Budget Committee Adopts Draft Text on Programme Planning

21 October 2011
GA/AB/4006

Budget Committee Adopts Draft Text on Programme Planning

21 October 2011
General Assembly
GA/AB/4006
Department of Public Information • News and Media Division • New York

Sixty-sixth General Assembly

Fifth Committee

11th Meeting (PM)

Budget Committee Adopts Draft Text on Programme Planning

 

Also Considers Reports on Construction, Renovation Projects

For United Nations Facilities in Nairobi, Addis Ababa, Geneva, New York

The Fifth Committee (Administrative and Budgetary) forwarded this afternoon a draft text that would have the General Assembly endorse the Committee for Programme and Coordination’s conclusions and recommendations on evaluation, the annual overview report of the United Nations System Chief Executives Board for Coordination for 2010-2011 and United Nations system support for the New Partnership for Africa’s Development.

Adopting a draft resolution by consensus, the Committee also would have the Assembly stress the importance of Member States’ full participation in the budget preparation process from start to finish and reiterate its request to the Secretary-General to abide by the mandates set forth in three previous Assembly resolutions concerning the appointment of the Under-Secretary-General and Special Adviser on Africa.

The Committee then turned its discussion to construction related to the United Nations Office at Nairobi, the Addis Ababa-based Economic Commission for Africa (ECA), the Strategic Heritage Plan of the United Nations Office at Geneva, and the long-term accommodation needs of the United Nations New York Headquarters.

Delegates stressed the importance of effectively managing the Organization’s property portfolio and hailed the successful completion of new facilities at Nairobi on time and within budget as a testament to proper project management.

Argentina’s representative, speaking on behalf of the “Group of 77” developing countries and China, reaffirmed the need to preserve the United Nations complex’s architectural integrity and ensure that any changes be in accordance with the original design.

Switzerland’s representative, who also spoke on behalf of Liechtenstein, discussed the merits of the Strategic Heritage Plan.  Renovation of the ageing Palais de Nations in Geneva would yield significant savings, as improvements would lower energy consumption and repair costs, and free up much-needed office space, while ensuring compliance with local and international building standards for fire prevention, security, health and accessibility.

He backed the eight-year medium-term option as the most cost-effective plan, and said construction should begin upon completion of the work of the Capital Master Plan in New York.  The Swiss Government, pending parliamentary approval, would contribute some 50 million Swiss francs for the plan’s energy-saving measures.

Warren Sach, Assistant Secretary-General for Central Support Services, Department of Management, who introduced the Secretariat’s four individual reports on the various building projects, said construction of the additional office facilities at the ECA had slowed due to the limited availability of cement in the local area.  It would be “particularly challenging” to complete that project on budget due to errors in the initial cost estimations by the construction management consultant, which were forcing the Organization to spend $734,000 of the project’s $925,186 contingency budget.

Turning to the report on the feasibility study of the United Nations New York Headquarters accommodation needs for 2014-2034, he said a project to build a new office building, referred to as UNDC-5, in a park located immediately south of 42nd Street and First Avenue was of potential interest to the Organization.  While a Memorandum of Understanding was signed by the Mayor of New York City, the temporary President of the New York State Senate and the Speaker of the New York State Assembly on 5 October, it had not become formally available to the Secretariat, nor had the Secretariat made a commitment to the project.

Collen Kelapile, Chair of the Advisory Committee on Administrative and Budgetary Questions (ACABQ), who introduced the Advisory Committee’s report related to the various construction plans, recommended, in the light of that development, that the Secretary-General reassess whether to follow through with the preferred option of building on the North Lawn or to construct UNDC-5 under the terms of a lease-to-own arrangement with the United Nations Development Corporation.  He also asked the Secretary-General to present a detailed analysis of the cost, benefits and risks of each option to the Assembly as soon as possible, but no later than the second part of its resumed sixty-sixth session.

The representatives of Côte d’Ivoire (speaking on behalf of the African Group) and Ethiopia also spoke during the discussion.

The Committee will reconvene on Monday, 24 October to discuss the United Nations common system.

Background

The Fifth Committee (Administrative and Budgetary) met today to take action on a draft resolution under its agenda item on programme planning, and to discuss construction related to the United Nations Office at Nairobi, the Economic Commission for Africa (ECA), the Strategic Heritage Plan of the United Nations Office at Geneva, and the long-term accommodation needs of the United Nations New York Headquarters.

The Committee had before it the Secretary-General’s report on the construction of additional office facilities at the United Nations Office at Nairobi (document A/66/336), which gives an update on the successful completion of construction of those offices and a breakdown of the project’s cost estimates.  It states that the construction was completed on schedule at the end of 2010, the cost estimate remained at $25.25 million, the amount approved by the Assembly, and that the final cost would be determined when the final payment is issued in June 2012.  The Secretary-General asks the Assembly to take note of this report.

The Secretary-General’s report on progress in the construction of additional office facilities at the Economic Commission for Africa in Addis Ababa (document A/66/351) gives an update on the status of building those facilities and renovating Africa Hall, as well as a detailed breakdown of the project’s most recent cost estimate.  It states that, as of June 2011, construction of the new facilities was 30 per cent complete and that the ECA is working with the contractor to expedite the process in order to complete the project by the end of August 2012.  The Secretary-General asks the Assembly to take note of this report.

The Secretary-General’s report on the strategic heritage plan of the United Nations Office at Geneva (document A/66/279) summarizes recent progress in preparing the strategic heritage plan for the Palais des Nations in Geneva.  It discusses the main findings of the conceptual engineering study approved by the Assembly’s sixty-fourth session and current facility-related problems identified in the study as needing urgent attention due to structural, health and safety concerns.

The report also highlights the significant efficiencies in terms of consolidation, space management and energy conservation to result from the plan’s implementation, viable options for the necessary restoration and renovation of the building, and an analysis of the project’s operational impact, cost implications and efficiencies, including its overall budget and proposed timeline.

Based on the study’s results, the Secretary-General recommended that Member States endorse the proposed eight-year medium-term implementation option for the plan, and approve the next steps outlined in paragraphs 24-27 of the report, which would cost an estimated $4.07 million, at preliminary 2012-2013 rates, in the biennium 2012-2013.  The annex to the report gives a detailed breakdown of those resource requirements.

The Secretary-General’s report on the feasibility study on the United Nations Headquarters accommodation needs 2014-2034 (document A/66/349) details the feasibility of erecting a building on the North Lawn to meet those needs, preliminary construction costs and related architectural, security and host city issues.  The study was motivated by the fact that the United Nations current leases of UNDC-1 and UNDC-2 will expire at the end of March 2018, with options to extend to the end of March 2023 only.  After the study’s completion, New York State passed legislation granting the United Nations Development Corporation approval to erect a new office building, to be called UNDC-5, on the park immediately south of 42nd Street and First Avenue.  The Organization would occupy UNDC-5 on the condition that the United Nations Development Corporation obtains agreement by 10 October 2011 from the affected local community boards to build on the park.  The Secretary-General asks the Assembly to take note of the report.

The fourth report of the Advisory Committee on Administrative and Budgetary Questions (ACABQ) on the proposed programme budget for the biennium 2012-2013 on the construction of additional office facilities at the United Nations Office at Nairobi and the Economic Commission for Africa in Addis Ababa; strategic heritage plan of the United Nations Office at Geneva; and feasibility study on the United Nations Headquarters accommodation needs 2014-2034 (document A/66/7/Add.3) weighs in on the Secretary-General’s reports.

The ACABQ asked the Secretary-General to give the reasons that prevented some United Nations offices at Nairobi from relocating to the United Nations Gigiri compound as envisaged.  It noted with concern that the $734,000 cost discrepancy in building more facilities in Addis Ababa, due to the architecture and management consultant’s error when executing the contract, had led to increased costs, a substantial depletion of the $925,186 budgetary contingency and subsequently greater risk to the project.  It urged the Secretary-General to continue to closely monitor project expenditures and ensure the project was implemented within the approved budget.

Concerning the strategic heritage plan, the ACABQ recommended approving $810,600 in general temporary assistance for one P-4 architect and one P-4 engineer post and $2.8 million in contractual services to develop the detailed implementation and phasing plan.  It recommended against approving general temporary assistance resources for the proposed P-3 technical expert post, saying that such services could be provided within the building and engineering section’s existing capacity.  Regarding the feasibility study, the ACABQ said that in light of the latest developments, the analysis in the Secretary-General’s report must be updated.

Action on Draft

As the Committee resumed its discussion of programme planning, it adopted an eponymous draft resolution (document A/C.5/66/L.3) by consensus.

By the terms of that text, the General Assembly would endorse the conclusions and recommendations of the Committee for Programme and Coordination on evaluation, the annual overview report of the United Nations System Chief Executives Board for Coordination (CEB) for 2010/11 and United Nations system support for the New Partnership for Africa’s Development (NEPAD).

The Assembly would also stress that setting the United Nations priorities was the prerogative of Member States, as well as stress the need for Member States to participate fully in the budget preparation process from its early stages to completion.  Furthermore, the Assembly, recalling paragraphs 131 of the Committee for Programme and Coordination’s report and reaffirming the three Assembly resolutions — 62/236, 63/260 and 64/243 — concerning the appointment of the Under-Secretary-General and the Special Adviser on Africa, would reiterate its request to the Secretary-General to abide by those mandates.

Introduction of Reports

Then the Committee began its discussion of construction issues related to the United Nations Office at Nairobi, the Economic Commission for Africa, the Strategic Heritage Plan of the United Nations Office at Geneva, and the long-term accommodation needs of the United Nations New York Headquarters.

WARREN SACH, Assistant Secretary-General for Central Support Services, Department of Management, introduced four Secretariat reports on:  Construction of additional office facilities at the United Nations Office at Nairobi (document A/66/336); Progress in the construction of additional office facilities at the Economic Commission for Africa in Addis Ababa (document A/66/351); Strategic Heritage Plan of the United Nations Office at Geneva (document A/66/279); and Feasibility study on the United Nations Headquarters accommodation needs 2014-2034 (document A/66/349).

Regarding the construction of the new office facility in Nairobi that began in May 2009, Mr. Sach said that project had been substantially completed in December 2010, on schedule and within budget.  Its two primary tenants, the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) and the United Nations Human Settlements Programme (UN-Habitat) had moved into the building during the first quarter of this year.

Turning to the construction of additional office facilities at the ECA in Addis Ababa, Mr. Sach said the limited availability of cement in the local area had delayed the construction completion date from February 2012 to August 2012. As of today, the building construction was more than 30 per cent complete.

Referring to information on cost estimates that were included in paragraphs 28 to 31 of the report, he said it would be “particularly challenging” to complete the project on budget.  Errors in the initial cost estimations by the construction management consultant meant that $734,000 out of a contingency provision of $925,186 would be used.  It could not be guaranteed that the project would remain within the available budget, though all efforts to control costs were being made.

The ECA, the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) and the African Union had started the renovation of Africa Hall, which would be modernized while preserving its cultural and historical value, he said.  The cost of the restoration project had been wrapped into the current and future biennium budgets.

Mr. Sach then discussed the options for the restoration and renovation of the United Nations Office at Geneva.  The major findings of a conceptual engineering and architectural study completed in February established that the Palais des Nations had reached a crucial stage in the safety and security for its users.  The next step in the development of the Strategic Heritage Plan was the recruitment of a dedicated project management team at United Nations Office at Geneva at a cost of $1.16 million during the 2012-2013 biennium, and the hiring of a programme management firm to develop an overall project phasing, capital investment plan and project schedule, at a cost of $2.8 million during the same 2012-2013 budget cycle.

He was pleased to report that Switzerland had contributed up to $44 million for energy-saving renovation measures.  That was subject to approval by the Swiss Federal Chamber and was expected to be paid in 2012.

Finally, Mr. Sach turned to the report on the feasibility study of the United Nations Headquarters accommodation needs for 2014-2034.  The study was conducted by Skidmore, Owings and Merrill, a leading international architectural consultancy firm.  It assessed the United Nations long-term real estate needs over a 20-year time frame beginning in 2014, in line with the expected completion of the re-occupancy of the Secretariat complex.

He acknowledged that some press reports had indicated that the United Nations had agreed to move ahead with a project to build a new office building, referred to as UNDC-5, on a park located immediately south of 42nd Street and First Avenue.  Yet, Mr. Sach said that, while a Memorandum of Understanding had been signed by the Mayor of New York City, the temporary President of the New York State Senate and the Speaker of the New York State Assembly on 5 October, it had not become formally available to the United Nations Secretariat.  He emphasized that while the DC-5 project was of potential interest to the United Nations, the Secretariat had not made a commitment and the concerned parties were aware that the Assembly had to authorize any commitment.

COLLEN KELAPILE, Chair of the Advisory Committee on Administrative and Budgetary Questions, introduced the Advisory Committee’s related report (document A/66/7/Add.3).  He said the ACABQ welcomed the successful completion of the new office facility at Nairobi and had asked the Secretary-General to carry out a post-completion review to assess the project’s implementation, including an analysis of planned versus actual space utilization of the additional facilities.

He said the ACABQ also noted that the project at the ECA in Addis Ababa had been delayed by six months, largely due to the lack of cement.  The reasons for the delays were addressed in cooperation with the host country authorities.  The Advisory Committee welcomed the Ethiopian Government’s support for the project and encouraged continued collaboration to address other issues in a timely manner.  It also encouraged the Office of Central Support Services to continue to give ECA the necessary support and guidance on project management and technical matters.

Concerning the strategic heritage plan for the United Nations Office at Geneva, the ACABQ took note of the extent of deterioration of the Palais des Nations and the main findings of the conceptual engineering and architectural study.  He said it backed the medium-term eight-year implementation option — which offered the lowest cost while meeting all the strategic heritage plan’s requirements — and recommended authorizing the Secretary-General to prepare the detailed implementation plan and cost analysis based on that option.  The ACABQ stressed that preparation of the detailed plan would be without prejudice to any Assembly decisions on the matter.  It had also asked the Secretary-General to thoroughly examine all ways to carry out restoration and renovation with greater efficiencies and savings.

Regarding the feasibility study, he said the ACABQ noted that the primary option considered was the construction of a building on the North Lawn, which would allow for a unified compound and present the lowest risk and cost.  The ACABQ was informed that, since the Secretary-General issued his report, a new option for creating a building, referred to as UNDC-5, on First Avenue south of 42nd Street had been presented.  In light of that development, the Advisory Committee recommended that the Secretary-General reassess the preferred option of building on the North Lawn against the option of constructing UNDC-5 under the terms of a lease-to-own arrangement with the United Nations Development Corporation.  It asked the Secretary-General to present a detailed analysis of the cost, benefits and risks of each option and underlying assumptions for office space requirements to the Assembly as soon as possible, but no later than the second part of its resumed sixty-sixth session.

Statements

MARÍA LUZ MELON (Argentina), speaking on behalf of the “Group of 77” developing countries and China, stressed the importance of proper mechanisms and strong management structures to implement construction projects and manage the Organization’s property portfolio.  She noted with appreciation the progress report on constructing more office facilities at the United Nations Office at Nairobi.  “The completion of this project in advance of its schedule and within the budget is commendable and clearly demonstrates the benefits of proper project management,” she said.  As a result, as indicated in the Secretary-General’s report, some of the contingency funds would remain underutilized once final payments were made.  Her delegation commended the host authorities, contractors and United Nations staff that worked collaboratively to implement the project within schedule and on budget.

The Group welcomed the progress in constructing the additional offices at the ECA and commended the existing cooperation and collaboration between ECA and the host country authorities to support the project, which led to proactive action to expeditiously deal with identified bottlenecks.  The Group believed that by working collaboratively, no further delays would arise.  Noting that the ECA, in collaboration with the UNESCO and the African Union, was renovating Africa Hall to make it a “monument to modern African history”, the Group expected that the procurement of the consultancy would proceed expeditiously.

She said the Group would actively study the findings and proposals in the results of the conceptual engineering and architectural study contained in the report of the Strategic Heritage Plan of the United Nations Office at Geneva.  The Group reaffirmed its long-standing position that the United Nations complex’s architectural integrity must be preserved.  Any proposal to accommodate United Nations Headquarters must be in accordance with the original design.  The Group would examine the Secretary-General’s report on the feasibility study on the United Nations New York Headquarters’ accommodation needs for 2014-2034 and consider its various proposals, taking into account the ACABQ’s observations and recommendations.

Speaking on behalf of the African Group and endorsing the Group of 77 and China statement made by Argentina’s delegation, BROUZ COFFI ( Côte d’Ivoire) said this delegation strongly believed in the importance of good maintenance and rehabilitation of the Organization’s facilities around the world.  He emphasized the need for routine maintenance of the new office space at Nairobi Offices and its other facilities in that country.

Regarding the project at the ECA, he said the African Group was keen to gain specific information regarding security and parking, and on discrepancies in architectural and construction design.  The renovation of Africa Hall would create “a monument to Modern African History” on the fiftieth anniversary of the ECA and beyond, he said, adding that its renovation should fully account for the Hall’s historical aspects.  In addition, he said the African Group was keen to gain specific details regarding the strategic plan for the United Nations Office at Geneva, and the long-term accommodation needs of United Nations New York Headquarters.

MATTHIAS DETTLING ( Switzerland), speaking also on behalf of Liechtenstein, stressed the need for the Strategic Heritage Plan and said that its advantages were indisputable.  The renovation would allow for an optimal reorganization of the premises to free up enough space to accommodate 700 more staff, and thus consolidate a number of services in the Palais des Nations, resulting in significant real estate lease savings.  It would also enable the United Nations to finally ensure compliance with local and international building standards for fire prevention, security, health and accessibility.  The increasingly dilapidated infrastructure was creating serious safety and health risks to the Palais des Nations’ occupants and visitors.  By modernizing the facility, energy consumption would decrease by 25 per cent, yielding significant cost savings.  Moreover, a complete renovation would end the steady rise in maintenance costs of the ageing facility.

There was urgent need for action, he said.  Construction should begin as soon as possible and upon completion of the work of the Capital Master Plan in New York.  He supported the eight-year medium-term option as the most cost-effective and persuasive.  That option made it possible to achieve the project’s objectives while preserving the Organization’s functional and operational continuity.  For the planning and preparation stage to proceed without delay, necessary funds must be allocated to the Secretariat in the 2012-2013 budget.  Switzerland fully supported the project.  The Swiss Government would make a voluntary contribution this year of some 50 million Swiss francs to the Strategic Heritage Plan for energy-saving measures, subject to the Swiss Parliament’s approval.

AMAN HASSEN BAME ( Ethiopia) aligned his delegation with the statements of the Group of 77 developing countries and China and the African Group, and said he was pleased that 30 per cent of the construction work on the additional office facilities at ECA had been completed.  He noted that the Ethiopian Government had shown its commitment to the Commission through the provision of Africa Hall in 1958.  Such commitment had continued when the Government granted the ECA the exclusive use of 28,005 square meters of land next to the existing compound, free of charge.

Ethiopia had continued to work closely with the ECA to ensure that all issues related to the timely and predictable delivery of needed construction materials, including cement, were adequately addressed.  He congratulated the ECA for launching the renovation of Africa Hall and would like to see it renovated into a modern conference facility, incorporating exhibition and museum space as it preserved the architecture’s historical and cultural values, as well as enhancing the facility’s safety.

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