trusts that the revised methodology will ensure an inclusive approach and cover a maximum number of countries.
The report of the Office of Internal Oversight Services (document A/63/302 (Part II)) covers peace operations oversight activities of the Office during the year to 31 December 2008.
During the reporting period, the OIOS expanded its field audit presence with the establishment of resident auditor offices in two peacekeeping missions ‑‑ UNAMID and MINURCAT ‑‑ continued to engage in the reform process in the Investigations Division and conducted its first programme evaluation of a peacekeeping mission. Also notable were the Office’s risk-based workplans for audit, inspection and evaluation assignments.
Overall, results largely mirror what has been observed repeatedly in the past: substantial deficiencies in internal control have exposed the United Nations to unnecessary risk and, in some cases, facilitated the mismanagement of resources. Lack of standard operating procedures, poor planning and inadequate recordkeeping were among the deficiencies highlighted.
The report summarizes select findings from the review period, classified into seven risk categories ‑‑ strategy, governance, compliance, financial, operational, human resources and information ‑‑ which most accurately represent risk types in the United Nations’ work environment.
In the area of strategy risk, OIOS examination of a sole-source contract with Pacific Architects and Engineers to provide multifunction logistics services to UNAMID found that the Department of Field Support had not performed a cost-benefit analysis to justify use of such a contract, and had delayed issuance of a work statement, which ultimately exposed the United Nations to the risk of unreasonably high prices.
In the area of governance risk, the report details accounts of abduction and sexual assault by a national staff member at UNMIS of a local minor; use of minors at MONUC for work in a military compound; purchase of alcohol and prostitution services; exchange of food by military contingent members at MINUSTAH for sexual services with two local girls; free air travel ticket upgrades from a local company for a Travel Unit staff member at UNMIK; and inaccurate documentation for performance reports, also at MINUSTAH.
As for compliance risks, OIOS substantiated reports that a senior military observer in MONUC improperly assisted a licensed civilian diamond prospector, as well as reports that United Nations staff members helped steer $13 million in air charter services contracts for MONUC to a preferred vendor.
Financial risks detailed in the report include those at the United Nations Observer Mission in Georgia (UNOMIG), MONUC, United Nations Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA), UNIFIL, UNMIL, United Nations Operation in Côte d’Ivoire (UNOCI) and United Nations Mission in Ethiopia and Eritrea (UNMEE). Audits of financial management projects in UNMIS and MINUSTAH found that project implementation had been delegated to partner agencies that did not have relevant capacities or experience to properly execute the work. More than 70 per cent of disarmament, demobilization and reintegration and community violence projects implemented by MINUSTAH had taken eight months or longer to complete, rather than the three months stipulated by existing policies.
Among the operational risks, the report details an audit of the supply of food rations and combat ration packs in MONUC, which found a failure to maintain critical stock levels for required items. A similar audit at UNMIL found outdated standard operating procedures had increased the risk of financial loss from theft, waste and non-compliance with contracts.
In its review of human resources risks, OIOS found that the release of staff to the Property Management Section by programme managers had been delayed, leaving the Section with a 20 per cent vacancy rate at 31 December 2008, and thus, unable to discharge its functions related to non-expendable property management. An audit of United Nations Police in MONUC found delays in replacing repatriated police officers, which posed a risk of programmes not being effectively implemented.
As for information risks, OIOS noted that inadequately documented information and communications technology-related operating procedures, administrative instructions and other policies at MONUC had led to functional areas creating their own procedures without approval from MONUC management.
Programme of Work
The Committee began the day with the approval of its programme of work.
Introduction of Reports
IMRAN VANKER, Director of External Audit of South Africa and Chairman of the Audit Operations Committee of the Board of Auditors, introduced the Board’s report on peacekeeping operations for the year ended 30 June 2008 (document A/63/5 (Vol. II), saying that, in the last year, the Board colleagues from the Philippines had been replaced by others from the National Audit office of China. That change in membership meant that the role of the lead auditor for peacekeeping had to also change. It was significant change, and to address it, the Board put in place a carefully constructed succession plan where, for several months, colleagues from both countries exchanged audit experiences and methodologies.
This year’s report addressed all the relevant financial captions, audit risks and themes addressed by the Board, and topics identified by the ACABQ. Generally speaking, the Board found that several matters the Committee had identified for attention remained partially addressed by the Administration. In some cases, with quick impact projects and the integrated mission planning process, the Board found that guidelines had not been finalized by the Administration, so the review could not be performed.
Touching on other significant matters, he said only 32 per cent of recommendations made last year had been fully implemented at the time of the audit, which compared unfavourably to last year’s statistics. Of those partially or unimplemented, at least 20 per cent were two or more years old. He also highlighted that, at June 2008, outstanding contributions exceeded $1.5 billion, while some $609 million of that was at least two years overdue. Despite legal considerations, accounting considerations dictated that fair view should be presented in financial statements. Also of concern was the Organization’s readiness for the International Public Sector Accounting Standards (IPSAS) implementation.
He said the Board continued to review implementation of the results-based budgeting, and noted that the Administration had not yet fully addressed all the root problems identified by the Board. There were several observations on the important areas of procurement and contract management, fleet and rations management, air operations and information and communications technology. There was room for improvement in those areas. On other matters, he said the Board found that human resource plans for missions still had not been established. Also, the work of resident auditors, and the impact of vacancies reflected in the high number of audits not completed, left the Organization exposed to some risk.
NANCY HURTZ-SOYKA, Director, Policy Coordination and Oversight Support Service of the Office of the Under-Secretary-General for Management, Department of Management introduced the Secretary-General’s report on the implementation of recommendations of the Board of Auditors concerning United Nations peacekeeping operations for the financial period ended 30 June 2008 (document A/63/784). Speaking on behalf of Angela Kane, Under-Secretary General for the Department, she said the report took into account the General Assembly’s request that the Secretary-General indicate an expected time frame for implementing the recommendations.
On the issue of prioritization, she said the Secretary-General had taken note of the 41 main recommendations that the Board highlighted, and designated them as high priority, with other recommendations as medium priority. The Administration continued to work closely with the Board and had made every effort to provide complete information. As such, the Board’s report adequately reflected the Administration’s position. In the Secretary-General’s report, additional comments were deemed necessary on some of the Board’s recommendations.
She said the Board highlighted 44 recommendations from the prior period as partially implemented, and 5 as not implemented. As requested by the General Assembly, in part III of the Secretary-General’s report, information was provided on progress to date, the department responsible, current status, priority and revised target dates, where applicable on each of those recommendations. The Secretary-General was committed to ensuring that recommendations were implemented in a timely manner and, to that effect, the Management Committee continued to follow-up on a quarterly basis the status of implementation of oversight recommendations.
SUSAN MCLURG, Chairman of the ACABQ, introduced the related report contained in document A/63/746. Noting that the Board had issued a modified audit opinion with two emphases of matter, she said such an issuance ‑‑ for three financial periods ‑‑ reflected negatively on the control environment in peacekeeping, and raised doubts as to the efficient use of resources and safeguarding of the Organization’s assets.
She said numerous findings of the Board pointed to continued deficiencies in planning, inconsistencies in the application of guidelines and delays in addressing matters requiring attention. Examples included delays and inconsistencies in the procurement process and in the replenishment of strategic deployment stocks, as well as the management of vacancies, rations and the vehicle fleet. The Board’s observations related to recent and established missions, alike.
The persistence of the same problems also pointed to insufficient managerial attention and a lack of accountability. She urged the Secretariat to take the necessary steps to ensure that management responsibilities were clearly assigned, understood and discharged. The high vacancy rates among resident auditors in field missions might have helped to weaken the internal control environment. In closing, she said action should be taken to accelerate the rate of implementation of the recommendations by the Board and those of other oversight bodies.
MOHAMED YOUSIF IBRAHIM ABDELMANNAN (Sudan), speaking on behalf of the “Group of 77” developing countries and China, commended the work and quality of the report just presented, saying the Group attached “great importance” to the Board of Auditors. The Board enabled Member States to ensure that the United Nations adhered to the principles of fairness and full disclosure of financial statements. He noted the additional information provided in the implementation report of the Secretary-General and looked forward to more information.
He said the Group was concerned by the lower implementation rate of the recommendations made for 2006-2007, as compared to the previous year. The Board’s recommendations would not be meaningful, if they were not implemented fully and in a timely manner. When implementing those recommendations, the Secretariat should take practical measures to set a time frame and to lay out priorities for their implementation. Further, office-holders should be held accountable. The Secretariat should strive to identify the root causes of recurring issues, such as delays in the write-off and disposal of non-expendable property, and the absence of properly defined indicators of achievement.
He noted the increase in unpaid assessments at the end of the 2007-2008 period of nearly $1.02 billion, up from $707.5 million at the end of 2006-2007, and reiterated the obligation of Member States to pay their assessments in full.
He said the Group shared the ACABQ’s concern regarding the Board’s issuance of modified opinions for three consecutive financial periods, which reflected negatively on the control environment in peacekeeping. It raised doubts on the efficient use of resources and safeguarding of United Nations assets. “Significant discrepancies” in the results of physical counts and balances shown in the asset record at the various missions prompted concern. He was similarly concerned by discrepancies between the strategic deployment stocks disclosed as expendable property and the total value of unused expendable property at peacekeeping missions recorded in the “Galileo” system at 30 June 2008. The Secretariat should take prompt, effective, remedial action.
On procurement, he noted the deficiencies identified by the Board in relation to acquisition planning, procurement lead time, technical evaluation, ex-post facto cases and the awarding of contracts. The Group was particularly concerned with the sole-source approaches and the increased number of ex post facto cases for review by the Headquarters Committee on Contracts. It shared the Board’s observation that the award of sole-source contracts was not in keeping with the principles of transparency. It presented “a risk of high prices due to lack of competition”. Because of that, the Group agreed with the Board and the ACABQ that a procurement strategy be developed as early as possible.
He added that the Secretariat should strive to explore all options for realizing savings under procurement and for increasing local procurement within concerned countries and regions. The Group called on the Secretariat to make more effort to increase opportunities for vendors from developing nations.
He ended by noting, with satisfaction, the level of coordination between the Board and the OIOS. The Group was concerned, however, that only 32 per cent of the 201 audits planned by the OIOS for 2007 were completed as at December 2007. The workplans of resident auditors should be carefully monitored by the Board and the OIOS.
IVANA KRAHULCOVÁ ( Czech Republic), speaking on behalf of the European Union and associated states, commended the Board for the quality and comprehensive nature of its report. The information provided was considered indispensable. The European Union shared the Board’s concerns on the “continuous deficiencies in effective management” of expendable and non-expendable property under missions’ control. In the opinion of the European Union, accurate recording and disclosure of the value of all expendable property would improve transparency and accountability, and financial reporting in general. Strengthened asset management and adequate safeguards ought to be in place to prevent waste and financial loss at the United Nations. In that regard, the necessity of the earliest possible full implementation of the International Public Sector Accounting Standards was important, and the European Union regretted that it would not be implemented in 2010, as planned.
She also voiced concern over the level of assessed contributions that were not paid, measuring at 39 per cent. It was of the “utmost importance” that all Member States paid their contributions in full, on time, and without conditions.
In addition, the high vacancy rate among OIOS Resident Auditors was “alarming”, she said. It weakened the application of internal control procedures in field missions. The European Union would pay close attention to all pertinent issues raised by the Board and would follow the status of implementation of its recommendations.
DMITRY S. CHUMAKOV ( Russian Federation) welcomed the work of the Board, saying it was an invaluable tool for assessing the management of peacekeeping operations and their effectiveness. Such assessments were becoming ever more imperative, especially when the budget was reaching its “historical maximum” of over $8 billion. He noted the large increase in the number of recommendations of the Board, whose main recommendations seemed to have doubled, bringing the total number of recommendations to 105. He noted the Board’s conclusion in its modified audit opinion, with its emphasis on non-expendable and expendable property, and said the Russian Federation shared the views of the Board and ACABQ on the need for “timely elimination of shortcomings in those areas”.
He noted the reduced level of unencumbered balances and written-off obligations for the three preceding financial periods. But, he expressed regret that some missions had not followed the financial provisions and rules of the United Nations as strictly as they should have, particularly the requirements of the chief of procurement.
He added that he believed strongly in the balanced representation of men and women in peacekeeping operations. The Board’s recommendation on the achievement of a 50/50 gender balance was commendable, but must not be a goal “in itself”. It was also important to keep in mind more fundamental staffing requirements, as set forth in the United Nations Charter, for staff that demonstrated a high level of efficiency, competence and integrity. He commended the Board for its good interaction with the Fifth Committee, and expressed hoped that the Committee members could agree on decisions to enhance the effectiveness of peacekeeping operations.
Cross-Cutting Issues in Peacekeeping Financing: Overview
JUN YAMAZAKI, Controller, introduced the Secretary-General’s report (document A/63/696), saying it contained consolidated information on the performance of the budgets for the period from 1 July 2007 to 30 June 2008. The report also contained the budget proposals for the period from 1 July 2009 to 30 June 2010. It also contains updated information on the implementation of the requests contained in Assembly 61/276 and outlines management initiatives proposed by the Departments of Peacekeeping Operations and Field Support for the 2009-2010 period. The report also discussed the status of the Peacekeeping Reserve Fund, management of contingent-owned equipment and liabilities to troop-contributing and formed police-contributing countries, as well as death and disability compensation.
He then summarized the report’s main findings: that there was an unencumbered balance of $494.1 million from the 2007-2008 period; and that the proposed budget for 2009-2010 was $8.2 billion, representing an increase of $0.9 billion or 12.3 per cent from the last period. He pointed to the relevant sections of the report where States could find explanations regarding the budget performance of the 2008-2007 period, and details on the proposed requirements for 2009-2010.
He said the Assembly would be asked to take note of the actions in response to Assembly resolution 61/276 as explained in the report, to take note of the proposed and ongoing management initiatives, and to take note of efforts to strengthen inter-mission coordination in the administrative and logistical aspects of field operations.
He also introduced the Secretary-General’s updated report on the review of the methodology for rates of reimbursement to troop-contributing countries (document A/63/697). The report included proposals from an earlier report (document A/60/725 and Add.1), which was not yet considered by the Assembly. Those proposals included a suggestion to increase recreational leave allowance payable to the members of military contingents and formed police units from 7 to 15 days, for every six-month period.
He repeated the report’s request that the Assembly approve the following items: the proposed methodology for the rates of reimbursement; the proposed “rate of exchange reference date” for converting monetary data from local currencies to the United States dollar; the survey method to be used for collecting data and the periodicity of that survey; the questionnaire to be used in the survey; and the increase of recreational leave days.
SUSANA MALCORRA, Under-Secretary-General for Field Support, said peacekeeping budgets continued to grow due to increased demands, mainly from the three start-up/expansion missions, namely UNAMID, MINURCAT and MONUC.
“I am convinced that we need to focus more on global management of peacekeeping operations”, seeking economies of scale, rather than managing resources on a mission-by-mission basis, she said. Some 40 per cent of total mission resources were tied up in operational costs. She shared the ACABQ’s view that the overview report (document A/63/696) had to be more strategic, and focus on principal support challenges and emerging trends.
Turning to the special subject reports, she introduced the Secretary-General’s report on national professional officers (document A/63/726), which sought approval for flexibility in applying the recruitment standards for national officers to enable individual missions to respond to their unique requirements. It also sought flexibility on relaxing the requirements for academic qualifications or work experience in certain situations. The Assembly’s approval of those proposals would address the chronically high vacancy rate for that category.
She next introduced the report on the progress of training in peacekeeping (document A/63/680) on behalf of the Department of Peacekeeping Operations, which described findings of a comprehensive peacekeeping training needs assessment in 2008. Given the sheer scale of such needs, she urged the Department of Peacekeeping Operations and the Department of Field Service to adopt a strategic approach to training, focusing on training delivery in priority cross-cutting areas.
In addition, she introduced the Secretary-General’s reports on Status of cases for death and disability for formed police units, military contingents, civilian police officers and military observers processed and currently in process and comprehensive review of the administrative and payment arrangement for such cases (document A/62/805) and comprehensive review of the compensation of death and disability benefits to military contingents, formed police units, military observers and civilian police officers (document A/63/550).
She said the Secretariat proposed that death and disability reimbursement methodology and rates of compensation be approved by the General Assembly for all uniformed personnel, as that would eliminate the reliance on the bi-monthly meeting schedule of the Advisory Board on Compensation Claims. In addition, in the proposed methodology, a NOTICAS confirmation fax from the Force Commander/Police Commissioner would suffice for processing, except for cases of wilful misconduct.
Regarding misconduct and discipline, she said positive steps had been taken to prevent and address sexual exploitation and abuse and other serious misconduct. Those activities were detailed in the Secretary-General’s report on special measures for protection from sexual exploitation and abuse (document A/63/720). Also submitted for the Committee’s consideration was the Secretary-General’s report on welfare and recreation needs of all categories of personnel and detailed implications (documents A/63/675 and A/63/675/Corr.1), which reviewed relevant aspects of such issues, including current practices and measures under consideration.
Chairman of the ACABQ Ms. MCLURG introduced the related report, contained in document A/63/746. She said the ACABQ’s winter session had been unusual in that it considered four requests for commitment authority and a request for additional appropriation for UNMIS, as well as separate reports on cross-cutting peacekeeping issues. It was also under pressure to take up reports on such non-peacekeeping issues as the Capital Master Plan, disaster recovery and estimates in respect of special political missions during its peacekeeping session. Consideration of such issues was “disruptive”. Part of the issue was that the work volume had increased dramatically, a perennial problem.
Regarding operational costs, the ACABQ noted significant growth of air transportation, with $1.1 billion for 2009-2010 for 246 aircraft, a 23 per cent increase over a year earlier. She was concerned that present arrangements resulted in a “patchwork” of contracts that limited possibilities for exploiting a higher level of aggregation of demand. On fuel management, the ACABQ recommended that the budgetary assumption for 2009-2010 fuel costs be based on the average fuel cost for the first quarter of 2009, except in the case of UNMIS. That approach would result in a net total reduction of $70 million for all peacekeeping operations. The ACABQ also noted that, in awarding contracts for vehicles and aircraft, fuel costs had not been taken into account. That issue should be addressed in the 2010-2011 submissions. On requirements for facilities and infrastructure, the Secretary-General should actively consider using local contractors and material, rather than modular, prefabricated units.
She reiterated the recommendation of the ACABQ to explore all options for savings under procurement and for increasing local procurement. The ACABQ would urge the speedy completion of the report on procurement requested in Assembly resolution 61/246, which was long overdue. The ACABQ also observed that the situation on the ground did not permit implementation of disarmament, demobilization and reintegration activities during the early stages of the mission, and sometimes for a number of years. Accordingly, the ACABQ recommended the application of a higher vacancy factor for new staff requested for those activities.
Regarding the Entebbe logistics hub, she repeated the ACABQ’s request to the Secretary-General to prepare a report, for submission to the Assembly at its resumed sixty-fourth session, on the effectiveness of expanding the use of the Entebbe base for other services. There were many entities and programmes tasked with supporting cooperation and coordination with the African Union. The ACABQ recommended that the Secretary-General review those arrangements to rationalize the current support structure to the African Union, irrespective of funding source, and to report on it at the sixty-fourth session.
She expressed concern over the proliferation of databases under various departmental information and communications technology units, and urged that new technology initiatives be aligned with the Organization’s overall information and communications technology strategy and the future enterprise resource planning system.
Turning to various other reports of the Secretary-General under that item (on national professional officers, welfare and recreation needs, death and disability compensation, and rates of reimbursement to troop-contributing countries), she highlighted a few main items. First, with regard to training, she said the relevant report did not provide enough details and asked that a comprehensive report be submitted at the next resumed session. On death and disability, she said the ACABQ thought that those claims should be settled within a reasonable time, and that a uniform award of $50,000 should not be approved. It represented the lower level of the current award, which had not been updated since 1990s. Inflation should be taken into account. On rates of reimbursement, she said the Secretary-General’s complex proposals would benefit from a “mock-up” of the application using the current data.
Under-Secretary-General for Internal Oversight Services INGA-BRITT AHLENIUS presented the report of that Office for the 1 January 2008 to 31 December 2009 period, in particular peacekeeping oversight activities, contained in document A/63/302 (Part II), saying that only select findings could be included in the present report. Citing General Assembly resolution 59/272 ‑‑ the “transparency resolution” ‑‑ she said the reports of her Office not submitted to the Assembly were available to Member States on request. “Transparency is a conduit to improve the Organization,” she said.
With that, she discussed the seven risk categories contained in the report ‑‑ strategy, governance, compliance, financial, operational, human resources and information ‑‑ which most accurately represented risk types in the United Nations’ work environment. Overall, results largely mirrored what has been observed repeatedly in the past: substantial deficiencies in internal control have exposed the United Nations to unnecessary risk and, in some cases, facilitated the mismanagement of resources. The adoption of a formal internal control framework, with standard requirements on management, would help foster an environment conducive to fulfilling the Organization’s mission. Unfortunately, that framework was lacking.
On other issues, she said the Assembly had requested the Secretary-General to undertake a comprehensive review of the use of “extraordinary measures” in UNAMID. That review was completed and would be presented to the Assembly tomorrow. Her Office also would present shortly a report on the Secretariat’s structure for sustaining peace operations. Further, it would present programme evaluation of results by United Nations missions in Côte d’Ivoire. Discussion of those reports was contained in the annual report. Citing General Assembly resolution 62/246, she said oversight was a shared responsibility of Member States, the United Nations and both internal and external oversight bodies. Her Office was committed to fulfilling its part of that responsibility.
Mr. ABDELMANNAN ( Sudan), speaking on behalf of the Group of 77 and China, said the Group attached great importance to cross-cutting issues, which could serve as an important policy tool for providing guidance on issues that were common to United Nations peacekeeping missions. However, decisions of resources and staffing of individual operations must be taken up in relevant individual budget resolutions. Some of the recommendations of the ACABQ would result in budget cuts to all missions, and would disregard the specificities and particular needs of each mission. As decided by the Assembly, “cross-cutting” was not an exercise to cut costs; it should be solely focused on policy issues.
In the Group’s opinion, the Secretary-General’s report on the overview of financial and administrative functions provided States with valuable information on the performance of peacekeeping budgets. It functioned as a tool for taking stock of the implementation of requests contained in Assembly resolution 61/276 and other cross-cutting resolutions. However, the Group was not convinced of the view that the Assembly needed to provide overall policy direction and guidelines to peacekeeping operations every year, because that timeline would not provide enough time for assessment.
He said the Group remained concerned with the late submission of reports, which undermined the Committee’s work. The Secretary-General was accountable to Member States for ensuring timely submission of quality reports, and the Secretariat should plan the preparation of peacekeeping budgets so that there was enough time to schedule a proper review by the ACABQ and the Fifth Committee. Noting the increase in size and complexity of peacekeeping missions, he said the Group believed that the schedules of the ACABQ and Fifth Committee should be extended, on a permanent basis, to cope with those changes.
On the high vacancy rates at peacekeeping missions, the Group stressed the need to address its root causes. It was hoped that resolution 63/250, aimed at harmonizing conditions of service and to streamline contract arrangements, would have an impact on reversing high vacancy rates, and to help the United Nations retain valuable and experienced personnel in positions where they were needed. It was urgent that the Secretary-General implement that resolution, and that the human resources regime be improved, in general. Stressing the importance of maintaining an equitable geographic balance, he noted that, out of a total of 252,446 applications for positions in peace operations, approximately 50 per cent were not reviewed because resources were reportedly unavailable. The Group would like to examine the matter during informals, being of the view that hiring national staff would be one means to overcome that ongoing problem.
He then touched on various matters of interest to the Group. On quick impact projects, he said the Group believed that every effort should be made to ensure their full implementation without artificial deadlines, since such projects helped the local population to reap “the dividends of the peace process”. The amount of resources available to those projects should be closely linked to the situation on the ground and the specificities of each and every mission.
On results-based budgeting, the Group said the Secretary-General should initiate appropriate measures to ensure the gradual implementation of results-based management, so that results could be benchmarked against specific, measurable, attainable, relevant and time-bound mandates and objectives.
On the zero-tolerance policy on sexual exploitation, he stated the Group’s unreserved support for its implementation, and expressed regret that troop- and police-contributing countries were not represented in the Working Group on Victims’ Assistance.
On the importance of the Entebbe base, he welcomed the intention of the Department of Field Support to undertake initiatives to extend the use of the Entebbe facility, saying the role of Entebbe could be further enhanced, including in areas such as training and equipment-inspection, and on the possibility of using it as a full logistics base.
On cooperation between the United Nations and the African Union, he said the Group would like to stress the importance of strengthening such cooperation in the area of peace and development. In that connection, the Group had some questions regarding the ACABQ’s recommendation to rationalize the current support structure to the African Union.
On procurement opportunities for vendors from the developing world and economies in transition, he said the Group regretted that the Secretary-General’s report did not fulfil requests made in that regard in resolutions 62/269 and 61/279. In particular, the Secretary-General did not identify obstacles preventing their participation in United Nations procurement contracts. It was important to increase local procurement, which could stimulate economic recovery. It was regrettable that the comprehensive report on procurement governance had not been submitted yet. Finally, on death and disability compensation, he stressed the moral duty of States to improve arrangements for the payment of death and disability claims.
Ms. KRAHULCOVÁ ( Czech Republic), speaking on behalf of the European Union and associated States, said with peacekeeping budgets growing, the financial burden was increasing at a critical rate. Especially now, there was a need for closer scrutiny of peacekeeping budgets on a case-by-case basis. There was a pattern of significant under-spending in new and expanded missions, and every effort should be taken to limit that trend through coherent planning. Regarding the budgets of individual missions, she saw the potential for savings and encouraged the Secretariat to explore synergies between missions operating in the same regions.
More specifically, better management of peacekeeping missions would benefit all States, she said. Last year, the Union was disappointed that no agreement was reached on cross-cutting issues, which should be made a priority this year, as there were many such issues on the Committee’s agenda. Commenting on the issue of closed missions, she said any funds left in closed missions as an unspent balance should be returned to States as soon as possible. The common practice of using resources left from such operations to make up for the lack of cash resulting from assessed contributions not being paid on time was irresponsible. For peacekeeping operations to fulfil their mandate, all assessed contributions must be paid in full, on time without conditions.
OLIVER POULIN (Canada), speaking also on behalf of Australia and New Zealand, reiterated the importance of ensuring that United Nations peacekeepers were given the resources they needed to deliver results. But, he was concerned about the tendency to over-budget, which was a “recurring pattern” in peacekeeping. Again this year, Member States were requested to boost their financial contributions to peacekeeping, even as over $700 million in unencumbered balances and other income from the previous period was being returned. He conceded the difficulty of predicting a budget for “activities as volatile as peacekeeping”, but “the fact is that the Secretariat had consistently over-budgeted peacekeeping by an average of 12 per cent over the last few years”. That situation was a cause for concern, at a time when States were struggling with a global financial crisis.
“It leads to the over-assessment of Member States when they can least afford it, and invites unnecessary and inefficient spending by providing missions with more funds than they can spend,” he said. It also had the effect of reducing confidence in the sound management of public funds by the United Nations, which was a serious issue that needed to be addressed at this session.
On budget presentation, he said he supported the longstanding ACABQ recommendation to streamline the budgeting process. Ad hoc initiatives such as “Abacus” were notable, and the Secretary-General should look towards achieving an optimal division of labour between field missions and Headquarters. However, operational costs – 40 per cent of missions’ budgets ‑‑ “were not currently justified in proposals”, preventing the Fifth Committee from carrying out its oversight functions. He also supported the ACABQ’s recommendation from last year, in which it asked that the Secretariat include information on activities of other United Nations entities in integrated missions, to better understand the “integration” of all partners in the field.
He said he noted, as had the ACABQ, the significant growth in air transport costs, which had seemingly doubled in two years. It was derived from the establishment of new missions in environments with little transport infrastructure. In that context, the membership had a responsibility to ensure the efficiency and cost-effectiveness of air operations. He was encouraged by the Secretariat’s commitment to explore industry best practices and initiatives, to promote a global and integrated fleet management. He looked forward to the comprehensive report on air operations requested by the ACABQ, and saw merit in similar reports for large operational costs, such as fuel management and infrastructure.
Turning to welfare and recreation needs of all categories of personnel, he said he supported the general thrust of the Secretary-General’s proposals and looked forward to receiving further details on financial implications. In addition to the provision of basic facilities and equipment to promote welfare and recreation, he wanted to underline the key role of managers in promoting welfare and recreation in missions, as implicitly noted in the Secretary-General’s report.
He stressed that he would again seek the “regularization” of all conduct and discipline temporary positions in the field. He fully supported the Secretary-General’s request for a conversion to regular posts of the conduct and discipline positions, because although the structure of the units and their resources would be changing, the positions were part of ongoing functions. As peacekeeping posts were inherently temporary, in any case, there was no sound rationale for maintaining their financing through general temporary assistance, which was intended for another use.
JUN YAMADA ( Japan) said figures presented by the Secretary-General on financial resources needed for peacekeeping activities were inconsistent with Japan’s hopes that the Organization would practice austerity. The proposed requirements for 2009-2010 totalled $8.2 billion, a 16 per cent increase from last year. “We simply cannot accept such size and growth under the current circumstances,” he said. Japan was aware that the mandates of peacekeeping missions could not be compromised. But, past records of unencumbered balances led him to believe that the same ‑‑ or even higher ‑‑ level of achievement could be made with fewer resources.
Turning to management issues, he noted paragraph 91 in the ACABQ report that the findings of the Board of Auditors had not been fully brought to the attention of higher management in peacekeeping operations. He stressed the importance of having an overall view in search of root causes for persistent problems, and taking measures, including holding accountable the individuals with management responsibility. Also, the United Nations’ financial rules remained silent on various functions in peacekeeping operations that have expanded in recent years. He appreciated the Secretary-General’s efforts in maintaining a certain budgetary discipline, while enabling missions to deal with the dynamism in the field. At the same time, Member States should be given the whole picture of redeployment in all peacekeeping operations.
Regarding human resources management, he stressed the importance of greater mobility of staff among Headquarters and the field, together with proper performance management. At the same time, the financial implications of addressing human resources management deserved attention. As for specific initiatives outlined in the overview report and the thematic reports, he looked forward to a report on a coherent training system. He was deeply concerned at the 7 May decision by the Office of Human Resources Management to suspend the National Competitive Recruitment Examinations in 2010, particularly without consulting Member States. That contravened A/RES/63/250, and he asked that the Office explain how and why it reached that regrettable decision.
On operational issues, he highlighted topics of air operations, fuel management, rations and procurement, saying that Japan recognized the challenges posed by increasing fuel prices that impacted peacekeeping budgets. He welcomed the ACABQ’s view on the need to enhance the effectiveness of air services procurement and the need for an integrated fleet management. He also noted other topics that the Secretary-General had not discussed, such as the process of liquidating missions. He wished to discuss such issues in informal consultations.
SHIN BOONAM ( Republic of Korea) pointed to the extraordinary growth in size and complexity of peacekeeping operations. The past three years saw the launch of six peacekeeping operations, among them UNAMID and MINURCAT. In the 2009-2010 period, 120 countries were expected to contribute about 120,000 military and police personnel to 16 ongoing peacekeeping missions. The estimated level of peacekeeping budgets for the same period was expected to amount to more than $8.2 billion, a threefold increase from six years ago and more than three times that of the regular budget. That “surprising surge” required both Member States and the Secretariat to enhance the effectiveness and efficiency of peacekeeping missions to the greatest extent possible. The economic crisis made that task more urgent than ever, since Member States in distress would be more cautious about increasing their contributions to United Nations activities. Activities to improve productivity were to be welcomed, including under the “New Horizons” study launched by the Secretariat. Efforts to improve productivity should be redoubled.
He observed that there were three phases of peacekeeping: pre-peacekeeping; implementation; and post-peacekeeping. To rationalize the long-term costs of peacekeeping operations, it was important to seek improvements across each phase. At the pre-peacekeeping phase, there must be greater emphasis on reducing the need for peacekeeping operations. At the post-peacekeeping phase, it was important to focus on peacebuilding and development initiatives. Strengthening the Department of Political Affairs, as approved by Assembly resolution 63/621, would be helpful in bolstering the United Nations’ capacity to prevent disputes and conflict. In addition, the Peacebuilding Commission’s progress in laying the foundations for post-conflict recovery and sustained peace were to be welcomed.
He noted the lower level of unspent money compared in the 2007-2008 financial period, amounting to $500 million and representing a 3 per cent gap between what was budgeted and what was spent. In the case of UNAMID and UNIFIL, the unspent expenditure ratio against total appropriation exceeded 17 per cent. The fact that 14 out of 15 individual peacekeeping accounts recorded some unspent amount showed that there was an overall tendency to over-budget. The unspent amount did not reflect efficiency gains, but were mostly due to delayed deployment and higher-than-expected vacancy rates. There was an opportunity cost associated with over-budgeting. It also undermined the accountability of the Secretariat. States should ensure that the level of unspent money is kept at a minimum, and to scrutinize the 2009-2010 budget carefully.
He noted progress in human resources management, logistics and information and communications technology support, field budget process, conduct and discipline, inter-mission cooperation, environmental policy, and so on. Nevertheless, the findings of the OIOS demonstrated that the seven risks in peacekeeping activities ‑‑ strategic, governance, compliance, financial, operational, human resources, and information ‑‑ had not been fully overcome. The Republic of Korea agreed with the OIOS that a formal internal framework was needed to ensure consistent, systematic risk management.
On budget presentation and results-based budgeting, he said efficiency gains should be reported in the individual performance reports and expected accomplishments and indicators of achievement should be more specifically defined and targeted. Proposed peacekeeping budgets should clearly show how the lessons learned from previous performance reports were applied. The new human resources management framework should be implemented, as agreed in resolution A/63/250, so as to enhance the sense of morale of peacekeepers.
DAVID A. TRAYSTMAN( United States) paid respect to those who had lost their lives in peacekeeping and commended all United Nations personnel devoted to those efforts. The surge in peacekeeping operations had strained the Organization, and United Nations staff had responded with professionalism. At a time of rapidly escalating expenses, it was imperative to maximize the use of available resources. The Committee would adopt budgets for peacekeeping operations and, with expected record costs for such efforts, the Committee must ensure that resources provided would be used in an efficient, effective and transparent manner. He emphasized that peacekeeping could not be immune from the impact of global financial crisis.
A review of peacekeeping budgets showed a persistent pattern of over-budgeting for missions. While he expected a review would yield savings, it was important that all peacekeeping would undergo reductions. Cross-cutting issues were integral to successful mission mandates and they should be fully assessed and reflected. The United States looked forward to discussing all such issues with the Committee, including the lack of clarity on the role of integrated operational teams; the need for improved fuel management; conduct and discipline; financial offences; air operations and safety; human resources management; and welfare and recreation.
On conduct and discipline matters, he cited the Organization’s three-pronged strategy aimed at eliminating sexual exploitation and abuse. Such important functions were core duties to be carried out by permanent “CDT” capacities at Headquarters and in the field. The United States regretted that the number of allegations of “egregious” abuse had not decreased and called on all for compliance.
Mr. CHUMAKOV ( Russian Federation) said that, as the Committee takes up cross-cutting issues in peacekeeping operations and management, his country’s focus ‑‑ as a troop-contributing country ‑‑ would be on the troops. It was interested in optimizing the process of paying disability and death claims to peacekeepers. The personnel maimed, or who had perished, while discharging their mission under the United Nations banner did not deserve such a bureaucratic approach to that issue, and for the question to take so long to be resolved. He hoped the Committee could develop balanced recommendations in that area.
He observed that there had been some success in peacekeeping training, which required more funding. He called on the Secretariat to make active use of already existing resources, and to re-examine their methodology and the possibility of involvement from Member States.
He then listed the issues of further importance to the Russian Federation, including the use of emergency measures on UNAMID procurement, the timely submission of documents, the effectiveness of the Department of Field Support since its establishment, the Secretariat’s piecemeal submission of peacekeeping requirements, resourcing of individual missions as reflected in their individual budgets, and management issues. More details on those issues were required from the Secretariat, beyond that given in its reports. The Russian Federation was not in full agreement with the Secretariat on its conclusions on some of those topics.
He also expressed regret that the Committee lost one meeting day yesterday. Since the Russian Federation did not belong to any regional groups, he took the opportunity to call on all regional groups to approach the session in a more constructive manner, and to remember that they were all serving a common cause. He expressed hope that the Committee would be in agreement on issues affecting the effective functioning of peacekeeping missions.
KARLA SAMAYOA-RECARI ( Guatemala), speaking on behalf of Group of 77 and China, focused on the methodology of reimbursement rates for troop-contributing countries, and was pleased that the issue would be discussed separately. In 2000, the General Assembly requested the Secretariat to create a methodology for those matters. However, since that time, and in the process of ongoing United Nations reform, the Committee had forgotten reform issues that were dear to Member States.
Many changes had occurred since that time, and she understood that the budget had increased, which was why she was amazed that the Secretariat still had the same proposal, despite calls for an update. She was shocked that the Secretariat believed that its report was the “best thing”. She urged thinking outside of the box and applying that approach to troop reimbursement. Otherwise, missions would be created or expanded without the participation of troop-contributing countries, as had been seen in recent months.
Mr. ABDELMANNAN (Sudan), also speaking on behalf of the Group of 77, said it was important to be clear about issues that should be dealt with in the context of the cross-cutting resolution. The intent of that resolution was the consideration of policy matters that were cross-cutting. Other issues should be examined separately, and the Group stood ready to examine them in a spirit of cooperation.
Pattern of Conferences
XUESONG MA, Officer-in-Charge, Central Planning and Coordination Service, Department for General Assembly and Conference Management, introduced the Secretary-General’s report on action taken to improve the timely submission of documents for the Fifth Committee (document A/63/735).
He said the Committee on Conferences had taken up the report at its organizational session on 7 April, and had produced a report under the number A/63/32/Add.1.
Summarizing the report’s main points, he said, of the 53 unslotted documents, 51 had been issued. The other two would be issued soon. One unslotted document mandated by the first resumed session of the Fifth Committee had not been submitted for processing, but would be accorded priority once it was received. As for corresponding ACABQ reports, 8 out of the expected 21 reports had already been submitted. They and others still to be submitted would receive priority processing.
He stressed the instrumental role played by the interdepartmental task force to orchestrate the earliest possible issuing of reports. It was the Department’s intention to retain the task force. Where necessary, it would establish a similar mechanism to deal with documents of other intergovernmental bodies.
He said budget and programme performance reports were exempt from the 8,500 word limit, noting that the MONUC performance report contained 20,080 words and the UNMIS budget report contained 50,000 words. In 2007, budget reports averaged over 27,000 words and performance reports 9,500. In 2008, budget reports averaged 25,000 words and performance reports close to 10,000. In 2009, budget reports averaged 24,000 words and performance reports over 12,000. Since they had submission dates that were close to the dates at which they would be taken up, and they were given high priority, they often proved disruptive to the documentation process as a whole. The Department incurred additional costs for overtime work, something that it would not be able to support under a constrained budget for 2010-2011.
BARBARA KAUDEL, Chairman of the Committee on Conferences, introduced her Committee’s report, contained in document A/63/32/Add.1, saying that it summarized discussions at the organizational session on actions taken to improve the timely submission of documents. She reiterated the importance of timely issuance of documents and, in that regard, commended the efforts of the Interdepartmental Task Force. Statistics as of 6 April 2009 had shown improvement over a year earlier, and her Committee expressed appreciation at such encouraging data. She looked forward to the concerted efforts of the Task Force to ensure timely delivery of documents to the Fifth Committee. In closing, she thanked all members of the Committee on Conferences and observers who participated in the meeting. She also was grateful for the efforts of the Under-Secretary-General and the staff of conference services.
Ms. MCLURG introduced the related report of the ACABQ, saying the Advisory Committee welcomed efforts made to improve the documentation process for the winter peacekeeping session. It was clear that the situation in 2009 had improved in comparison with 2008. However, no one had taken into account supplementary information not processed by the Department of General Assembly and Conference Management, which the ACABQ needed before it could take up a peacekeeping operation. Further, the Committee could confirm that the complete documentation package for a number of peacekeeping operations, in particular some of the larger missions, had been submitted late in the peacekeeping session, or were not submitted at all in that session. That was the case for the support account, MONUC, MINURCAT and the Logistics Base.
She then referred to a suggestion in the Secretary-General’s report that the ACABQ should continue to determine its priorities for consideration early on, so as to allow author and processing departments to act accordingly. She noted that the ACABQ consulted with the Peacekeeping Financing Division of the Office of Programme Planning, Budget and Accounts and the Fifth Committee Secretariat to prepare a provisional programme of work, which it shared with the Department of General Assembly and Conference Management. She recalled that when the peacekeeping cycle was decided, it was foreseen by some that all relevant documents should be made available to the ACABQ at the beginning of February, to ensure enough time to coordinate efficiently with the Fifth Committee. However, long lead times were required to ensure that relevant Secretariat officials from peacekeeping missions could be present at meetings of the ACABQ, and that time was needed to ensure that their visits were combined with other matters to minimize expense.
In general, the ACABQ sought, every year, to start its consideration of peacekeeping operations with the report of the Board of Auditors and the overview report on peacekeeping operations. This year, both were available in advance. Following consideration of those reports, the ACABQ’s priority was to take up the larger missions, because it was often those missions that provided the Committee with material for its general, or cross-cutting, report on peacekeeping operations. That report was being taken up by the Fifth Committee early in its own session. Unfortunately, a number of the reports for the larger missions were only available late in the Committee’s session.
Lastly, she noted that the ACABQ took up reports, when necessary, in their advanced, unedited and untranslated form.
Mr. ABDELMANNAN ( Sudan), speaking on behalf of the Group of 77 and China, reiterated the great importance of the timely issuance of documents in the six official languages. The delay in their issuance was “a long-standing problem that the Fifth Committee has had to put up with”. In that connection, the Group welcomed the proposal to convene an interdepartmental task force to discuss the problem. The task force’s work, so far, had been positive, and the Group supported its institutionalization. The Department of General Assembly and Conference Management was expected to continue to “shepherd other Secretariat entities in the right direction”, and to continue to report on the status of documentation any time it was called upon to do so by the Committee on Conferences. The task force should be viewed as one component of a multi-pronged approach.
INGRID BERLANGA ( Mexico), speaking on behalf of the Rio Group, explained that the pattern of conferences agenda item should be addressed separately. The aspect of that item that called for greater attention was the question of Human Rights Council sessions. She wanted to know if the Secretariat had arranged for the financing of its activities. If so, did that call for action by the Fifth Committee?
BRUNO BRANT ( Brazil), aligning with the Rio Group, voiced serious concern at the financial situation of the Human Rights Council, particularly its conference services support. He recalled that questions had been posed to the Department of General Assembly Affairs in April. He had taken notes of the responses provided, but there were still outstanding queries. He would seek clarifications on them during informal consultations.
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