Delegates Urge Transparency, Flexibility in Assessing 2018‑2019 Programme Budget, Management Reforms, as Fifth Committee Opens Session, Approves Work Programme

GA/AB/4241
5 October 2017
Seventy-second Session, 1st & 2nd Meetings (AM & PM)

Delegates Urge Transparency, Flexibility in Assessing 2018‑2019 Programme Budget, Management Reforms, as Fifth Committee Opens Session, Approves Work Programme

The Fifth Committee (Administrative and Budgetary) opened a new session today with members calling for transparency and flexibility in tackling the United Nations proposed programme budget for the biennium 2018‑2019, as well as the Secretary‑General’s proposals on reforming the management of the Secretariat.

At its organization meeting, the Committee approved a wide‑ranging programme of work covering crucial financial and human resources issues.  It set 8 December as the deadline for completing its work, and — as in years past — asked the Secretariat to ensure the timely delivery of reports.

The representative of the United States, noting that 131 delegations had signed a political declaration endorsing the Secretary‑General’s vision of reform, said the Committee was starting its work at a moment of opportunity.  Her delegation supported his efforts to ensure that management reform effectively underpinned and complemented the peace and security, human rights and development pillars of the United Nations, and looked forward to considering specific elements, she stated.

In a similar vein, the European Union’s representative said the meeting was taking place at a critical juncture for the future of the United Nations.  It would be for the Committee to connect the strands of reform to make the Organization more focused on delivery rather than process, he said, emphasizing that negotiations must be conducted in the most effective and expeditious manner.

Speaking on behalf of the “Group of 77” developing countries and China, Ecuador’s representative urged delegations to negotiate in an open, inclusive and transparent way.  It was the collective responsibility of Member States to take decisions that would enable the United Nations to fulfil its mandates efficiently.

Tommo Monthe (Cameroon), beginning his third turn as Committee Chair, invited delegations to participate in a sustained, interactive debate with moderation, humility and a spirit of compromise.  A new Secretary‑General was beginning his mandate, working to reinforce the Organization’s effectiveness and multilateralism in general, he said.  As “the committee of ways and means,” the Fifth Committee must do all it could to ensure that the Organization had the resources it needed to make progress and act in the interests of humanity, he stated.

Delegates then discussed the methodology to determine the financial contributions each Member State makes to the regular budget and to the peacekeeping operations.

The European Union’s speaker said that the Committee on Contributions’ review this year of the matter provided valuable recommendations for improving the assessment scale to reflect a more balanced, equitable distribution of each Member States’ financial responsibilities in line with their ability to pay.  However, Ecuador’s delegate, on behalf of the Group of 77, disagreed, saying the current methodology was intact and non‑negotiable.

The review was contained in the report of the Committee on Contributions’ seventy‑seventh session held in New York from 5 June to 23 June, which was introduced during the meeting by Bernard Griever, its Chair, Lionel Berridge, Chief of the Contributions and Policy Coordination Services, presented the Secretary‑General’s report on multi‑year payment plans.

The Committee also discussed the report of the activities of the Office of Internal Oversight Services (OIOS); Heidi Mendoza, Under‑Secretary‑General of the Office of Internal Oversight Services, introduced the annual report of that Office’s activities from the year ending 30 June 2017.

In addition, Maria Gracia M. Pulido Tan, Chair of the Independent Audit Advisory Committee, introduced its report on activities from 1 August 2016 to 31 July 2017.

Also speaking today were representatives of Singapore (on behalf of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations), Angola (on behalf of the African Group), Haiti (on behalf of Caribbean Community), Mexico, Norway, China, United Arab Emirates, India, Guatemala, Japan, Russian Federation, Libya, Switzerland (also on behalf of Liechtenstein) and the Philippines.

The Committee will meet again on Friday, 6 October at 10:00 a.m. to take action on a draft resolution on the scale of assessments, hear an address by the President of the General Assembly and the Secretariat’s statement on the financial situation of the United Nations, and discuss various aspects of the 2018‑2018 proposed programme budget, among other topics.

Opening Remarks

TOMMO MONTHE (Cameroon) invited members of the Fifth Committee (Budgetary and Administrative) to participate in a sustained, interactive debate with moderation, humility and a spirit of compromise.  Delegations should also consider the sense of the final outcomes of their negotiations.  A new Secretary‑General was beginning his mandate, working to reinforce the Organization’s effectiveness and multilateralism in general.  The Committee was also meeting at a moment when the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development was being implemented amid several challenges, including climate change.  Its work was therefore of essential importance.  It was the committee of ways and means and it must do all it could to ensure that the United Nations had the resources it needed to make progress and act in the interests of humanity.

Organization of Work

DIEGO FERNANDO MOREJON PAZMINO (Ecuador), speaking on behalf of the “Group of 77” developing countries and China, and emphasizing the Group’s desire to receive reports at the earliest possible date, said the Group looked forward to examining reports on the 2016‑2017 programme budget, Capital Master Plan, construction and property management, programme planning, human resources management, the United Nations common system and the proposed 2018‑2019 programme budget.  In that regard, the level of resources approved by the General Assembly must be commensurate with all mandated programmes and activities.

The Group would carefully examine the progress reports of the Umoja enterprise planning project, the Resident Coordinator System, the Strategic Heritage Plan and the administration of justice, he said.  It would also pay close attention to the progress of deliberations on the scale of assessments for the apportionment of United Nations expenses as well as revised estimates and programme budget implications.  Despite the complexity and volume of the work before the Committee, the Group was committed to concluding the items before it on time to ensure the Organization’s effective functioning.  Stressing the importance of negotiating in an open, inclusive and transparent manner, he said it was the collective responsibility of Member States to take decisions in the best interests of the Organization, enabling it to implement its mandates effectively and efficiently.

JOSEPH TEO CHOON HENG (Singapore), speaking on behalf of Association of South‑East Asian Nations (ASEAN) and associating himself with the Group of 77, said that in the coming months, ASEAN would be paying close attention to discussions within the Committee and reiterated the importance of the Secretariat receiving sufficient resources to efficiently and effectively fulfil the mandates approved by the General Assembly.  In particular, ASEAN would follow with interest the Committee’s deliberations on the proposed programme budget for 2018‑2019, construction and property management, special political missions and the Extraordinary Chambers in the Courts of Cambodia.  ASEAN noted the continuing importance of the role played by the Office of Internal Oversight Services (OIOS) and emphasized the importance of gender parity and balanced geographical representation within the Secretariat, especially at the senior levels.  Further, ASEAN would take an active interest in the Secretary‑General’s proposals for reform when they came before the Committee.

ABRAÃO GASPAR MARTINS (Angola), speaking on behalf of the African Group and associating himself with the Group of 77 noted that 2017 was a budget year, which meant that the Committee faced great challenges ahead in dealing with an increasingly heavy and complex workload.  In that context, the Group called on the Secretariat and the Advisory Committee on Administrative and Budgetary Questions (ACABQ) to ensure that Member States received reports well in advance so they had sufficient time to make informed decisions.  The proposed 2018‑2019 programme budget, the Resident Coordinator system, the administration of justice, construction and property management and the United Nations common system were issues of great importance for the African Group.

The Group noted that issues related to human resources management and special political missions, as well as the African Union‑United Nations Hybrid Operation in Darfur (UNAMID) and the United Nations Mission for Justice Support in Haiti (MINUJUSTH) were also on the agenda and emphasized that proposals related to financing the two peacekeeping operations should be considered by the Committee in a timely fashion, taking into account the challenges they faced.  The Group reaffirmed that negotiations within the Committee should be conducted in an open, inclusive and transparent manner, within the formally allocated time frame.  Further, the Group stressed the importance of respecting existing mechanisms for negotiations and the sovereign right of all Member States to express their views on the budgetary and administrative functioning of the Organization.  Negotiations should be conducted in a transparent manner, rather than in small group configurations.

PAUL ALLIANCE (Haiti) speaking on behalf of the Caribbean Community (CARICOM) and associating himself with the Group of 77, noted that the Fifth Committee would take up reports on various agenda items related to important subjects.  He noted with satisfaction that many of those documents had already been published, and in that context, CARICOM encouraged on‑going efforts to ensure reports were published in a timely fashion.  Given the expansive programme of work, CARICOM reiterated that delays in the delivery of documentation in all the official languages could seriously impact the work of the Committee.  During the session CARICOM would pay particular attention to the draft programme budget for 2018‑2019, the proposals of the Secretary‑General on management reform, including those related to the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR), the retirement system, the financing of MINUJUSTH, the construction and property management projects related to the Regional Commissions and the Strategic Heritage Plan for the United Nations Office in Geneva.  CARICOM reaffirmed its principle of carrying out negotiations in an open, inclusive and transparent manner.

JAN DE PRETER, European Union, said the Fifth Committee was meeting at a critical juncture for the future of the United Nations, with an agenda containing many important and complex items.  It would be for the Committee to connect the strands of reform to make the Organization more focused on delivery rather than process.  Such a responsibility would require a collective effort from all delegations, he said, emphasizing that negotiations must be conducted in the most effective and expeditious manner.  The Secretary‑General had been clear in his diagnosis that the United Nations was crippled by its own bureaucracy and overly complex decision‑making processes, he added.  The Committee must aspire to be part of the solution — strategic, open‑minded to change and honouring the trust put in the Secretary‑General and his team.  He went on to emphasize the need for the Committee to use its limited time wisely and effectively, to reach decisions by consensus during normal working hours, and to find a sustainable solution regarding time management of its second resumed session.  Concluding, he said the European Union’s member States wished to work with all Committee members in a spirit of constructive cooperation, consensus and collegiality.

JUAN SANDOVAL MENDIOLEA (Mexico), underscoring his country’s support for the Secretary‑General’s reform initiative, said the pace of reforms was key.  Bold reforms to build the United Nations of the twenty‑first century would require determination on the part of Member States, and in that regard the Committee’s work was essential, he said, asking the Secretariat for more details on, among other things, the way in which reforms would be implemented, evaluated and quantified, and how in practice a greater delegation of authority would work.  Doing so would address a lack of trust between Member States and the Secretariat.  He went on to emphasize the importance of all Member States meeting their contribution obligations as well as the special responsibility of the permanent members of the Security Council vis‑à‑vis peacekeeping.  Mexico would also be paying attention to the new justice support mission in Haiti and the United Nations Verification Mission in Colombia.

MAY-ELIN STENER (Norway) expressed hope that the current General Assembly session would turn out to be a session for change.  The Secretary‑General had presented a bold and ambitious reform agenda, and the work of the Fifth Committee would play an important role in promoting that agenda.  Norway requested that all Groups and Member States embark on negotiations on challenging issues with an open mind and consensual spirit.  Member States must ensure that adequate resources were available to fulfil the mandates that had been given, including with regard to the Human Rights Council.  A core value of the Committee was to work tirelessly towards consensus, even on matters where negotiations began with Member States supporting very different views.  Reform of OHCHR must be undertaken to allow that body to better assist Member States and regions.  Norway believed the Secretariat must assume financing its share of the Resident Coordinator system as a matter of principle and would closely follow the budget proposals for the new peace operations in Haiti and Colombia.

FU DAOPENG (China), associating himself with the Group of 77 and China, said the biennial budget should be set at a level that ensured the smooth fulfilment by the United Nations of its various functions and mandates.  Meanwhile, it was also necessary to control the budget’s size, follow strict financial discipline and improve utilization efficiency.  On management reform, efforts should always be led by Member States with the aim of improving efficiency and increasing the United Nations role in maintaining world peace and promoting common development and international cooperation.  With a heavy agenda before it, the Committee continued to face problems related to delays in document availability.  In that regard, he hoped the Secretariat would be able to prepare and circulate documents in a timely manner to support the Committee’s consultations.

CHERITH NORMAN CHALET (United States), recalling the high‑level event on United Nations reform held on 18 September, said the Committee was starting its work in the midst of proposed change and opportunity, with 131 reform-minded delegations so far having signed a political declaration endorsing the Secretary‑General’s reform action.  She said her delegation supported his efforts to ensure that management reform effectively underpinned and complemented the peace and security, human rights and development pillars of the United Nations, and it looked forward to considering specific elements.  In addition to the 2018‑2019 regular programme budget, the United States would closely scrutinize all items involving significant financial implications, including ongoing renovations in Geneva and construction projects in Nairobi, Bangkok, Santiago and Addis Ababa.  It also looked forward to considering the International Civil Service Commission’s recommendations and efforts to rationalize staff costs.  The session would also provide opportunities to ensure that the United Nations held every level of management accountable, with protection for whistle-blowers and a focus on results.  While the Committee’s agenda was heavy, the United States hoped that it could keep the broader vision of a better, more effective United Nations at the forefront of its deliberations.

Ms. MAHA (United Arab Emirates), associating herself with the Group of 77, noted that the Committee’s work programme included several priority items that were central to improving the work of the United Nations.  The United Arab Emirates had announced its support and commitment to reform the Organization by signing the political declaration on the subject, alongside 120 other countries that had expressed confidence in the Secretary‑General’s ability to lead reform efforts.  The United Arab Emirates looked forward to the launch of and full operation of such tools as Umoja and the International Public Sector Accounting Standards (IPSAS).  Her Government believed that the principle of gender balance in filling leadership positions would help the Organization function better and looked forward to furthering discussions on the principle of gender equality and geographical balance.  The United Arab Emirates also looked forward to the discussion on the Resident Coordinator system.

Ms. TRIPATHI (India), associating herself with the Group of 77, said her delegation was happy to note that many documents had been issued, and hoped that there would be enough time to evaluate the items before the Committee.  Conveying her country’s support for the Secretary‑General’s reform programme, she said it looked forward to the provision of adequate resources for the United Nations Office of Counter‑Terrorism.  While India understood the need to do more with less, rationalization must not undermine the ability of the United Nations to deliver on its mandates, she said, emphasizing also that a balance be struck between development, human rights, and peace and security in the allocation of resources.  She also noted the essential role of an adequately resourced United Nations in achieving the 2030 Agenda.

JORGE SKINNER-KLÉE (Guatemala) associating himself with the Group of 77, said that the Fifth Committee’s programme of work was extensive and ambitious, including discussion on the proposed programme budget for 2018‑2019, Umoja, the administration of justice, the Strategic Heritage Plan for Geneva, contributions to the Resident Coordinator system and other issues of importance, such as management reform.  A constructive and flexible approach would be required to achieve the necessary consensus in the time that had been established.  His delegation hoped to have the support of the Secretariat in terms of having documentation issued in a timely manner to avoid unnecessary delays in the Committee’s deliberations.

TOSHIYA HOSHINO (Japan) said his delegation would carefully analyse and judge the appropriateness of all potential additional resource requirements as well as the proposed programme budget.  As the Committee also had before it many other complex items, especially those related to United Nations management reform, he underscored the importance of increased efficiency and cost‑effectiveness of the Secretariat’s management and expressed support for the Secretary‑General’s initiatives in that regard.  “Budgetary discipline should also apply to our discussions on the reform initiative,” he said in that regard, adding that Japan was prepared to negotiate the 2018‑2019 proposed programme budget on the provision of relevant resolutions as well as all current rules and regulations.

SERGEY V. KHALIZOV (Russian Federation) said that the General Assembly agenda was full of issues that required close study and coordination between Member States.  He called attention particularly to the second report on the execution of the programme budget for 2016‑2017 and the draft programme budget for 2018‑2019.  He urged Member States to take a pragmatic approach and to strike a balance between savings and implementing the United Nations programmes and activities.  Any proposals on making additional allocations needed to be justified through a careful review of budgetary discipline and any possible savings should not be arbitrary or have a negative impact on the implementation of approved mandates.  Reforms of the United Nations system of management were of great importance to his Government.  It was clear that growth in expenditures were unacceptable for Member States.  He highlighted that the Committee would also consider the financial modalities associated with the Strategic Heritage Plan for the United Nations Office at Geneva, as well as proposals related to the Organization’s offices in Nairobi and Bangkok.

Scale of Assessments for Apportionment of United Nations Expenses

BERNARDO GREIVER, Chair of the Committee on Contributions, introduced its report (document A/72/11), which covered its seventy‑seventh session held in New York from 5 June to 23 June.  The Contributions Committee’s latest review of the elements of methodology of the scale of assessments, undertaken to reflect Member States’ capacity to pay, was detailed in chapter III, part A of the report.  The Contributions Committee agreed that the low per capita income adjustment continued to be an essential element in the scale’s methodology.  Committee members considered various options and had different views on the merits of various alternatives.  The body agreed that an alternative approach could be the world average per capita debt‑adjusted Gross National Income (GNI), rather than the unadjusted per capita GNI used in the current methodology.  That would address the asymmetry of comparing the debt‑adjusted GNI of Member States against an adjustment threshold based on the unadjusted GNI.  An inflation‑adjusted threshold was another approach.  The Contributions Committee decided to consider further the low per capita income adjustment in the light of guidance from the Assembly.

The current methodology included a maximum assessment rate, or ceiling, of 22 per cent; a maximum rate for the least developed countries, or LDC ceiling, of 0.010 per cent; and a minimum assessment rate, or floor, of 0.001 per cent, he said.  The Contributions Committee considered other suggestions and possible elements of the scale methodology, including large scale‑to‑scale changes in the rates of assessment and discontinuity, which were detailed in chapter III B, section 1.  Annual recalculation of the scale had first been considered in 1997 and since then been considered several times.  The primary benefits and drawbacks of annual recalculation were detailed in chapter III B, section 2 of the report.

As indicated in chapter V of the report, the Contributions Committee concluded that the failure of four Member States — the Comoros, Guinea‑Bissau, Sao Tome and Principe and Somalia — to pay the full minimum amount to avoid the use of Article 19 was due to conditions beyond their control.  The Contributions Committee recommended they be permitted to vote until the end of the current session.

LIONEL BERRIDGE, Chief of the Contributions and Policy Coordination Service, introduced the Secretary‑General’s fifteenth annual report on multi‑year payments (document A/72/71), saying that since the introduction of the multi‑year system, six Member States had successfully implemented multi‑year plans, enabling them to pay in full their assessed contributions.  The system gave due consideration to the economic position of Member States and remained voluntary, in nature, he noted, adding that payment plans were not necessarily required if a Member State in arrears wished to request restoration of voting rights under Article 19 of the United Nations Charter.  The remaining plan in the report was submitted by Sao Tome and Principe in 2002 and contained the status of implementation as of 31 December 2016.  No new payment plans had been submitted in recent years, although several Member States had indicated that the matter was under consideration.  The Secretariat stood ready to assist any Member State wishing to implement a multi‑year payment plan.

AMÉRICA LOURDES PEREIRA SOTOMAYOR (Ecuador), speaking on behalf of the Group of 77, reiterated its long-standing position that the Organization must be provided with sufficient financial resources to discharge its mandates and in that context, all Member States should pay their assessed contributions in full, and on time, without preconditions.  At the same time, the genuine difficulties faced by some developing countries should be fully taken into account.  The Group emphasized the importance of dealing with requests made under Article 19 and appreciated efforts by Member States that had submitted multi‑year payment plans.  The Group endorsed the Contributions Committee’s recommendations that Comoros, Guinea‑Bissau, Sao Tome and Principe, and Somalia be permitted to vote until the end of the Assembly’s seventy‑second session and called on the Fifth Committee to act promptly on that request.  Multi‑year plans should remain voluntary and not be used to exert pressure on Member States that were already in difficult circumstances, she stressed.

The current methodology for the preparation of the scale of assessments reflected changes in the relative economic situation of Member States, she stressed.  The Group reaffirmed that the capacity‑to‑pay principle was the fundamental criterion for apportioning United Nations expenses and rejected any change to the current methodology aimed at increasing the contributions of developing countries.  “The core elements of the current methodology of the scale of assessments, such as base period, Gross National Income, conversion rates, low per capita income adjustment, gradient, floor, ceiling for least developed countries, and debt stock adjustment must be kept in intact and are not negotiable,” she said.  The current maximum assessment rate, or ceiling, had been fixed as a political compromise and was contrary to the capacity‑to‑pay principle, she said, urging the General Assembly to carry out a review of that arrangement in accordance with paragraph 2 of resolution 55/5 C.  Further, she stressed that organizations with enhanced observer status at the United Nations should have the same financial obligations to the Organization as Observer States and called on the General Assembly to consider a decision on an assessment for such organizations.

JAN DE PRETER, European Union, said that this year’s review by the Committee on Contributions of the scale‑of‑assessments methodology was thorough and comprehensive and it provided “valuable recommendations that merit our fullest attention in our efforts to find ways to enhance the methodology”.  Funding the Organization was a joint responsibility of the whole membership and was essential to its sustainability and effective functioning.  “There is still room to improve the methodology if it is to reflect a more equitable and balanced distribution of the financial responsibilities among Member States according to their capacity to pay,” he said.

He maintained the European Union’s position that payment of assessment contributions in full, on time and without conditions was a fundamental duty of all Member States, but acknowledged that some Member States may at times face genuine, temporary difficulties in doing so and said multi‑year payment plans were an effective tool to help such States reduce their unpaid assessed contributions.  As such, the Union endorsed the Committee on Contributions’ recommendation to permit the countries that had requested exemption under Article 19 to vote in the General Assembly, he said.  He called on all partners to close the scale of assessments item as quickly as possible after a short round of informal consultations as discussing proposal that would deviate from Article 17 of the Charter was “not a good use of the Committee’s time”.

KATSUHIKO IMADA (Japan) said his country remained one of the Organization’s major financial contributors and always paid its dues faithfully despite facing continued domestic, financial and economic difficulties.  Each Member State should pay its assessed contributions according to its capacity to pay, he said, calling on the Committee to identify a methodology that would better reflect each country’s real and current capacity in a more equitable way based on the most current, comprehensive and comparable data available.  On the application of Article 19 of the Charter, Japan endorsed the recommendations of the Committee on Contributions regarding the exemptions to its application, while encouraging those Member States under the Article’s application to consider submitting multi‑year payment plans.

ADEL S. M. HAMASI (Libya), referring to section VI, paragraph 120 of the Committee on Contributions’ report, said that his country had paid its minimum assessed contribution on 7 August.

Programme Planning

Mr. MONTHE (Cameroon) drew the Committee’s attention to the reports of the Committee for Programme and Coordination (document A/72/16), the Office of Internal Oversight Services on strengthening the role of evaluation and the application of evaluation findings on programme design, delivery and directives (document A/72/72), and the Secretary‑General on proposed revisions to the Regulations and Rules Governing Programme Planning, the Programme Aspects of the Budget, the Monitoring of Implementation and the Methods of Evaluation (article VII and annex) (document A/72/73/Rev.1).

Ms. PEREIRA SOTOMAYOR (Ecuador), speaking on behalf of the Group of 77, said it appreciated the continued commitment by the Committee for Programme and Coordination in promoting accountability, monitoring and evaluating programme results across the Organization.  The Group’s priorities under this agenda item included the 2030 Agenda and the Addis Ababa Action Agenda.  Another priority for the Group was the New Partnership for Africa’s Development, and in that context, the Group expressed its support for the Office of the Special Advisor on Africa and recommended that the General Assembly emphasize the need for intergovernmental bodies to continue to take into consideration the views, comments and inputs of regional and sub‑regional organizations, including the African Union in their policy formulation.

The Group also took note of the work of the Joint Inspection Unit and encouraged the Secretariat to make better use of in‑house expertise in carrying out evaluations, she said.  Further, the Group expected the Secretariat to fully consider the need to consult widely with Member States before presenting proposals on management reform for the General Assembly’s consideration.

Office of Internal Oversight Services

HEIDI MENDOZA, Under Secretary‑General for Internal Oversight Services, introduced its report on non‑peacekeeping activities of the Office of Internal Oversight Services for the period from 1 July 2016 to 30 June 2017 (documents A/72/330 Part I and A/72/330/Part I (Add.1).  She said that during the reporting period, the OIOS issued 374 oversight reports, including 7 reports to the General Assembly and 30 closure reports.  The reports included 1,183 recommendations to improve internal controls, accountability mechanisms and organizational efficiency and effectiveness, of which 29 were classified.  Audit recommendations had been analysed and categorized into five integrated components of internal control, including, control environment, risk assessment, control activities, information and communication and monitoring.

She recalled that one year ago, the Office initiated a review of ratings assigned to audits, considering the management concerns and feedback based on the experience gained since the ratings’ establishment five years prior.  The OIOS had a large, complex portfolio of clients who operated in vastly different risk environments; therefore, a one‑size‑fits‑all approach towards report ratings was not the best fit for the Organization.  One year on, the Office remained convinced that overall conclusions were the most appropriate approach.

During the reporting period, OIOS had implemented improvements to help focus its work and improve accountability for its own resources, she said.  Both the Internal Audit Division and Inspection and Evaluation Division continued to revise their methodology to more effectively capture risks and ensure that work plans were aligned with the Organization’s enterprise risk management strategy.  The OIOS also continued to work in the Umoja environment with all three divisions engaged in learning activities to ensure that staff fully leveraged the wealth of system information.  Regarding investigations, the Office had undertaken significant recruiting exercises, she said, adding that beyond its work in sexual abuse and exploitation, it had made robust efforts to identify the risks and weaknesses in organizational governance, promote a culture of ethical integrity and combat fraudulent and corrupt activities that posed serious financial, operational or reputational threats.

Mr. MONTHE then draw the Committee’s attention to the reports of the Joint Inspection Unit, titled “The audit function in the United Nations system” (document A/72/120) and “Donor-led assessments of the United Nations system organizations” (A/72/298) as well as to the comments of the Secretary‑General and the United Nations System Chief Executives Board for Coordination (document A/72/120/Add.1 and A/72/298/Add.1).

MARIA GRACIA PULIDO TAN, Chair of the Independent Audit Advisory Committee, introduced its annual report (A/72/295) and noted that the first aspect of its mandate was to advise the General Assembly on measures to ensure compliance of management with audit and other oversight recommendations of United Nations oversight bodies.  During the reporting period, the Committee urged Management to continue to improve, especially when it came to the timeliness of implementation.  The second aspect of the Committee’s mandate related to the risk management and internal control framework, she said, highlighting that the Committee continued to see that management was making an effort in the implementation of enterprise risk management.  The Committee agreed with the recommendations of the Board of Auditors that the Administration develop a detailed implementation plan for all elements of enterprise risk management.  Further, the Committee would continue to monitor the risk to extra‑budgetary funding and management.

Turning to the third aspect of the Audit Advisory Committee’s mandate related to effectiveness, efficiency and impact of the audit activities and other functions of OIOS, she said that the Committee had focused on two broad areas — strategic planning, OIOS effectiveness and performance measurement and strengthening the investigation function.  The Committee was surprised to learn two weeks after that report was published, OIOS decided it would no longer rate its audit reports.  The Committee believed that decision was premature and recommended that OIOS review that matter and improve the transparency and objectivity of the ratings reports, rather than eliminate them.  On the Committee’s efforts to strengthen the investigation function, she reported that the Committee did not agree with the OIOS assessment that the central intake mechanism was not a priority and found the arguments used for delaying its full implementation unconvincing.  Concerning financial reporting, the Committee looked at the IPSAS, Umoja and internal control system and anti‑fraud policy.

Ms. PEREIRA SOTOMAYOR (Ecuador), speaking on behalf of the Group of 77, expressed concern that the OIOS’ investigative division had a high staff vacancy rate, which stood at 21.2 per cent as of 31 May.  Priority must be given to alternative innovative recruitment strategies so that the Office could effectively fulfil its investigative function.  She urged top management to actively lead enterprise risk management efforts, ensuring that risk management became a standard way of doing business.  She went on to say that some United Nations entities still lacked an effective evaluation function because they either had no relevant policy or lacked expertise and resources.  In that regard, the Group of 77 called for sufficient resources and the establishment of evaluation policies.  Turning to the report of the Independent Audit Advisory Committee, she said it had made useful recommendations in a number of areas, adding that the Group understood that opportunities existed for further coordination and collaboration between OIOS, the Board of Auditors and the Joint Inspection Unit.

Mr. BODENMANN (Switzerland), also speaking on behalf of Liechtenstein, stressed that OIOS played a central role in the good governance and functioning of the Organization.  An appropriate degree of real and perceived independence from the management of the United Nations and the funds and programmes for which it provided oversight services was a vital precondition for any oversight function.  He underlined the critical importance of enterprise risk management as an integral and important management tool.  The Organization’s key risks should be the main focus of the oversight activity.  Regarding sexual abuse and exploitation, OIOS had done important work, but further efforts must be undertaken.  OIOS should identify the specific set of management controls that needed to be in place from the outset of peacekeeping operations, and those controls should then be audited so they could be further strengthened.

Ms. NORMAN CHALET (United States) commended OIOS for its investigations in 2016 and 2017 and for its renewed focus on tackling fraud and corruption, adding however that much work remained to be done within the Organization to address under‑reporting of fraud.  Regarding the OIOS’ investigative function, there had been a significant reduction in the time spent to complete an investigation, from 23 months in 2011 to 10 months now.  In that regard, she encouraged OIOS to continue working towards its target of completing investigations within six months.  With 31 substantiated allegations during the reporting period, it was imperative for investigations to be completed expeditiously.  The United States supported OIOS’ investigations into allegations of sexual exploitation and abuse, and urged it to continue those efforts to help achieve accountability and protect the Organization’s credibility.  She went on to encourage the OIOS to continue working with the Ethics Office to implement the Secretary‑General’s policy on protection against retaliation, to strengthen its use of data analytics and information from the Umoja environment, and continue moving towards performance audits.

TEODORO LOPEZ LOCSIN, JR., (Philippines), associating himself with the Group of 77, reaffirmed the separation between internal and external oversight bodies, whose distinct roles must be maintained while their cooperation should be encouraged.  Voicing support for the work of OIOS and satisfaction with its recently concluded quality assessment review of the Internal Audit Division — which had found that division “generally confirmed” to the standards and code of ethics of the Institute of Internal Auditors — he also encouraged continued efforts to break down silos in the work of OIOS.  In addition, the Independent Audit Advisory Committee had provided significant observations on how OIOS could be more effective in its renewed effort to combat fraud and corruption.  In that regard, he looked forward to a detailed explanation of the Office’s efforts to establish a proper functioning central intake mechanism during the informal consultations.

For information media. Not an official record.