Budget Committee Takes Up Secretary-General’s Report on Proposed Accountability System for United Nations Secretariat
Budget Committee Takes Up Secretary-General’s Report on Proposed Accountability System for United Nations Secretariat
|Department of Public Information • News and Media Division • New York|
Sixty-fourth General Assembly
25th Meeting (AM)
Budget Committee Takes Up Secretary-General’s Report on Proposed
Accountability System for United Nations Secretariat
Responding to the Secretary-General’s report on a proposed “accountability system”, speakers in the Fifth Committee (Administrative and Budgetary) today urged that more attention be given to what the United Nations leadership could do to foster a sense of personal responsibility among staff, in order to better address what some saw as weak links between resource allocation and desired results.
Presented by Angela Kane, Under-Secretary-General for Management, the report included a definition of accountability for the Secretariat that drew on existing definitions used by funds and programmes, such as the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) and the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA), as well as by international institutions such as the World Bank, the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) and the European Union.
The report defines accountability as “the obligation of the Organization and its staff members to be answerable for delivering specific results that have been determined through a clear and transparent assignment of responsibility”, and included, among other things, “accurate reporting on performance results, stewardship of funds, and all aspects of performance in accordance with regulations”.
As described by the report, she said the proposed a system of accountability would be based on six interrelated components. It would be underpinned by the principles of the United Nations Charter and the Secretariat’s covenant with Member States, as presented through the strategic framework, programme budget and peacekeeping budget. The system would focus on delivery of results and have a well-functioning process of internal controls, while laying emphasis on ethical standards and good oversight.
To implement the system, the report recommends the establishment of a Results Management Unit in the Office of Programme Planning, Budgets and Accounts of the Department of Management. It also recommends that an Enterprise Risk Management and Control Section be established in the Office of the Under-Secretary-General for Management. Listing its other recommendations, Ms. Kane said the report suggests better integration of the Senior Managers’ Compact with the Organization’s overall objectives, and that a mechanism be proposed for relating the findings of the system of Administration of Justice to staff assessments. It also drew attention to the need to streamline the various mechanisms for delegating authority.
The definition of accountability proposed in the report was not perfect, Ms. Kane admitted. But, she stressed that the United Nations’ accountability systems, instruments and tools must continually evolve. “‘Accountability’ is a dynamic concept,” she said. “What is acceptable now might not be acceptable tomorrow”.
Responding, several speakers said that the Secretary-General’s report on accountability fell short of expectations, because its definition of accountability was limited, and did not place enough importance on the personal responsibility of staff members in their decision-making.
The representative of Yemen, speaking on behalf of the “Group of 77” developing countries and China, noted that the section of the report that dealt with the oil-for-food scandal had charged the scandal to a lack of resources for audits and oversight review, while ignoring a more fundamental issue ‑‑ that of the personal responsibility of United Nations staff.
Echoing the opinion of several others, the Republic of Korea stressed that, if the staff mindset did not change, an accountability framework alone would not create a sense of accountability, rendering the Secretary-General’s proposed measures useless. As a way of strengthening accountability, he suggested that the current performance appraisal system be reformed, and that staff who did not meet its criteria should be forced to leave the Organization, regardless of their contractual type. “The Organization should no longer be a safety net for those who could not show competency,” he said.
The representative of New Zealand observed that, while the legal and regulatory framework could be well developed, its rigorous application through sustained senior leadership would always be a critical factor in efforts to improve the performance of the Secretariat. He believed that the Secretary-General and his senior team had a critical role in strengthening the Organization’s accountability framework, to ensure that the Organization’s limited resources were used efficiently and for the purposes that they were provided.
Susan McLurg, Chair of the Advisory Committee on Administrative and Budgetary Questions (ACABQ), presented that Committee’s view on the report, saying it was “a good basis for moving forward”, but the Committee stopped short of recommending the establishment of either an Enterprise Risk Management and Control Section or a Results Management Unit. Also, the ACABQ was not in a position to recommend the endorsement of the six elements of accountability, believing they were not fully developed.
Also speaking today were the representatives of Spain (on behalf of the European Union), Côte d’Ivoire (on behalf of the African Group), United States, Singapore, Japan, Switzerland and Mexico.
Inga-Britt Ahlenius, Under-Secretary-General for Internal Oversight Services (OIOS), introduced the OIOS report on the review of the practice of the Secretariat regarding the sharing of information included in reports of consultants on management-related issues.
The Committee will meet again on 10 March to take up the conditions of service of ad litem judges on the International Criminal Tribunals for Yugoslavia and Rwanda, and revised estimates in the 2010-2011 biennium budget.
The Secretary-General’s report, towards an accountability system in the United Nations Secretariat (document A/64/640), responds to issues raised in General Assembly resolution 63/276, regarding accountability, enterprise risk management and internal control and results-based management. The report proposes a new definition of “accountability”:
“Accountability is the obligation of the Organization and its staff members to be answerable for delivering specific results that have been determined through a clear and transparent assignment of responsibility, subject to the availability of resources and the constraints posed by external factors. Accountability includes achieving objectives and results in response to mandates, fair and accurate reporting on performance results, stewardship of funds, and all aspects of performance in accordance with regulations.”
The report recommends establishing a Results Management Unit in the Office of Programme Planning, Budgets and Accounts of the Department of Management. It also recommends that an Enterprise Risk Management and Control Section be established in the Office of the Under-Secretary-General for Management to conduct strategic and operational planning, operational and financial management, and performance measurement and management.
Member States are asked to endorse the components of an Accountability System for the Secretariat, which is based on a concept of accountability devolved from the Charter of the United Nations; the covenant with Member States to commit to achieving certain results that have been mandated by those States; the delivery of results and performance (including a system of rewards and sanctions); the use of internal systems and controls; the implementation of ethical standards and integrity; and the fulfillment of oversight roles and functions.
The report says an interim performance report was produced covering the first year of the biennium 2008-2009 as a trial, and the Secretary-General now proposes to supplement the biennial programme performance report with an interim report at the end of the first year of each biennium. For their part, Member States are requested to continue supporting the implementation of Umoja, the enterprise resource planning project that seeks to link resources to objectives. Also, they are asked to continue supporting the work of the oversight bodies of the United Nations; similar support is urged for the Management Committee, which feeds the findings and recommendations of the oversight bodies into executive management processes.
Also before the Committee was the Advisory Committee on Administrative and Budgetary Questions (ACABQ) related report (document A/64/683), in which it stresses that an accountability framework cannot create a culture of accountability. Such a culture requires a change in the mindset of the staff, driven by sustained commitment at the most senior levels of the Secretariat.
Among its conclusions and observations, the ACABQ notes that the Secretary-General’s report lists legal instruments, mechanisms and tools that form part of the accountability system. However, the report fails to explain why the current components are not fully functional and stops short of addressing existing gaps or specifying proposals for improvement. Further, the Secretary-General identifies the six components of the Organization’s accountability structure in his report. The ACABQ believes that within these elements there should be a clear acknowledgment of the role of the intergovernmental bodies and therefore that relevant resolutions and decisions of those bodies should have been included.
The ACABQ recalls its earlier comment that a lack of clarity in the definition of accountability is one of the fundamental weaknesses in the Secretary-General’s accountability architecture, and believes that the definitions employed by the International Civil Service Commission (ICSC) and the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) provide a good basis for a definition of accountability for the Organization. Further, the Advisory Committee believes that it would be desirable to seek a common definition to be used by all entities under the authority of the Secretary-General.
The ACABQ recognizes that there are weaknesses in the annual programme performance report, including the inability to demonstrate how resources were used to achieve results. Given this and other long-standing concerns expressed by the General Assembly and the ACABQ about the timeliness and usefulness of that survey, it is disappointed that the Secretary-General did not propose specific improvements, or submit an alternative proposal. Rather than produce an annual report that has limited practical impact, the ACABQ recommends that the Assembly request the Secretary-General to develop an improved performance report that is more focused on the analysis of the effective use of resources.
The ACABQ states that, in light of the insufficient accountability awareness at all levels in the Secretariat, there is a need to clearly identify the links between the senior managers’ compacts and performance objectives at all departmental levels of the Secretariat. The ACABQ views the compact system as an improved method to record the achievements expected of senior managers with a view to evaluating their performance. Thus far, the impact of the compacts on enhancing accountability at the United Nations has yet to be felt.
While the ACABQ recognizes the elements of accountability as set out in annex I to the Secretary-General’s report, it is nevertheless not in a position to recommend their endorsement to the Assembly, believing they are not fully developed.
The Office of Internal Oversight Services (OIOS), in its review of the practice of the Secretariat regarding the sharing of information contained in reports of consultants on management-related issues (document A/64/587) says that reports by management consultants are better used as inputs for management decisions, and that sharing them with Member States may “diminish their objectivity” and “dilute” the Secretary-General’s management accountability when he submits proposals to the General Assembly. While declining to grant the Fifth Committee access to some consultants’ reports, the Secretariat does share such reports with relevant departments and offices as required.
However, a survey of 12 departments and offices of the Secretariat revealed that consultants’ reports were not widely shared within departments. Some 52 per cent of respondents indicated that they did not store the reports in a central location where they could be accessed by staff members outside the division or service that commissioned the consultancy. While most respondents (78 per cent) indicated that they did share consultants’ reports with other departments and offices to which they felt the reports would be relevant, the OIOS found that this determination was made without applying any established criteria. There were also no criteria to determine when requests for access to consultants’ reports should be granted.
Although respondents from some departments and offices were willing to share consultants’ reports with legislative bodies or Member States, others preferred that the legislative bodies or Member States rely on the related report of the Secretary-General. Some departments and offices were concerned that if consultants were aware that their reports would be widely available it would impair the candidness of the consultants’ advice. One office indicated that it would be necessary to redraft certain parts of a consultant’s report or provide some context for the report before sharing it to prevent misunderstanding.
To enhance the practice of sharing consultants’ reports within the Secretariat, a mechanism is needed to inform departments and offices of the consultancies carried out. A taxonomy needs to be developed to categorize consultants’ reports, and they need to be stored in a central repository. Where consultancies relate to matters that are of a highly confidential nature, the related reports should be designated “confidential” or “strictly confidential” and should be shared only in exceptional cases, using the precautions outlined in existing guidelines. Departments and offices should pay more attention to the proper categorization of documents and develop criteria to guide staff in categorizing documents and sharing reports or information contained in reports in accordance with the existing guidelines.
The Department of Management accepted all of the recommendations contained in the present report.
Introduction of Reports
ANGELA KANE, Under-Secretary-General, Department of Management, introduced the report of the Secretary-General on accountability (document A/64/640), in which he proposed a definition of accountability for the Secretariat that was elaborated drawing from different sources, such as the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), United Nations Population Fund, the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF), the World Bank, the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) and the European Union. The proposed definition was discussed in more than 15 consultations the Secretariat held to discuss the report on accountability, and although “not perfect”, summarized the results of the review and those discussions.
She said the report recommended several immediate actions: issuing an annual programme performance report to address the problem associated with the availability and timing of information provided to Member States on performance; enhancing the role of the Management Committee; improving the integration of Senior Managers’ Compact objectives with the Organization’s overall objectives; proposing a mechanism for relating the findings and decisions of the new system of Administration of Justice to the performance assessments of managers and staff at all levels; streamlining the mechanisms for delegating authority; and leading a review to update other types of delegation of authority that exist in the Secretariat, whether substantive, institutional or by designation.
She said issues to be addressed in forthcoming comprehensive reviews include reform of the performance appraisal system (PAS), and self-evaluation and lessons learned. Issues that would require the establishment of dedicated capacities are those for effective implementation of results-based management, and for an enterprise risk management and internal control framework.
She added that the report underlined the importance of all stakeholders playing the role they had been assigned in the process: Member States providing clear and concise mandates and the appropriate resources commensurate with those mandates; and the Secretariat being responsive to those mandates.
“’Accountability’ is a dynamic concept. What is acceptable now might not be acceptable tomorrow,” she said, adding that the systems, instruments and tools that must ensure that the Organization operated in an accountable manner must continue to mature and evolve, and must be continuously revised.
She pointed to Annex I of the report, which explained the fundamental elements of the system, as comprised by six components: the United Nations Charter; the covenant with Member States, in the form of the strategic framework, programme budget and peacekeeping budgets; delivery of results; internal systems and controls; ethical standards and integrity; and oversight. It was followed by Annex II, where the Secretary-General presents a proposal on enterprise risk management and internal control. The main components outlined in that regard were: to determine the internal environment; mapping risks and objectives; identifying risks and evaluating them; prioritizing risk and determining the effectiveness of control measures; information to be communicated throughout the Organization; and monitoring.
She said two important considerations in relation to the methodology for risk management and internal control had to do with how risk would be conceptualized. In addition to the concept of inherent risk, the Secretariat would be working with the concept of residual risk, which took into consideration the inherent risk exposure and levels of effectiveness of controls that were in place. Second, while the day-to-day management of risks and controls were envisioned to be the responsibility of managers and staff members, the overall responsibility would rest ultimately with the “highest level within the Organization”.
Elaborating on Annex III, strengthening the Secretariat’s accountability mechanisms in response to the flaws of the oil-for-food programme, she noted that the Independent Inquiry Committee had identified several weaknesses. Those were: its inadequate internal audit coverage; poor implementation of audit recommendations; absence of an independent audit committee; conflicts of interest; weakened internal control; inadequate monitoring of programme implementation; and non-conformity with procurement rules and a narrowly defined external audit scope.
SUSAN MCLURG introduced the ACABQ’s response to the report, which recognized it as “a good basis for moving forward”, but did not recommend the establishment of either an Enterprise Risk Management and Control Section or a Results Management Unit. She stressed that a strong underlying framework was indispensable in ensuring that the components of an accountability framework would lead to the embedding of personal and institutional accountability in the Organization’s culture. Also, the ACABQ was not in a position to recommend the endorsement of the elements of accountability in Annex I, believing they were not fully developed. She understood that Annex I was incomplete and would be reissued for technical reasons, since it was missing the definitions of accountability used by the Joint Inspection Unit and Board of Auditors.
INGA-BRITT AHLENIUS, Under-Secretary-General for Internal Oversight Services (OIOS), introduced the OIOS report on the review of the practice of the Secretariat regarding the sharing of information included in reports of consultants on management-related issues (document A/64/587). In addition to summarizing the findings of the OIOS survey on the topic, she explained that departments and offices expressed reservations on sharing consultants’ reports with legislative bodies or Member States, especially where they had not accepted the consultants’ recommendations; thought the consultants’ methodologies were not rigorous; did not think the matter under consultation was relevant to them; or thought it would be used as input for policy decisions for other considerations. The OIOS concluded there needed to be more transparency in cases where the Secretariat used consultants’ reports as input, and has recommended guidelines to that end.
In relation to this topic, she brought up a broader issue, access to information. The Assembly, in resolution 60/283, noted the Secretary-General’s proposals to provide more detailed information on the policy for access to United Nations documentation. A policy on access to information was in line with many national and international “right to know” practices. The United Nations, being a publicly financed organization, must be accountable to its stakeholders. As such, she looked forward to General Assembly deliberations and decision on that issue as a key component in any discussion on accountability.
WALEED AL-SHAHARI (Yemen) speaking on behalf of the “Group of 77” developing countries and China, underlined his delegation’s firm belief in the need to strengthen accountability at the United Nations. Accountability was an issue that affected all Member States and, as such, he continued to be concerned over the late issuance of reports on that matter. In the current case, delegations had received the ACABQ’s report two days ago, hardly an ideal situation and quite surprising given the Secretary-General was well aware of when the item would be taken up.
At any rate, after reviewing the report, the Group found that it fell short of expectations and did not respond to the specific issues spelled out in General Assembly resolution A/63/276. In addition, the report “did not present an adequate, comprehensive accountability system for the United Nations”. He was concerned by various aspects of the report, including the way it had been prepared, and the Secretariat’s perspective on the definition of accountability, among others.
For instance, the report did not consider the fundamental link between the guiding role of intergovernmental bodies and their relevant resolutions and decisions, and the commitment of the Organization and its staff to deliver on those mandates, he continued. Emblematic of that problem was the section of the report that dealt with the oil-for-food scandal. That section of the report charged the scandal to a lack of resources for audits and oversight review, while it altogether ignored the more fundamental issue of personal responsibility of United Nations staff. Still, he said the Group remained strongly committed to the implementation of a comprehensive accountability system and would engage actively in the coming informal consultations on the matter.
D. JORGE PERALTA MOMPARLER (Spain), speaking on behalf of the European Union, reiterated his delegation’s strong support for an effective, efficient, accountable and transparent United Nations and stressed the importance of advancing the overall management reform process. The United Nations must be a fully results-oriented body that took into account and mitigated risks, and which held management and staff, at all levels, accountable for achieving results. The European Union noted that the Secretary-General’s report provided an overview, and analysis of, the Organization’s current risk structures and practices related to accountability, risk-based management, enterprise risk management and internal controls. That report also contained some recommendations, in that regard.
He also noted the conclusions and recommendations contained in the corresponding ACABQ report on those issues, including on the definition of accountability, the performance appraisal system, delegation of authority, results-based management, enterprise risk management and internal controls, and the proposed new structures in the Secretariat. The European Union stood ready to engage constructively in discussion on those issues with other delegations, on the basis of the ACABQ’s recommendations, to consider how the accountability system, results-based management, enterprise risk management and internal controls could be further developed and implemented in the United Nations.
PAUL BALLANTYNE (New Zealand), speaking on behalf of Canada, Australia and New Zealand (CANZ), highlighted the importance the three countries attached to the principles of accountability -– a focus on results, transparency and efficiency throughout the United Nations system. He believed that the Secretary-General and his senior team had a critical role in the strengthening of the accountability framework of the Organization, to ensure that all stakeholders could be assured that the Organization’s limited resources were used in an effective and efficient way and for the purposes that they were provided.
Urging the Committee not to lose sight of where the process had started, he said he was cognizant of the efforts made to date, including the report submitted to the General Assembly at its last session and the subsequent report of the Secretary-General that the Committee was debating today. He was hopeful that at the current session, five years down the track, Members could build on the conceptual work done to date, in an effort to make tangible improvements to the accountability framework of the Organization. He observed that, while the legal and regulatory framework could be well developed, its rigorous application through sustained senior leadership would always be a critical factor in efforts to improve the performance of the Secretariat.
Continuing, he said the report had been candid in identifying weaknesses and gaps in key areas, such as performance reporting and in the administration of authority. Like the ACABQ, he believed that possible solutions could have been more fully developed. With regard to the definition of accountability outlined in the report, he regretted that it did not contain any reference to efficiency, effectiveness or the role of the oversight bodies, and to that end, he saw merit in the ACABQ’s observations that the definition used by the International Civil Service Commission (ICSC) and United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) provided a good basis for a definition of accountability for the United Nations secretariat.
Concluding, he said, while recognizing that the report was not perfect, he believed the Secretary-General’s proposals, as well as those of the ACABQ, provided a good basis to make progress on that issue, and looked forward to engaging constructively with all delegations to ensure that the consideration of the item was as productive as possible.
BROUZ RALPH COFFI (C ôte d’Ivoire), speaking on behalf of the African Group, said his delegation was also among those concerned that the reports under consideration today had been issued barely two days before this meeting. On the matters at hand, the African Group considered strengthening accountability at the United Nations a top priority, due to its impact on the work of the Secretariat and on relations between the Secretariat and Member States. In addition, there would be clear benefits to all if a comprehensive accountability framework, capable of promoting results-based management and budgeting, was implemented.
He said that over the past four years the Secretariat had submitted three reports on accountability in the United Nations Secretariat. Unfortunately, those surveys had met neither the requests of the General Assembly, nor the expectations of its Member States. The Assembly had again requested an accountability report last year, specifying exactly what should be included in it. Regrettably, after consideration of the current report, the African Group found that it did not adequately respond to the Assembly’s requests. Moreover, the report did not present an accountable and comprehensive accountability system that could be approved and implemented in the Secretariat and throughout the Organization.
He went on to express the African Group’s concerns about other aspects of the report, including, its preparation and the fact that it did not follow the road map requested by Member States. He also had concerns about the definition of accountability, the perspectives of the Secretariat regarding implementation of the recommendations of oversight bodies, the selection and appointment of senior managers, the implementation of a results-based management framework, and the enterprise risk management and internal control framework. Yet, despite those concerns, the African Group would participate actively and constructively in the informal consultations on accountability and management-related issues.
SHIN BOONAM (Republic of Korea) said accountability was the most critical factor in enhancing the efficiency and effectiveness of the Secretariat in order to meet the needs and requests of stakeholders. In that regard, he welcomed and supported the Secretary-General’s continuing efforts to develop an accountability system, including the present report, “Towards an accountability system in the United Nations Secretariat”. He also noted the significant and tangible progress made on that matter in recent years by establishing the Ethics Office, implementing a rigorous financial disclosure programme, and introducing a new internal justice system, among other measures.
He expressed concern that the overall culture in the secretariat had not shown much improvement in terms of accountability. He further emphasized the importance of a fundamental change in the way of working and thinking among the secretariat staff, reiterating the ACABQ’s point in its report, that without a change in the mindset of the staff, an accountability framework itself could not create a culture of accountability, and the measures in the Secretary-General’s report would have little effect. Quoting a Korean proverb, he said: “Every great thing starts from a small thing.” Thus, small measures such as keeping a preset schedule may not seem that important, but along with other small changes, they could have a large impact.
Regarding the Accountability Framework, he stressed the importance of human resources management and financial resources management, which he believed to be fundamental to strengthening an accountability system in the United Nations. As a way of strengthening accountability, he suggested that the current performance appraisal system be fundamentally reformed by introducing measures such as the compulsory distribution of performance appraisal ratings, in which the portion of each performance rating was preset. In the new system he was proposing, staff at all levels who did not meet the criteria should be forced to leave the Organization, regardless of their contractual type. “The Organization should no longer be a safety net for those who could not show competency,” he said. Additionally, salary should reflect differences in performance by redistributing a significant portion of salary according to performance.
As for financial resource management, he was of the view that the current biennium programme budget could not fully reflect the objectives of the Organization as set out in the strategic framework. In addition, the current system lacked a mechanism to allocate available resources from a mid-term and long-term perspective. He encouraged introduction of a new fiscal management mechanism, in which the allocation of financial resources would be closely related to and reflect the Organization’s objectives.
JOSEPH MELROSE ( United States) said his country fully endorsed the principles of accountability, transparency and efficiency throughout the United Nations. It was imperative for the Organization to have strong control mechanisms and oversight capabilities. In that regard, the United States had been pleased that the Assembly endorsed the principles of results based management and enterprise risk management. It was time to move past the endorsement of principles towards supporting their development and implementation, especially when the Organization was facing extraordinary opportunities and challenges.
He said the United States appreciated the Secretary-General’s efforts to address the current weaknesses within the accountability system, but remained concerned that key components had not been fully developed, as noted by the ACABQ. It was critical to provide States with unbiased information on the effectiveness of United Nations activities. The Secretary-General himself had noted that among the missing elements were poorly defined long-term objectives; the lack of a strong link between broad strategic objectives and the objectives of operational staff; weak links between desired results and resource allocation; and a lack of strong programme evaluation. He looked forward to working with the Secretariat and other stakeholders in developing those elements and resolving other issues that might have been raised.
CRAIG LIM (Singapore) observed that, while the Secretary-General’s report had tried to address some of the issues of concern to Member States, unfortunately, “it does not go far enough.” The very definition of accountability set out in the report was far too limited. While recognizing that the obligation to deliver specific results was one component of accountability, it was “a little surprising” that the report did not see the merit of including the fundamental element of personal responsibility of staff members for decisions made, and actions taken, into that definition.
Greater emphasis needed to be made on creating the conditions for a culture of accountability and integrity in the United Nations, he said. That was something that could be further developed, since integrity defines “who we are as a people” and “what we are as an Organization”. Singapore was also concerned that the Secretary-General’s report did not adequately address the eleven specific topics spelled out in a General Assembly resolution that had called for “consultation with the respective oversight bodies”. While some consultation did take place, those could have been done in a far more comprehensive and inclusive manner.
Additionally, he felt that the secretariat’s explanation of the steps taken to address the failure of the United Nations Oil-for-Food Programme fell short of expectations. Even though the General Assembly resolution had included in its agenda the item “Follow up to the recommendations on administrative management and internal oversight of the Independent Inquiry Committee into the Oil-for-Food Programme” since its sixtieth session, he said, four years had passed without a full accounting of the significant flaws in terms of internal monitoring, inspection and accountability that were identified in the Volcker report. In that respect, he reiterated his country’s call for its discussion by the General Assembly in an open setting.
AKIRA SUGIYAMA (Japan) said his delegation attached great importance to strengthening accountability in the Secretariat. The key to ensuring such accountability was a sincere effort on the part of the Secretariat to achieve results by administering itself appropriately under the exiting framework provided by the Charter, relevant resolutions of this and other legislative bodies, and the Organization’s rules and regulations. As such, Japan shared the view that it would be important for the United Nations to promote a cultural change, whereby staff understood that they would be held accountable for the quality and timely delivery of their work. In addition, supervisors should understand that they would be held accountable for effectively managing their staff to that end.
Highlighting his concerns about the Secretary-General’s report, he noted that the survey had been submitted late and that it lacked clarity on its resource requirements, especially towards the establishment of “additional structures”. It was very difficult for the Assembly to consider the Secretary-General’s proposals without knowing their financial implications. Japan would reiterate its request to the Secretariat to avoid a piecemeal approach, in that regard. He went on to regret that there had been insufficient consultation with the oversight bodies in the preparation of the report, and that issue had been highlighted by the ACABQ in its corresponding report.
Finally, he acknowledged the decision taken by the Secretariat on the resolution of the National Competitive Recruitment Examination, and requested its expeditious implementation. As a next step, Japan looked forward to the Secretary-General’s report on implementing the recommendations of the Joint Inspection Unit (JIU), aimed at improving both the process and the roster management of the exam. He added that Japan would participate actively in the coming round of negotiations on all those important issues.
RITA GRUNENFELDER (Switzerland) noted the difficulty of defining the concept of accountability, which was a nuanced one, and said the Secretary-General’s effort to clarify the concept and to explain its significance to the Organization was “laudable”. While Switzerland shared the Secretary-General’s opinion on many aspects discussed in his report, it believed that the report fell short of expectations. In its view, accountability began with the willingness to assume responsibility for the outcome of professional actions and to abide by regulations, rules and the highest ethical standards. The Organization’s senior leadership should demonstrate such a willingness, and should constantly strive to promote and strengthen it among staff. Regretfully, that was not mentioned in the report.
Further, she was not convinced by the Secretary-General’s attempt to define and show a relationship between the six components of accountability. Instead of trying to design a complex accountability structure, there might be merit in trying to reduce complexity, and to identify more clearly delineated frameworks for discussing and further developing individual issues, perhaps at different speed. She shared the ACABQ’s analysis that progress in implementing results based management and enterprise risk management should not depend on the establishment of new dedicated capacities, and was curious to know what steps the Secretary-General had taken to build on existing legislative mandates and to make them more mainstream. Also, implementing an enterprise resource planning system was importance, but not sufficient, to resolve accountability issues. Finally, the important of oversight bodies should have been reflected in a more comprehensive involvement of those bodies in the preparation of the report. The OIOS had provided a sound analysis on the Secretariat’s practice of sharing information, and Switzerland was confident that its review would greatly facilitate the Committee’s efforts to define the modalities of future practice.
INGRID BERLANGA ( Mexico) said the interaction between all monitoring, inspection and inquiry services was essential in improving transparency within the Organization. Accordingly, the recommendations from all those bodies must be followed up and monitored. Mexico’s views on the report coincided with that summarized in the ACABQ report. Some questions were “not examined” in the report, including the Assembly’s request to define the concept itself. It was one of the main shortcomings of the Secretary-General’s accountability architecture. While it might be hard to set limits on such a broad notion, doing so was essential. Mexico would be open to discussing that question.
She said Mexico had expressed, on other occasions, the importance in linking use of resources with results. It was important to scrutinize the way the Secretary-General delegated authority for spending; she had been hoping for further clarity on that issue. Rule 6.1 in the United Nations Regulations and Rules Governing Programme Planning should be carefully examined, since it covered the issue of institutional accountability. Performance appraisal of senior officials through the Compact had not proven effective in evaluating their actual performance. Accountability was important in the context of the new administration of justice system. It was unclear what was being done regarding resources lost through fraud and mismanagement and whether those funds were being recovered. She regretted that the report was not as useful as hoped, but Mexico nevertheless continued to support the Secretariat’s efforts.
Wrapping up the discussion, Ms. KANE said the discussions had been very helpful. She had gotten a good sense that, while most delegations felt the report and the issues contained therein could have been further developed, most speakers seemed to believe the report had nevertheless contributed to overall consideration of the issue. “It was obvious that accountability was important to you, as it is to all of us,” she added.
Noting that several speakers had expressed concerns about the consultation process ahead of the report’s compilation and issuance, she explained that while that process might not have been clearly set out in the report, the Secretariat had indeed held “thorough consultations”. Indeed, the process had begun with the creation of a task force that had included the OIOS. While that oversight body had participated in two meetings, its representatives subsequently pulled out, saying the discussions could impinge on the independence of OIOS and its work. Representatives of the OIOS had participated thereafter on a consultant basis.
She went on to say that the Secretariat had also consulted with the funds and programmes of the United Nations family. In addition, the JIU had been specifically invited to an accountability workshop in November and had been sent a copy of the draft report. Other oversight bodies had also been invited to participate in that workshop and, while not all had attended, several had sent in their comments on the draft report.
Finally, she noted that most of the speakers today had raised concerns about the lack of an agreed definition of accountability in the Secretariat. Discussing that issue further would certainly be useful. Some agencies such as the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) and the United Nations Population Fund had already adopted their own definitions, in cooperation and coordination with their respective Executive Boards. The Secretariat was looking at those definitions and was also looking at the definitions used by the World Bank and several European Union entities. While more work needed to be done to come up with a definition for the Secretariat, she believed that, with some “tweaking”, a decision could be reached.
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