Budget Committee Takes Up Report of Joint Inspection Unit, as It Begins Three-Week Resumed Session

1 March 2010

Budget Committee Takes Up Report of Joint Inspection Unit, as It Begins Three-Week Resumed Session

1 March 2010
General Assembly
Department of Public Information • News and Media Division • New York

Budget Committee Takes Up Report of Joint Inspection Unit,

as It Begins Three-Week Resumed Session


The Fifth Committee (Budgetary and Administrative) today began the first part of its resumed session, expected to last three weeks, approving the first week of its programme of work and taking up the report of the Joint Inspection Unit for 2009 and programme of work for 2010.

The Unit’s report was introduced by Gérard Biraud, Chairman of the Joint Inspection Unit ‑‑ an independent external oversight body of the United Nations -- who explained that a lack of resources would mean a drop in the number of yearly reviews conducted by the Unit, from 5 to 2, with the implication that there would be one review per organization every 12 years.  But, despite a serious staff shortage, the Unit was still able to produce 9 reports, 2 notes and 2 management letters in 2009. 

Information gathered over the years was revealing trends that allowed for more meaningful comparisons, he said.  However, less than 60 per cent of the Unit’s reports and notes on system-wide issues between 2006 to 2008 had been given due consideration by participating organizations, with a rate of implementation ranging from 38 to 50 per cent. 

He remarked that reports and notes on individual organizations showed a higher rate of acceptance, reaching 82 per cent in 2008, with implementation rates of 67 per cent, confirming that follow-up was primarily a matter of whether reports were being considered by organizations and their legislative bodies and secretariats.

He singled out five out of 19 organizations for not providing requested feedback ‑‑ the International Atomic Energy Agency, International Telecommunications Union, United Nations Environment Programme, United Nations World Tourism Organization, and the World Intellectual Property Organization.  That had happened, despite the mandatory ruling that every participating organization was permanently mandated by the Unit’s Statute to table any report or recommendation addressed to its legislative body for action.

Mr. Biraud also drew attention to a General Assembly resolution passed on the last day of its sixty-third session, in which the Secretary-General was requested to propose modalities for the establishment of an independent system-wide evaluation mechanism that would “bear in mind” the evaluation functions carried out by respective United Nations organizations, the Joint Inspection Unit and the United Nations Evaluation Group (UNEG).  Those modalities were to be presented at the sixty-fourth session.

He reported that the Unit received no reply to its letter to the Secretary-General, in which it expressed a commitment to being part of that system-wide process.  Two days before Christmas, the Unit received a note from the secretariat of the United Nations Chief Executive Board for Coordination (CEB), dated 22 December, titled “Proposal for the Establishment of an Independent System-wide evaluation mechanism ‑‑ draft prior to consultation”.  The note was received after a meeting between the CEB secretariat and the Joint Inspection Unit on 22 December, at which the Unit had reiterated its belief that no such proposal should be prepared without full discussion within the United Nations system.

The proposal would seek to revive a three-year old initiative proposed by UNEG, but, so far, feedback by UNEG members to the new version had been “very negative”, echoing the Joint Inspection Unit’s concerns.  There was no news on how the CEB secretariat planned to take the idea forward, he said, although a report by the Secretary-General contained in document A/64/589, dated 22 December, contained the thrust of that plan.

Mr. Biraud said the proposal took for granted that only a new unit could respond appropriately to General Assembly resolution 63/311, on system-wide coherence.  Establishing a new unit would duplicate the Joint Inspection Unit’s mandated work and that of existing evaluation offices, and was strongly discouraged by the Independent Audit Advisory Committee.

“The key question is whether a new central unit indeed would be necessary and provide assurances that system-wide evaluations get used by agencies and Member States,” he said.  “Should we create more oversight bodies, resulting in more reporting, while we don’t recognize that there is plenty of work that has been done and is not used?”

Kenneth Herman, Senior Adviser on Information Management Policy Coordination of the CEB secretariat, presented a note by the Secretary-General, who also acts as Chair of the CEB.  He said that, during the reporting period, the CEB had increasingly included issues that had a system-wide impact, which had led to more interaction between the two bodies.   Collaboration between the CEB and Joint Inspection Unit had improved immeasurably and, through its close working partnership with the Unit, the CEB had been able to receive its reports shortly after publication, allowing it to urge organizations to provide a more timely response.

When the floor was opened to delegations, the representative of Spain, speaking on behalf of the European Union, was among Committee members praising the Unit’s work and recognizing it as the United Nations only independent external oversight body.  Several were also pleased to note that, over the years, the Unit had been committed to making improvements in its working methods and procedures.

The representative of Yemen, speaking on behalf of the “Group of 77” and China, welcomed the Unit’s ongoing internal reforms and urged the panel to intensify its efforts to that end.  The extensive consultation process with all relevant stakeholders on the design of the Unit’s programme of work remained critical, and ensured that it focused “on issues of high priority, relevance and impact”.  While supporting measures aimed at system-wide evaluation, he cautioned against creating structures that duplicated work under way in existing entities.

The Group of 77 was also greatly concerned by “the slow or non-implementation of accepted [Joint Inspection Unit] recommendations, as well as those of other oversight bodies”.  This was unacceptable, and the delegation would seek clarification on the issue during forthcoming discussions on the Accountability Framework. In the meantime, he expected that full and expeditious implementation of all accepted recommendations would be ensured through the relevant mechanisms established by the Secretary-General and the CEB.  Finally, he regretted instances where Member States did not abide by General Assembly resolutions on the issuance of visas for official travel of inspectors and the Joint Inspection Unit secretariat, and he urged all such States to refrain from interfering in the panel’s affairs, and to help facilitate their work, without conditions.

The representative of Côte d’Ivoire, speaking on behalf of the African Group, echoed the concern of other speakers about non-implementation of the Joint Inspection Unit’s recommendations, which could ultimately lead to lagging implementation of critical United Nations mandates.  To that end, the African Group would await word on the outcome of the feasibility study on the Web-based system to follow-up the Unit’s recommendations.  On greater accountability within the Organization, he regretted the protracted manner in which the appointment of the Executive Secretary of the Joint Inspection Unit had been handled.  He also expressed concern that some inspectors had not been issued visas to carry out their official work, and he urged all Member States to help facilitate the work of those officials.

As noted by various speakers, other items before the Committee at this session include revised estimates of the 2010-2011 programme budget, special political missions, financing of the United Nations Institute for Training and Research (UNITAR), and review of implementation of General Assembly resolutions on financing issues, among others.

Speaking on the Committee’s agenda for the next three weeks, the representative of Yemen, again speaking on behalf of the Group of 77 and China, said the Group would only be in a position to endorse the proposed first week of the programme of work, in anticipation of changes to be made along the road.  He also expressed concern over the continued late issuance of reports, adding that reasons for their delay should be made known at the time of their submission.  In addition, because the Secretary-General’s report on accountability was issued only one working day before the beginning of the session and that the Advisory Committee on Administrative and Budgetary Questions’ report on that issue was not yet issued, the Group asked that the item be postponed to Monday, 8 March.

The representative of Pakistan, adding his voice to calls for timely issuance of reports, expressed concern, as well, at the Secretariat’s piecemeal approach in presenting its proposals.  He said working with fragmented information complicated the Committee’s deliberations and hampered its ability to make timely and informed decisions, while also noting that that practice escalated the overall cost of documentation.

The representative of Spain, speaking on behalf of the European Union and associated States, also stressed the importance of issuing documents in all official languages in time and noted some improvements in that regard.  At the same time, he said the European Union might consider “not discussing reports submitted late”. 

Reflecting on the outcome of the main part of the sixty-fourth session, Spain’s delegate added that the European Union had been satisfied that the budget was brought to a manageable level, while providing the Organization with the necessary resources to carry out its mandates.  At the time, the Assembly had recognized that methodologies used to calculate the scale of assessments both for the regular budget and peacekeeping operations could be further enhanced, and the European Union stood willing to engage in that review process.

In the context of accountability, Japan’s representative said being accountable was not seen in the establishment of a new system, but rather in the sincere effort to produce results.  He expressed his country’s “grave dissatisfaction” over the Secretariat’s failure to resume administration of the National Competitive Recruitment Examination, which was suspended last year.  Calling the problem “serious”, he said by not responding to States’ call for action, the Secretariat had barred an important path for young people seeking to participate in the United Nations’ work.

Observing one minute of silence for the victims of the Chilean earthquake, the Chair of the Committee, Peter Mauer of Switzerland, offered condolences to the friends and family of those affected, and paid tribute to United Nations staff that were providing assistance to victims.

Thanking the Chair for his remarks, the representative of Chile listed emergency preparedness response as a priority for his country, alongside other concerns such as staff recruitment, special political missions and conditions of services for ad litem judges for on the International Criminal Tribunals for the Former Yugoslavia and Rwanda, and the United Nations Institute for Training and Research (UNITAR).

Among many offering sympathy following the Chile earthquake, the representative of Japan noted that the earlier earthquake in Haiti had wrought unprecedented devastation on the country as well as United Nations operations present there, in particular the United Nations Stabilization Mission in Haiti (MINUSTAH).  He noted that, should there be additional need for resources, a request should be submitted to the Fifth Committee “expeditiously” and that adequate time be allotted for discussion should such a request be received.

Several of the delegates speaking today also congratulated the Chair of the Fifth Committee for being appointed Minister of Foreign Affairs of Switzerland.

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