|Department of Public Information • News and Media Division • New York|
Sixty-eighth General Assembly
30th Meeting (AM)
Fifth Committee Speakers Stress Importance of Health, Safety, Accessibility
Delegates in the Fifth Committee (Administrative and Budgetary) today underlined the importance of ensuring that all United Nations premises meet health, safety and accessibility standards, as they began the strategic capital review, an examination of the management of overseas property and construction projects.
Dayana Angela Rios Requena(Bolivia), speaking on behalf of the “Group of 77” developing countries and China, said she was anxious to hear proposals that would help Member States “approve a strategy for addressing the identified needs, ensure that all United Nations properties meet health, safety and accessibility standards, and better predict future maintenance requirements and capital investments”.
She said the Group had received information on future projects — including the Secretariat tower for the Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific (ESCAP), the old Economic Commission for Africa (ECA) office, office buildings in Addis Ababa and the old buildings in Nairobi — and expected to receive proposals as soon as possible in order to address the problems identified. There was a need to ensure commitment and accountability on the part of senior managers, both at Headquarters and in the field, she said. “Lessons learned from recent projects emphasize the critical need for close and regular oversight on capital projects.”
Stephen Cutts, Assistant Secretary-General for Central Support Services, presented the Secretary-General’s report on the strategic capital review (document A/68/733), noting that it had been published as the Organization undertook other major transformative initiatives, especially the adoption of International Public Sector Accounting Standards and the implementation of Umoja. Since the latter would enhance the ability to record and report on property value, as well as the effect of capital improvements, maintaining or increasing property would become a more central objective of capital planning, and budgeting for capital improvements would be more closely linked to asset management.
He said the report recommended the adoption of a life cycle replacement approach to capital planning, whereby such building components as roofs and electromechanical systems would be replaced in a systematic, scheduled fashion, rather than in a reactive manner. It also recommended increasing the overall level of capital investment relative to property value and introduced the possibility of establishing a capital fund for that purpose. An overall long-term view of a facilities capital investment programme as well as a prioritization and sequencing programme would be submitted for consideration by the next General Assembly session, he said. The programme’s ultimate goal was to avoid risky major capital projects while maximizing the use, and maintaining the value, of building and infrastructure assets in the most cost-effective manner available.
Carlos Ruiz Massieu, Chair of the Advisory Committee on Administrative and Budgetary Questions (ACABQ), introduced that body’s report (document A/68/796), saying that the Committee generally supported the key objectives of the strategic capital review, but expected the Secretary-General’s next report to include analysis concerning the implications of the proposed alternative workplace strategies, details of different industry standards and norms to be applied, and justifications for their application. The long-term capital programme should be flexible enough to adapt to different organizational initiatives, such as a possible new global service delivery model, he said.
Emphasizing the need for a reliable, consistent and realistic valuation methodology, he called for details on the applicability of comparable industry standards as well as explanations of any significant time variations. He pointed out, however, that since ACABQ was not yet in a position to recommend any related course of action to the General Assembly based on the review’s initial results, the Secretary-General should be asked to provide detailed information on those aspects of the review in his next report. He also called for greater precision in the use of terms applied “somewhat loosely” throughout the current report, including those relating to the properties to be incorporated into a long-term capital programme.
Given the subject’s technical nature and the need for a shared understanding going forward, he said, future reports should provide agreed upon definitions so that the review’s scope, content and nature would be clear. In order to develop a programme for the entire Secretariat, the initiative should be broadened to include all locations where the Organization either owned or managed premises that could have long-term capital requirements, irrespective of the source of funding for such operations. The Assembly should ask the Secretary-General to ensure proper coordination and coherence of technical guidance and oversight functions so that United Nations premises were managed efficiently.
The Fifth Committee will reconvene at 10 a.m. on Thursday, 20 March, to take up the capital master plan and other pending agenda items.
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