In Budget Committee, Top UN Management Official Introduces Report on Progress in Creating Accountability System in United Nations Secretariat

13 March 2012
GA/AB/4024

In Budget Committee, Top UN Management Official Introduces Report on Progress in Creating Accountability System in United Nations Secretariat

13 March 2012
General Assembly
GA/AB/4024
Department of Public Information • News and Media Division • New York

Sixty-sixth General Assembly

Fifth Committee

28th Meeting (PM)


In Budget Committee, Top UN Management Official Introduces Report on Progress


in Creating Accountability System in United Nations Secretariat

 


Also Takes Up Joint Inspection Unit Reports on:  Transparency in Senior

Management Appointments, Accountability Frameworks, Enterprise Risk Management


As the United Nations top management official this afternoon presented the Secretary-General’s progress report on creating an accountability system within the Secretariat to the Fifth Committee (Administrative and Budgetary), some delegates criticized it for not giving enough evidence to support its claims of success. 


Angela Kane, Under-Secretary-General for Management, who introduced the report, said that in the past two years the Secretariat had launched an intranet website to raise awareness about and promote a culture of accountability; fully reviewed the Organization’s procedures for deciding who had the authority to make specific human resource, financial and property management decisions; reformed the United Nations management performance appraisal system; and bolstered the Secretariat’s processes for ensuring that the recommendations of the Organization’s management oversight bodies were implemented.


“We have clearly defined the roles and responsibilities of the officials responsible for responding to these recommendations, and the Management Committee is now taking a more proactive role in monitoring implementation,” Ms. Kane said.  Fully, 81 per cent of the 16,694 recommendations made by the Office of Internal Oversight Services (OIOS) between 1999 and November 2011 had been implemented.


But Algeria’s representative, speaking on behalf of the Group of 77 and China, said the Secretary-General’s report gave no details on the mechanisms set up to monitor and report on the measures touted in the document, nor did it include performance indicators and relevant statistical data, or an analysis of their effectiveness in strengthening accountability.  The absence of that data, he said, gave the impression — as stated in the report of the Advisory Committee on Administrative and Budgetary Questions (ACABQ) on the matter — that there was a lack of commitment by senior management to implement an effective accountability system. 


“It is with consternation that we concur with the ACABQ that his failure to hold senior managers to account has a negative impact on setting the standards of accountability throughout the Organization,” he said, stressing that the “Secretary-General must lead by example”.  Moreover, he endorsed the Advisory Committee’s recommendation that the Secretary-General submit for the Assembly’s consideration an annual report on progress in implementing the accountability framework.


The Algerian delegate, pointing to the Secretary-General’s Change Management initiative, also expressed alarm over the “multitude of initiatives” being implemented without any legislative mandate, some of which reflected only the interests and views of some Member States.  In recent months, there had been many rivalries among senior managers and several attempts to usurp the intergovernmental process. 


The European Union’s representative expressed deep concern over the persisting management and governance crisis of UMOJA — the Organization’s enterprise resource planning project, which was also discussed today in the Committee.  “It clearly sends a contradictory message about the need for managers to be in the forefront of institutional and personal accountability,” he said.


Enterprise risk management should become part and parcel of the daily work of United Nations officials, he said, calling for it to be streamlined throughout the entire Organization, rather than being the responsibility of a centralized office. 


Concerning transparency in the selection and appointment of senior managers in the United Nations Secretariat, Adnan Issa, Executive Officer of the Executive Office of the Secretary-General, introduced the Secretary-General’s note transmitting his comments on the related report of the Joint Inspection Unit (JIU).  He stressed the Secretary-General’s commitment to recruiting people based on merit, while taking into account the need to ensure equitable geographical distribution and gender representation.


“As the Secretary-General embarks on his second term, he is keen to ensure the right mix of change and continuity in his senior leadership team and intends to build a new team that is strong on substantive issues and diverse in composition and whose members complement one another,” Mr. Issa said.  


Also today, the Committee recommended appointees to fill unexpired portions of the terms of office of members of two subsidiary organs, who had resigned.  It recommended Kazuo Watanabe of Japan to replace Shigeki Sumi, also of Japan, who resigned from the Committee on Contributions effective 1 February.  His term of office would expire on 31 December 2012.  They also recommended that Hee-yun Park of the Republic of Korea, who resigned effective 6 February, be replaced by Dae-jong Yoo, also of the Republic of Korea.  His term of office would expire on 31 December 2014.


The Committee also recommended Luis Mariano Hermosillo of Mexico to fill a vacancy on the International Civil Service Commission arising from the resignation of Gilberto Paranhos Velloso of Brazil.  Mr. Hermosillo would fill the unexpired portion of Mr. Velloso’s term of office, which was set to expire on 31 December 2013.


Several reports were introduced today on the United Nations accountability system:  Collen Kelapile, Chair of the ACABQ, introduced that body’s related report, while Mounir Zahran, Chairman of the JIU, introduced the JIU’s related report.


Cihan Terzi, a JIU Inspector, introduced the JIU report on the review of the enterprise risk management in the United Nations.  Kenneth Herman, Senior Adviser on Information Management Policy Coordination, Secretariat of the United Nations System Chief Executives Board for Coordination, introduced two notes of the Secretary-General that convey his comments and those of the Board members on both of the JIU reports.


Switzerland (also on behalf of Liechtenstein) also made a statement.


The Committee will reconvene at 10 a.m. on Thursday, 15 March, to discuss standards of accommodation for air travel.


Background


The Fifth Committee (Administrative and Budgetary) met today to take up its agenda items on accountability, the reports of the Joint Inspection Unit (JIU) and appointments to fill vacancies on the Committee on Contributions and the International Civil Service Commission.


On accountability, the Committee had before it the Secretary-General’s report on progress towards an accountability system in the United Nations Secretariat (document A/66/692), which highlights the Secretariat’s successes in the last two years to strengthen accountability, particularly efforts to deepen a culture of accountability, clarify and codify delegations of authority, further implement human resources management reforms, including a new performance management and development system, and lay the groundwork for the introduction of enterprise risk management.  The report notes that more work remains toward that goal. 


The Secretary-General asks the General Assembly to endorse the proposal to set up a dedicated enterprise risk management and internal control function within the Office of the Under-Secretary-General for Management to work on enhancing the current capabilities for risk assessment and mitigation and internal control, as called for in Assembly resolution 65/259.  Full details of that function are set out in an Annex to the report.  He suggests that the Secretariat temporarily meet those requirements within existing resources and subsequently define a proposal to submit to the Assembly within the context of the 2014-2015 budget. 


Weighing in on the Secretary-General’s report with its own report (document A/66/738), the Advisory Committee on Administrative and Budgetary Questions (ACABQ) says the former is weak as it lacks information on the mechanisms for monitoring and reporting on the application of the accountability measures, indicators and performance data used to measure progress and an analysis of their effectiveness in strengthening accountability.  In several instances, the Secretary-General affirms progress in strengthening accountability without giving any evidence or explanation to support his claims.  Such details are important for managing on a day-to-day basis implementation of the accountability framework, including monitoring progress, evaluating results and taking corrective action, as required.  As such, the Advisory Committee recommends that the Secretary-General be asked to provide more complete, transparent information in future progress reports.


Pending the 2014 implementation of Umoja, which should alleviate the weakness in the Organization’s current information systems, the Secretary-General should identify a set of essential data elements required for developing key performance indicators for tracking and reporting progress and he should present performance data in all future progress reports on accountability.  The Secretary-General should also be asked to submit an annual progress report. 


Also before the Committee were several JIU reports.  The Secretary-General’s note on transparency in the selection and appointment of senior managers in the United Nations Secretariat (document A/66/380) transmits the JIU’s report on that topic.  The report, which reviews the effectiveness, coherence, timeliness and transparency of the current process for selecting and appointing those managers, notes no major concerns in the process, but expresses concern over the process’ opaque implementation.  The Secretary-General’s discretionary power to make senior management appointments does not give him carte blanche to avoid transparency.  The challenge is to strike a balance between providing enough information to Member States so they are confident the process is open, fair and transparent without compromising the privacy of the candidates and jeopardizing the confidentiality of the deliberative review of either the interview panels or the Secretary-General himself. 


According to the JIU inspectors, vacancy announcements should be issued for all positions, except for special envoys and personal advisors, as soon as vacancies arise, and notes verbales transmitting vacancy announcements for every position should be sent to all Member States and all United Nations agencies, funds and programmes with at least one month’s notice.  Noting that frequently Member States nominate a candidate whose qualifications may not be suitable for a particular vacancy, the inspectors write that merit should be the primary criteria for selecting senior managers.  Member States are responsible for putting forward fully qualified candidates.  The Office of Human Resources Management (OHRM), not senior Organization officials, should conduct basic screening to filter out candidates who do not satisfy mandatory eligibility criteria, and it should vet all background information on candidates on a short list before the list is forwarded to the Secretary-General.


While reportedly no position is reserved for any Member State, Annex II to the report, which gives an historical overview of Under-Secretaries-General and Assistant Secretaries-General or equivalent rank, shows that historically no Secretary-General has been immune to political pressure, in that regard.  The inspectors believe that if all vacancies are announced and announcements are sent to all Member States and United Nations funds and programmes, the requirement that no national of a Member State should succeed a national of the same State in a senior post will be met.  For positions where the Assembly has decided that there be geographic rotation between the “North” and the “South”, candidates should be sought only from the region whose turn it is to hold the position.


The inspectors recommend, among other things, that the Assembly direct the Executive Office of the Secretary-General to set up and maintain a dedicated website to convey specific information on senior appointments to Member States and potential candidates.  The Assembly is also asked to endorse the guidelines in paragraph 87 (a) to (l) of the present report and direct the Secretary-General to follow them in tandem with the process outlined in the Secretary-General’s accountability report. 


The Secretary-General’s note (document A/66/380/Add.1) transmits his comments on the above-mentioned JIU report and the inspectors’ recommendations.  He points to progress in posting vacancies online, when feasible, and the fact that he has developed a web page with information on upcoming vacancies (un.org/sg/vacancies/index.shtml), which will be updated to convey specific information on senior appointments.  He states, however, that the inspectors’ recommendation that information be disclosed to the public and Member States on the web page requires careful study to ensure that the information does not mislead the intended audience and safeguards the confidentiality of the process and the privacy of candidates and panel members.  He supports 8 of the 12 guidelines set forth by the JIU and notes that most of them are in line with the established practice for appointing senior managers. 


The Secretary-General’s note on accountability frameworks in the United Nations system (document A/66/710) transmits the JIU’s report on accountability frameworks in the United Nations system (document JIU/REP/2011/5), which assesses the system’s existing frameworks and identifies gaps and good practices in developing and implementing them.  It lists the 17 benchmarks identified by the Inspector to measure a robust accountability framework based on transparency and a culture of accountability and it recommends follow-up studies to test their implementation.  Seven United Nations organizations have comprehensive stand-alone formal accountability frameworks; and three Secretariat entities have programme-level accountability frameworks, which include the basic elements of an internal control system.  Despite advances, more work is needed in risk assessment, information and communication, particularly the creation of mechanisms such as an ombudsperson and mediator to field complaints from the general public, beneficiaries and other stakeholders.   


The report gives two recommendations to legislative bodies and five to executive heads of the system’s organizations.  It suggests that legislative bodies make decisions based on a results-based management approach and ensure that the requisite resources are allocated to implement strategic plans and results-based management.  It recommends that executive heads develop stand-alone accountability frameworks, based on the report’s benchmarks, as a matter of priority; incorporate evaluations into their annual reporting; inform staff of staff disciplinary measures by publishing lists describing the offence and measures taken while ensuring anonymity of the staff member concerned; instruct their human resource divisions to install mechanisms for recognizing outstanding performance; establish an information disclosure policy to heighten transparency and accountability; and conduct follow-up evaluation on implementing the accountability frameworks for the Assembly’s consideration in 2015. 


In a note (document A/66/710/Add.1), the Secretary-General transmits his comments and those of the United Nations System Chief Executives Board for Coordination (CEB) on the above-mentioned accountability report, which they believe includes useful information on benchmarking accountability, and endorse the thrust of the recommendations.    


The Secretary-General’s note entitled review of enterprise risk management in the United Nations system (document A/65/788) transmits a JIU report by the same name.  It lists 10 benchmarks for the successful implementation of an “enterprise risk management” (ERM) framework — whose objective is to help ensure the sustainability of the organization and to enable it to meet its goals — which ranged from the adoption of a formal ERM policy to the implementation of a time-bound action plan to the creation of a formal risk management process.


The JIU recommends that executive heads of the United Nations should adopt the first nine benchmarks set out in the report, with a view towards ensuring that the ERM approach was accepted and implemented in line with best practices.  It recommends that governing bodies exercise their oversight role regarding adoption of the ERM benchmarks, the effectiveness of implementation and the management of critical risks in their respective organizations.  Finally, it recommends that the Chief Executives Board, through its High-level Committee on Management, adopt benchmark number 10 on interagency cooperation and coordination, including the development of a common ERM framework, knowledge-sharing mechanisms, and management of common and cross-cutting key organizational risks.


In another note (document A/65/788/Add.1), the Secretary-General transmits his comments and those of CEB on the above-mentioned JIU report.


On appointments to fill vacancies on the Committee on Contributions and the International Civil Service Commission, the Committee considered two reports.  In connection with the resignations of Shigeki Sumi (Japan), effective 1 February, and of Hae-yun Park (Republic of Korea), effective 6 February, the Secretary-General’s note (document A/66/102/Add.1) transmits the curricula vitae of the two candidates nominated to fill the vacant positions on the Committee on Contributions, including Kazuo Watanabe to replace Mr. Sumi, whose term expires on 31 December 2012, and Dae-jong Yoo, to replace Mr. Park, whose term expires on 31 December 2014.


In another note (document A/66/694), the Secretary-General transmits the curriculum vitae of a candidate, Luis Mariano Hermosillo (Mexico), who had been nominated to fill a vacancy arising from the resignation of Gilberto Paranhos Velloso (Brazil), effective 6 October 2011, from the International Civil Service Commission.  Mr. Hermosillo would carry out the remainder of the term, set to expire on 31 December 2013.


Accountability


ANGELA KANE, Under-Secretary-General for Management, introduced the Secretary-General’s report on progress towards an accountability system in the United Nations Secretariat (document A/66/692).  She pointed to five particularly noteworthy achievements in the past two years.  One year ago, the Secretariat launched an intranet website on accountability.  The cornerstone of a communications campaign to raise awareness and promote a culture of accountability among staff, the website consistently ranked among the leading pages providing original content on the Secretariat’s intranet.  The Secretariat had also completed a review of the delegations of authority related to human resources, as well as financial and property management, to establish clearly who had the authority to make specific decisions and actions and to identify the legal source of authority of each delegation.


The Secretariat had introduced a data-driven and goal-focused Human Resources Management Scorecard that provided timely performance information relevant to the monitoring needs of managers and other stakeholders, she said.  It had been streamlined into the senior managers’ compact.  The Secretariat had reformed the performance appraisal system to strengthen managerial accountability and shift the focus from compliance to advisory support, with an emphasis on career and staff development.  It had also promulgated and tested a policy for Secretariat-wide implementation of enterprise risk management. 


She noted substantial progress towards strengthening the Secretariat’s processes for ensuring that the oversight bodies’ recommendations were implemented.  “We have clearly defined the roles and responsibilities of the officials responsible for responding to these recommendations, and the Management Committee is now taking a more proactive role in monitoring implementation,” she said.  Out of 16,694 recommendations issued by the Office of Internal Oversight Services (OIOS) between 1999 and November 2011, 81 per cent had been implemented and 8 per cent were outstanding.


She noted a similar track record of effective implementation in terms of the findings and recommendations of the Board of Auditors.  The Secretariat was working closely with JIU to improve the rate of implementing the latter’s recommendations in the context of the JIU’s upcoming web-based tracking system.  The JIU’s recent comparative analysis of various accountability frameworks in the United Nations system, as well as several other prominent international public institutions, revealed that the Secretariat’s framework included most of the key components of such a framework. 


“Strengthening accountability is a continual work in progress, and more work remains to be done,” she said.  For example, in the area of results-based management, the Secretary-General’s Change Implementation Team and other Secretariat staff were developing an appropriate methodology and implementation strategy for the unique context of the United Nations.  The Secretary-General was committed to working with all relevant stakeholders to identify areas in need of strengthening. 


COLLEN KELAPILE, Chair of the Advisory Committee on Administrative and Budgetary Questions, said that, while the Secretary-General’s report described the administrative policies, and systems implemented or envisaged under each of the areas of the accountability framework, it provided few details or information on the weaknesses they were intended to address.  In addition, it also lacked a timetable for their implementation and the next steps forward.  The Advisory Committee, therefore, recommended that the Secretary-General be requested to improve the content of future progress reports by providing more complete and transparent information on the measures and analysis of the impact of their application, with key performance indicators and statistical information to substantiate results.


The Advisory Committee welcomed the launching of an “Accountability A to Z” portal, he said, noting, however, that the portal was only a “first step” towards the development of a culture of accountability.  The exemplary leadership of senior management was critical to setting the tone for that culture; moreover, a failure to hold senior managers to account had a negative impact on setting the standards of accountability throughout the Organization.  The Advisory Committee also welcomed the progress reported in improving follow-up to and monitoring implementation of the recommendations of the oversight bodies.  Prompt action to address and eliminate the weaknesses identified by oversight bodies was another integral component of an effective accountability system.


The information contained in the Secretary-General’s report was insufficient to enable a clear understanding of the comprehensive review process and its findings, the functioning of the new systems of delegation of authority and the improvements that it was intended to bring about, he continued.  The Committee reiterated its earlier recommendations that the Secretary-General should provide further details on the revised system of delegation of authority, the mechanisms for monitoring the exercise of delegated authority and the measures to be taken in case of mismanagement or abuse of such authority.


The Committee would comment further on the performance management policy and the reform of the performance appraisal system in the context of its consideration of the Secretary-General’s proposals on human resource management in the fall, he said.  In that vein, the Committee recommended that the Secretary-General be requested to assess, and rigorously apply, the accountability measures in place for dealing with cases of underperformance, and to report comprehensively on that matter.


MOUNIR ZAHRAN, Chairman of the Joint Inspection Unit, introduced the report entitled, “Accountability Frameworks in the United Nations system” (document JIU/REP/2011/15), noting that the Unit had presented the report to the Secretary-General late last year for his consideration in drafting his own report on accountability.  In an addendum to the report, he said, the Chief Executives Board had noted its appreciation for the benchmarks contained in the report and noted that the recommendations addressed to the executive heads would be taken up.


The objective of the report was to map out and assess the existing accountability frameworks of the United Nations system, he continued, and to identify gaps in organizations that did not possess a formal accountability framework.  In addition, the report identified good and best practices in developing and implementing accountability frameworks or its components; and it stressed the complexity of the concept of accountability, which went beyond the requirement of having an internal control system or enterprise risk management process in place.  Strong emphasis was put on the importance of realizing two pillars, namely transparency and a culture of accountability.


The report identified five principles and 17 benchmarks that served as a road map for assessing the degree to which accountability was realized.  It identified seven United Nations organizations that so far possessed stand-alone accountability frameworks, namely:  the International Labour Organization; the United Nations; the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP); the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA); the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF); the United Nations Office for Project Services (UNOPS); and the World Health Organization.  Missing from the frameworks of the United Nations, UNFPA and the World Health Organization was the identification of a culture of accountability as one of its pillars.  “The culture of accountability needs further efforts to reach maturity across the United Nations system”, he said, adding that the consistent application of discipline and rewards was “sorely needed”.


On the issue of transparency in the selection and appointment of senior managers, he said that, for the purposes of the report, senior managers were defined as Deputy Secretary-Generals, Under-Secretary-Generals and Assistant-Secretary-Generals, and that the scope was limited to the United Nations Secretariat.  For the most part, Member States had no major concerns with the appointment and selection process of senior managers, he said.  Instead, concerns dealt with the selection process itself, which was seen as “opaque”.  The Joint Inspection Unit, for its part, agreed that the process was, indeed, opaque.  Discretionary authority did not mean that the Secretary-General had “carte blanche”, he noted, adding that transparency should not be avoided.


The process should be open and transparent without jeopardizing the privacy of candidates or the confidentiality of the interview process.  The Joint Inspection Unit had recommended that the General Assembly direct the Executive Office of the Secretary-General to set up and maintain on a monthly basis a dedicated website to convey specific information to Member States.  It had also recommended that the General Assembly endorse the guidelines contained in its report in tandem with the process outlined in the Secretary-General’s previous accountability report (document A/64/640).


The Secretary-General’s comments on the Joint Inspection Unit’s report continued the existing process with no change and no improvement; and the comments were a “clumsy attempt” to justify an opaque process.  The Unit was disappointed with the “business as usual” approach, and was concerned that the Secretary-General’s response to the report focused attention away from many of the important issues raised.  Those included the need to rationalize and streamline the number and title of Under-Secretary and Assistant Secretary-General posts, the proper vetting of candidates, and other matters.


CIHAN TERZI, Inspector of JIU, then introduced that body’s report on the review of the enterprise risk management in the United Nations (document A/65/788), which listed 10 JIU benchmarks and three recommendations to successfully implement enterprise risk management in the United Nations.   The report embraced a wide range of findings, analysis and suggestions regarding both theoretical aspects and successful implementation of benchmarks, including the provision of refined criteria, standards and benchmark implementation indicators to achieve best practices for organizational use.  He was pleased that organizations mostly agreed with the JIU’s recommendation that executive heads of the United Nations implement the first nine benchmarks set out in the report.  Their full implementation would require resources to create dedicated ERM support, use of special software and a wide range of training. 


He noted that organizations had supported the third recommendation, albeit with some reservation, over the possible development of a common policy and risk universe, among the elements suggested in benchmark number 10, due to the lack of homogeneity of operations and mandates across agencies.  He recognized that different structures and mandates might require flexibility in designing and implementing ERM policies, but it should not prevent creation of a common policy approach.  


ADNAN ISSA, Executive Officer, Executive Office of the Secretary-General, introduced the Secretary-General’s note (document A/66/380/Add.1), which transmits the latter’s comments on the JIU report on transparency in the selection and appointment of senior managers in the United Nations Secretariat (document JIU/REP/2011/2).  He said the selection and appointment process was complex and each Secretary-General may have a different approach to it.  The Secretary-General required a measure of flexibility and discretion to be able to select a cohesive senior management team that worked in synergy.  The core principle for recruitment was merit.  The Secretary-General must also take into account other important elements, such as the need to ensure equitable geographical distribution and gender representation.


“As the Secretary-General embarks on his second term, he is keen to ensure the right mix of change and continuity in his senior leadership team and intends to build a new team that is strong on substantive issues and diverse in composition and whose members complement one another,” he said.  The five-year rule would be applied across the board, as it was five years ago when the Secretary-General first assumed office.  Such a move would demonstrate the Secretary-General’s firm commitment to mobility and to leading by example by providing a top-down push to the ongoing human resources management reform, which included mobility schemes.  The Secretary-General also intended to balance the need to bring a fresh perspective to address major challenges with the need to maintain continuity of purpose and priorities. 


The Secretary-General had decided to seek nominations for the first batch of eight Under-Secretary-General positions in the Department for General Assembly and Conference Management, Department of Public Information (DPI), Department of Political Affairs, Department of Economic and Social Affairs, Office for Disarmament Affairs, Office of the Special Advisor on Africa, Economic Commission for Africa (ECA) and the Economic Commission for Europe.  The Secretary-General had posted ads for those jobs on his webpage, the delegates’ webpage and in publications such as The Economist, Le Monde and Jeune Afrique.  Those changes had been announced in advance to provide ample time for receiving and reviewing nominations and to ensure a smooth transition between incumbents.  That effort would supplement the Secretary-General’s own search and consultations, as well as demonstrate his commitment to having an inclusive, objective selection process. 


The Secretary-General had also sought nominations for two Under-Secretaries-General positions, including one in the Department of Management and one in the Department of Field Support, he said.  Three of the 10 positions had been filled including for the Office for Disarmament Affairs, Economic Commission for Europe and the Office of the Special Adviser on Africa.   The Secretary-General had also already appointed the Deputy Secretary-General and his Chef de Cabinet.  The Secretary-General intended to make more announcements in the coming weeks on other senior posts, as the relevant selection processes were completed.


KENNETH HERMAN, Senior Adviser on Information Management Policy Coordination for the Secretariat of the United Nations System Chief Executives Board for Coordination, then introduced two notes of the Secretary-General, conveying his comments and those of the Board members on the reports of the Joint Inspection Unit, entitled “Accountability frameworks in the United Nations system (document A/65/710/Add.1) and “Review of enterprise risk management in the United Nations system” (document A/65/788/Add.1).


With respect to the former report, he said, agencies generally supported the content and conclusions.  They endorsed the opinion of the Joint Inspection Unit that the substance of the accountability framework was more important than its form, and agreed that it was the culture of accountability and the actual application of accountability that counted.  While they generally accepted the spirit of the recommendations, they expressed some reservations, for example, on one recommendation that called for the development of information disclosure policies.  In that respect, the agencies suggested that those policies needed to include sufficient safeguards to fully protect the interests of the organizations.


The note on “Review of enterprise risk management in the United Nations system” (document A/65/788/Add.1) states that the Chief Executives Board members recognized the importance of enterprise risk management and believed that a well-structured approach could help their organizations deliver on their mandates.  Agencies had noted, and generally accepted, the recommendations contained in the report, but they have also noted some concerns with several of the benchmarks.


Regarding the report’s first recommendation, which focuses on the adoption of JIU’s first nine benchmarks, agencies have indicated concern regarding benchmark six, which states that successful implementation of ERM requires adequate funding, a view that the agencies strongly supported.  But, they note the challenge of identifying dedicated resources for ERM projects, especially in an environment of limited financial budget flexibility.  Thus, they faced the limitations of proceeding without appropriate resources and the consideration that, for many agencies, ensuring adequate resources might go beyond the mandate of executive heads.


On JIU’s second recommendation, which focuses on the oversight role of governing bodies in the adoption of ERM benchmarks, agencies welcome the potential role of those bodies to support the development of comprehensive ERM processes.  The agencies support the third and final recommendation, which focuses on interagency cooperation, albeit with some reservations.  Agreeing that there is merit in creating an informal network of risk practitioners across the United Nations system, they nonetheless note that the rest of the recommendation (i.e. to develop a system-wide risk universe based on unified standards, policies, frameworks and practices) might prove challenging to achieve.


Statements


MOURAD BENMEHIDI (Algeria), speaking on behalf of the Group of 77 and China, addressing the issue of accountability, expressed deep concern that the basic and fundamental professional principles for international civil servants had not been fully upheld by the Organization’s leadership.  The Secretary-General must lead by example.  “It is with consternation that we concur with the ACABQ that his failure to hold senior managers to account has a negative impact on setting the standards of accountability throughout the Organization,” he said.  The Secretary-General’s report provided a description, but few details on the accountability measures themselves, their underlying principles, the weaknesses they intended to address, their timetable for implementation, or the next steps envisaged.


The Group, he said, would have preferred to have information on the mechanisms for monitoring and reporting on the application of measures listed in the report, the indicators and performance data used to measure progress, and an analysis of their effectiveness in strengthening accountability.  The absence of details on progress in strengthening accountability gave the impressions of a poor commitment in implementing an effective accountability system.


Moreover, the report showed no progress in performance reporting and results-based management, which was yet another example of the lack of willingness to foster a strong culture of accountability throughout the Secretariat, he said.  Turning to the Secretary-General’s Change Management initiative, he expressed again his consternation over the multitude of initiatives being implemented without any legislative mandate, when they clearly fell under the Assembly’s purview.  He asked that the change management report be distributed for the Assembly’s proper consideration, so as to build trust.


Some elements of the Secretariat had demonstrated a sense of detachment from their responsibilities towards the United Nations membership, he said.  “More than once we have been presented with a fait accompli, reflecting only the interests and views of some Member States.”  In recent months, there had been many rivalries among senior managers and several attempts to usurp the intergovernmental process.  He pointed to the “appalling” crisis that Umoja faced for nearly 10 months.  That case, clearly, was an example of failure of accountability, and also a lack in the application of principles, mechanisms and methods of accountability for the day-to-day management of the Organization’s activities.  He asked for a full review of the causes and circumstances that led to the crisis and for appropriate sanctions.   He also endorsed the Advisory Committee’s recommendation to request that the Secretary-General submit for the Assembly’s consideration an annual report on progress in implementing the accountability framework.


GERARDUS ANTONIUS WILHELMUS VAN DEN AKKER of the delegation of the European Union, while commending the Secretary-General for the efforts undertaken to promote a culture of accountability, nonetheless expressed disappointment at the lack of in-depth analysis of the factors contributing to a strong culture of accountability, including the role of leadership, a rigorous performance appraisal system and a comprehensive system of rewards and sanctions.  It also regretted that the Committee’s report came at a very late stage.


“Achieving a culture of accountability is complex but crucial for any organization to deliver results in an effective and transparent manner”, he said.  Indeed, accountability would only work when there was mutual trust, true cooperation, common objectives, reliable measurements and associated rewards, recognition, incentives and corrective action.  The European Union shared the view of the Secretary-General that much work was needed to mainstream the culture of accountability into the day-to-day functioning of the United Nations.  “The tone should be set at the top,” he said in that respect, adding that the work of the Change Management Team would contribute to that end.


However, the European Union was deeply concerned about the management and governance crisis of UMOJA that still persisted.  “It clearly sends a contradictory message about the need for managers to be in the forefront of institutional and personal accountability,” he said.  Meanwhile, a foundation of enterprise risk management had been laid, but it was only a start.  Enterprise risk management should ultimately become part and parcel of the daily work of United Nations officials.  The European Union believed that risk management should be streamlined throughout the Organization and embedded in each and every function, rather than being the responsibility of a centralized office.


MATTHIAS DETTLING ( Switzerland), also speaking on behalf of Liechtenstein, welcomed the Secretariat’s steps to create an accountability system.  But, he agreed with the Advisory Committee that the Secretary-General’s report on that matter should have provided better evidence of the progress made thus far.  More systematic key performance indicators and relevant statistical data should be used to illustrate progress, in order to provide more clarity.  He lauded the Secretary-General’s progress towards developing an ERM framework and was encouraged by the positive experience of applying it in the Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs and in the Capital Master Plan.  He welcomed the development of an ERM and internal control policy.  He would carefully study the Secretary-General’s proposal to create a dedicated ERM and internal control function within the Office of the Under-Secretary-General for Management.  He looked forward to new proposals on results-based management and performance reporting — both critical aspects of the accountability framework.  The Committee should be informed as soon as possible on the Secretariat’s progress on that matter.


He strongly encouraged the Secretariat to continue and intensify efforts to create an effective accountability system.  While more time was needed, he cautioned against an open-ended process that would continue to occupy the Committee’s time indefinitely.  The scope and framework should be clarified by asking what exactly the Organization wanted to achieve in each field of the accountability framework, when the framework would be completed and when its monitoring phase would start.


* *** *

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