With the capital master plan in its final phase after nearly 15 years and an investment of $2.31 billion, the United Nations must take stock of lessons learned and best practices from the ambitious Headquarters renovation effort to guide the implementation plans of other capital projects and avoid losses, the Fifth Committee (Administrative and Budgetary) heard today.
América Lourdes Pereira Sotomayor (Ecuador), speaking on behalf of the “Group of 77” developing countries and China, put forward the suggestion — and emphasized the issues of accessibility, energy efficiency and maintenance — as the Secretary‑General’s fifteenth and penultimate annual progress report on the capital master plan (document A/72/294) was introduced to the Committee.
Presenting that report, Patrick Carey, Officer in Charge of the Department of Management’s Office of Central Support Services, said all construction work, including the landscaping of the North Lawn and security‑related work at the forty‑second and forty‑eighth street entrances, had been completed. Remaining tasks — namely administrative close‑out, reconciliation of accounts and payment of invoices — should be concluded by 31 December 2017, he said, adding: “I am also pleased to advise that the cost of all construction and close‑out activities is being met from within the existing approved resources for the capital master plan project.”
Substantial benefits had been realized from the plan, he said, with energy consumption for 2017 expected to be down 75 per cent from pre‑plan levels in 2006, resulting in monetary savings in utilities costs in 2016‑2017 of 47.9 per cent in comparison to the 2006‑2007 biennium, and of 14 per cent in comparison to the 2014‑2015 biennium.
As of July 2016, he said, total approved funding for the project and the final cost of completion was $2.15 billion. That figure comprised appropriations for the original project scope of $1.88 billion, donations of $14.3 million, interest income and the plan’s working capital reserve amounting to $159.4 million, and $100 million funding for enhanced security upgrades.
However, Babou Sene, Vice-Chair of the Advisory Committee on Administrative and Budgetary Questions, introducing its corresponding report (document A/72/536), noted that the plan’s final cost would be $2.31 billion, excluding the renovation of the Dag Hammarskjöld Library and South Annex Buildings, with a delay of almost three years in completing construction work. Among other things, the Advisory Committee recommended that the Secretary‑General closely monitor and optimize energy usage and carry out a review of Headquarters infrastructure to identify any gaps vis‑à‑vis accessibility.
Noting the Group of 77’s support for modernizing all United Nations facilities, Ms. Sotomayor recalled that the capital master plan — the largest and most comprehensive construction and renovation project undertaken by the United Nations — was initially projected to cost $1.88 billion for five buildings, against the current estimated budget cost of $2.31 billion for three buildings.
“The Group is of the view that it is imperative to systematically and thoroughly summarize and analyse information with regards to the lessons learned and best practices [from the capital master plan] so as to provide guidance to the implementation plans of other capital projects and avoid any loss to the Organization,” she said. In that context, the Group asked the Secretary‑General to include the project’s aggregate cost in his final progress report.
Emphasizing that accessibility remained a high priority for the Group, she said an assessment of the Headquarters compound should be completed to identify any gaps in the infrastructure compared with physical accessibility requirements under local building codes. She added that the Group welcomed savings realized by the plan’s implementation, but regretted that the Secretary‑General did not spell out how much money was saved through reduced energy consumption, and asked for more details in that regard in the next progress report. The Group was also disappointed with a lack of maintenance data due to the delayed deployment of the Umoja plant maintenance module and requested the Secretary‑General to give priority to that issue.
Anand M. Bajaj, Director of Internal Audit of India and Chair of the Audit Operations Committee of the United Nations Board of Auditors, introduced that Board’s report for the year ended 31 December 2016 on the capital master plan (document A/72/5 (Volume V)), saying that the outcome of two ongoing arbitration cases — involving the main contractor Skanska and two sub‑contractors, with the Organization a party to both — might impact the final cost. He also stressed the need for adequate personnel for basic preventative maintenance and voiced concern that the Administration had been unable to locate 208 out of 1,000 assets physically verified in four buildings covered under the Plan.
He went on to say that, despite an Energy Dashboard and Reporting Tool going into operation in January 2016, the Administration had been unable to demonstrate energy efficiency benefits. Moreover, he said, the effectiveness of accessibility elements, such as Braille signs and fully‑accessible toilets, could only be validated by those who used them. He also stated that the cost of implementation of flexible workplaces on three floors of the Secretariat building — with plans to cover five more floors during 2017 — would likely be offset by reductions in rent and maintenance by 2023.
The Fifth Committee will meet again at 10 a.m., on Tuesday, 24 October to consider the financial reports and audited financial statements of the Board of Auditors.