Fifth Committee Delegates Voice Support for $14 Million Project to Modernize Regional Economic Commission Headquarters in Chile

GA/AB/4253
9 November 2017
Seventy-second Session, 13th Meeting (PM)

Fifth Committee Delegates Voice Support for $14 Million Project to Modernize Regional Economic Commission Headquarters in Chile

Delegates in the Fifth Committee (Administrative and Budgetary) voiced support today for a proposal by the Secretary‑General to undertake a $14.19 million modernization of the Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean (ECLAC) premises in Santiago, Chile.

Dmitri Dovgopoly, Officer‑in‑Charge of the Office of Central Support Services, introduced the Secretary‑General’s report on the proposed renovation of ECLAC’s North Building (document A/72/367), recalling that, after the February 2010 earthquake in Chile, a technical evaluation had revealed the need for measures to mitigate seismic activity.

The proposed renovation project would address all safety risks while affording full use and accessibility for persons with disabilities, and making the premises net zero in terms of energy generation and consumption, he said.  Long‑term operational and maintenance costs would meanwhile be greatly reduced through the incorporation of innovative insulation features and more efficient lighting.

He said the Secretary‑General was recommending that the renovation project be undertaken as a single capital project with an estimated cost of $14.19 million over a six‑year period from 2018 to 2023.  The General Assembly was being requested to approve the project scope, cost and implementation strategy, the establishment of a dedicated project team and a multi‑year construction‑in‑progress account and to appropriate $192,000 for management and design in 2018.

Babou Sene, Vice‑Chair of the Advisory Committee on Administrative and Budgetary Questions, introduced the corresponding report (document A/72/7/Add.8), in which it recommended implementing the complete building renovation strategy.  It also recommended approval of the proposed scope of the project, suggesting, however, that the General Assembly defer its consideration of a proposal to establish a multi‑year construction‑in‑progress account until the next progress report.  The Committee noted that no basis existed for a comparison of the earlier cost estimates that had been put forward under the strategic capital review, and reiterated that the level of resources required for the Organization’s capital assets should be based on reliable, consistent and realistic evaluation methodology.

América Lourdes Pereira Sotomayor (Ecuador), speaking on behalf of the “Group of 77” developing countries and China, reaffirmed the importance of the implementation of the capital projects at ECLAC, in particular the renovation and modernization of the facilities, in line with United Nations standards and industry codes to address the health and safety concerns highlighted in the report.  The Group welcomed and supported the proposal to start the implementation of the project, including the estimated resources for the modernization of the facilities, she said.  Given the 2010 earthquake, it was time for mitigation measures to be put in place, and in that connection, the Group would seek clarification on the implementation strategies, including measures to shorten the duration of the project without undermining the scope and quality of work.  The Group noted the comments and recommendations from the Advisory Committee, including those related to the importance of making effective use of lessons learned from other capital projects and on the use of locally sourced and manufactured materials.  Further, the Group stressed the need to adhere to project timelines and cost estimates.

In other business, Mr. Dovgopoly introduced the Secretary‑General’s report on the strategic capital review (document A/72/393) on the development of a 20‑year projection of capital requirements across the global Secretariat.  Included in the report was updated information on cost‑benefit comparisons that had been assessed for the purpose of projecting capital requirements.  Due to the added costs of swing space requirements, additional soft costs for dedicated project management teams and additional remedial works, the Secretariat estimated that applying the recommended incremental recapitalization approach could save the Organization between 34 and 54 per cent in total capital requirements over the next 50 years.

Also contained in the report was an updated list of ongoing and proposed near‑term capital projects at Headquarters and elsewhere, he said, emphasizing that the Office of Central Support Services was, in response to General Assembly resolutions, strengthening its oversight role by establishing a risk management framework and strategy that would allow assessing project risks independently from assigned project teams.  He emphasized that the report was intended to help the General Assembly to consider cross‑cutting policy issues that affected capital planning across the Organization, and to begin planning for future capital requirements well in advance.  It was not intended to serve as a mechanism to seek approval for specific project proposals, which would be made either as part of the proposed programme budget or as stand‑alone proposals.

Mr. Sene, presenting the Advisory Committee’s corresponding report, (document A/72/7/Add.9), recalled that the Committee had previously expressed the view that more details should be provided on the potential costs and benefits of a preventive maintenance programme, including on future budgeting — a view that was endorsed by the General Assembly.  The Committee considered that the present report did not provide a cost‑benefit analysis on a preventive maintenance approach and until that analysis had been conducted, consideration of the Secretary‑General’s proposal would be premature.  In that context, the Committee recommended that the General Assembly request the Secretary‑General to undertake a cost‑benefit analysis of such an approach and to provide the projected financial implications.

Ms. Pereira Sotomayor said the Group of 77 and China took note of the progress made since the issuance of the previous report, including efforts to develop an updated cost‑benefit analysis, articulation of non‑quantifiable benefits of the proposed maintenance approach and an update on capital projects previously proposed by the Secretary‑General.  She noted that measures to eliminate physical, communication and technical barriers for persons with disabilities were also included in the report, as were details on the implementation of flexible workspace strategies and various sustainability initiatives.  The Group believed that incorporating the possible impacts of the ongoing and proposed business transformation initiatives would give a clear picture of the real accommodation needs in various United Nations buildings.  The Group was interested in learning more about the interaction of initiatives and proposals contained in the report, such as the implementation of Umoja, flexible workspace strategies and the global service delivery model, and would seek a better understanding of the risk identification and mitigation proposals.  Further project governance and oversight arrangements would be useful in ensuring effective management, accountability and transparency.  The Group would like the Secretary‑General to reflect on lessons learned on related projects with regard to project governance, to emphasize the need for the Organization to develop its existing in‑house capacity and to avoid, to the extent possible, the use of consultancies in the management of properties across all duty stations.

Hicham Oussihamou (Morocco), speaking on behalf of the African Group, said the Secretary‑General would continue to ensure that buildings were not left to substantially depreciate, and that efforts would be made to extend their useful life.  The Group trusted that the Secretary‑General would remain committed to guaranteeing the safety of personnel in various United Nations duty stations through the modernization and maintenance of property owned or managed by the Organization, including through the replacement of offices and site infrastructure, as well as the renovation of buildings.  Urging the Secretary‑General to adhere to industry norms and building codes related to health and safety, he stressed the need for the Secretary‑General to also comply with requirements laid out for persons with special needs.  The Group also noted the strategic capital review included some near‑term projects and capital expenditure related to the Economic Commission for Africa and the United Nations Office at Nairobi.

At the end of today’s meeting, Michel Tommo Monthe (Cameroon), Committee Chair, appealed to delegates to finish negotiations on four reports — dealing with the United Nations Institute for Disarmament Research, revised estimates relating to the Office of Counter‑Terrorism, pattern of conferences and the Office of Internal Oversight Services — before the United States’ holiday on 23 November.  Otherwise, he warned, the Committee risked going off schedule and “time will be our enemy”.

The Fifth Committee will meet again at a time and date to be announced in the Journal.

For information media. Not an official record.