10 March 2016
Seventieth Session, 27th Meeting (AM)

Fifth Committee Approves Board of Auditors’ Recommendations on Geneva Headquarters Renovation, Information and Communications Technology Affairs

Construction of New Facility for Criminal Tribunals Mechanism also Discussed

The Fifth Committee (Administrative and Budgetary) today approved a draft resolution supporting the Board of Auditors’ recommendations concerning the renovation of the United Nations Headquarters in Geneva and the Organization’s handling of information and communications technology affairs.

By the draft, approved without a vote, the General Assembly would accept the reports on those matters of the Board — a three-member independent expert body that audits the accounts of the United Nations organization and its funds and programmes — as well as endorse the corresponding reports of the Advisory Committee on Administrative and Budgetary Questions (ACABQ), to which the Board presents its findings and recommendations.

The renovation of the Geneva Headquarters and construction of a new building on its site, known as the Strategic Heritage Plan, was projected to cost SwF836.5 million ($869.54 million) and be completed in 2023.  Among its recommendations, the Board had called for steps to minimize time overruns and ensure security standards were included in the design phase of the project while devising specific plans to mitigate risks that could compromise stipulated costs or timelines.

On information and communications technology (ICT) affairs, the Board had raised concerns about the adequacy of the United Nations information security environment and progress in implementing the Organization’s revised ICT strategy, which aims to support Umoja and other organizational priorities, as well as harmonize existing infrastructure and processes.  The body had called on the Administration to, among other things, clarify the role and authority of the Chief Information Technology Officer in field operations, formalize corporate ICT policies and procedures, and set up a strong compliance framework.

Also today, the Committee examined progress in constructing a new facility at the Arusha Branch of the International Residual Mechanism for Criminal Tribunals.  Introducing the Secretary-General’s fifth report on the subject, Chris Boyd, Director of the Facilities and Commercial Services Division, said the project was scheduled for completion in May within the agreed budget of $8.8 million, and the project team had successfully managed modest schedule delays.  Carlos Ruiz Massieu, Chair of the Advisory Committee on Administrative and Budgetary Questions, presented that body’s corresponding report.

The representative of Thailand, speaking for the “Group of 77” developing countries and China, said the new facility’s construction was essential for the Mechanism to implement its mandate and he welcomed progress made.  Expecting that consultants would bear the direct and indirect costs resulting from their own errors, in line with established contractual agreement and not at the Organization’s expense, she said the Group sought details on how the delay in occupying the building had impacted rental arrangements.

Under the Committee’s agenda item on special political missions, Johannes Huisman, Director of the Programme Planning and Budget Division of the Office of Programme Planning, Budget and Accounts, introduced the Secretary-General’s report concerning the proposed 2016 resources requirements for the Analytical Support and Sanctions Monitoring Team concerning Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIL/Da’esh), Al-Qaida and the Taliban, as well as for implementation of Security Council resolution 2231 (2015).

Also speaking today were representatives the United Republic of Tanzania and the Russian Federation.

The Fifth Committee will reconvene at 10 a.m. on Monday, 14 March, to discuss flexible workplace at United Nations Headquarters.

2016-2017 Programme Budget:  Sanctions Monitoring Teams

JOHANNES HUISMAN, Director, Programme Planning and Budget Division, Office of Programme Planning, Budget and Accounts, introduced the Secretary-General’s report (document A/70/348/Add.9) on the Analytical Support and Sanctions Monitoring Team stemming from resolutions 1526 (2004) and 2253 (2015) concerning Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIL/Da’esh), Al-Qaida and the Taliban and associated individuals and entities; and Implementation of Security Council resolution 2231 (2015), under the heading “estimates in respect of special political missions, good offices and other political initiatives authorized by the General Assembly and/or the Security Council, Thematic cluster II:  sanctions monitoring teams, groups and panels”.

He recalled that, by resolution 2253 (2015), the Council had expanded the mandate of the Al-Qaida Sanctions Committee with regard to ISIL/Da’esh, calling for two more experts on the Monitoring Team plus additional administrative and analytical support resources needed to increase its capacity and strengthen its ability to analyse ISIL financing, radicalization and recruitment.  It also directed the Secretariat, with the Monitoring Team’s assistance, to build and maintain the enhanced data model approved by the Committee, with a view to completion by June 2017.  The proposed resource requirements for the Monitoring Team in 2016 totalled $1.97 million.

By resolution 2231 (2015), he continued, the Council had endorsed the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action on the Iranian nuclear issue, asking the Secretary-General to take administrative measures to facilitate communications with States and between the Council and Joint Commission, and to report to the Council every six months on its implementation.  The proposed resource requirements to implement the resolution in 2016 totalled $1.34 million.

The proposed additional resources for both the Monitoring Team and implementation of resolution 2231 (2015) totalled $3.31 million.  The termination of the mandate of the Panel of Experts on Iran on 16 January had left a projected unspent balance of $2.3 million.   The General Assembly was requested to authorize the use of the unspent balance and to also approve a net charge of $993,600 against the provision for special political missions, under section 3, Political Affairs, of the 2016-2017 programme budget.

CARLOS RUIZ MASSIEU, Chair of the Advisory Committee on Administrative and Budgetary Questions (ACABQ), introduced that body’s related report (document A/70/7/Add.44), recommending against approval of one of the 10 positions proposed for the Monitoring Team, as the functions of the proposed Administrative Assistant position could be provided from within existing capacity.  Concerning resources related to the enhanced data model, he stressed the need to ensure that any new systems/applications were aligned with the United Nations information and communications technology strategy and approved in compliance with all internal procedures and standards.  The Advisory Committee expected that the model and related system would be designed and developed in a manner that ensured that the same system could be reused for all sanctions committees without duplicated efforts, in the most cost-effective manner possible.

The Advisory Committee also questioned the continued requirement of four positions for maintaining and operating the system after the completion of the development and roll-out phases, he said.  It recommended that the Secretary-General be requested to keep the project under review and to present in his next budget, information on the project’s phases, differentiating between post and non-post resources required during each phase.  Thus, proposals for resource requirements should be adjusted.  Concerning resolution 2231 (2015) on the Iran nuclear issue, he recommended approval of the Secretary-General’s proposals.

Financing of International Residual Mechanism for Criminal Tribunals

CRAIG BOYD, Director of the Facilities and Commercial Services Division, introduced the Secretary-General’s report on the construction of a new facility for the International Residual Mechanism for Criminal Tribunals, Arusha Branch (document A/70/698), providing an overview of the project.  The project team had succeeded in managing modest schedule delays and mitigated the impact to achieve progress.

The Secretariat estimated completion within that the total approved project budget of $8.8 million, which included an approved contingency of $1.05 million, he said.  While adequate contingency funding was an essential prerequisite for the success of multiyear capital projects, the Secretariat continued to commit every effort to obviate the need for such funding, which had not and would not be used for discretionary changes outside the approved budget scope.  Every effort was being made during the final phase of construction to recover extra costs due to minor errors by consultants.

Mr. RUIZ MASSIEU, introducing the Advisory Committee’s report on the Arusha branch project (document A/70/772), expressed concern about the postponement of completion and occupancy dates.  The project should reach substantial completion in May 2016.  Further delays noted in in the Secretary-General’s report were due to errors by architectural and construction consultants.  The Secretary-General had not provided clear, transparent and consistent information related to direct and indirect costs arising from those errors, the consultants’ obligations for remedy and compensation and the actions required of the Organization to pursue mitigation measures with the contractors, in particular in negotiations to amend the contracts involved.

ACABQ recommended that the Assembly ask the Secretary-General to make every effort to claim and enforce full compensation from the contractors, he said.  As a matter of principle, compensation should be sought from contractors for costs resulting from errors or contractual non-compliance on their part.  Regarding project contingency provisions, ACABQ requested clarification of the Secretariat’s interpretation that contingency provisions were part of the approved project budget and were separated from the base project cost for presentation purposes only.  He pointed out that the Assembly had decided that all remaining unused contingency funds should be returned to Member States at the project’s conclusion.

SIRITHON WAIRATPANIJ (Thailand), speaking on behalf of the “Group of 77” developing countries and China, said the new facility’s construction was a necessary element for the Mechanism to implement its mandate and welcomed progress made.  Expecting that the direct and indirect costs resulting from consultants’ errors would be met by them, in line with established contractual agreement and not at the Organization’s expense, she said the Group sought detailed information of the impact related to the rental arrangements due to the delay in occupancy.

With regard to governance and oversight, she looked forward to receiving updates of the next assignment related to the construction stage in the context of the next report on the annual activities of the Office of Internal Oversight Services (OIOS).  The value engineering exercise should not undermine the quality, durability and sustainability of the materials used, the original design and the health and well-being of staff and visitors.  The Group agreed with ACABQ about the need to further clarify the value of assets and savings achieved from the transfer of assets from the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda and looked forward to receiving details on those matters in informal consultations.

JUSTIN KISOKA (United Republic of Tanzania), speaking for the African Group on the Mechanism’s new facilities in Arusha, expected that costs for temporary and permanent access roads, power and water connections and Internet connection infrastructure by the host Government would be documented for future reference.  He encouraged the Mechanism to work with host authorities to facilitate that exercise.  He noted with concern that construction had been delayed due to topographic errors by the architect, with a new estimated completion date in May, urging that all efforts be made to ensure the project’s completion within the new estimated timeframe and budget.

As the delay would cause extended rental of the current premises, he expected arrangements to be made to avoid disruption of work by the Mechanism and Tribunal.  In addition, OIOS should ensure close monitoring and oversight coverage of the project and advise managers as appropriate, he said, also looking forward to deliberations on the risk register and regulatory framework during informal consultations.  The Group would pay close attention to issues related to value engineering, lessons learned and best practices, and the transfer of furniture and assets.

Board of Auditors; Reports and Financial Statements:  Action on Draft Resolution

The Committee then took up draft resolution A/C.5/70/L.26, entitled “Financial reports and audited financial statements, and reports of the Board of Auditors”.By its terms, the General Assembly would accept the report of the Board of Auditors on the Strategic Heritage Plan of the United Nations Office at Geneva, accept the recommendations contained therein and endorse the conclusions and recommendations in ACABQ’s related report. 

The Assembly would also take accept the Board of Auditors’ report on progress in the handling of information and communications technology affairs in the Secretariat, approve the recommendations contained therein and endorse the conclusions and recommendations in the Advisory Committee’s corresponding report.

The resolution was then approved without a vote.

Other Matters

Mr. KISOKA (United Republic of Tanzania), speaking again for the African Group, expressed his “very serious” concern at the Secretary-General’s “alarming” introduction, printing and circulation of stamps under the “Free and Equal” campaign, which contravened the United Nations’ principles, as well as the culture, norms and beliefs of many Member States, casting a shadow on the adherence to rules and regulations governing use of the United Nations logo and resources.

The Group demanded the campaign’s immediate cessation and requested implementation of accountability measures, including recovery of the funds used to finance the stamp campaign, he said.  He also demanded the Secretary-General to provide details on the funds used for that campaign, as well as on the related rules and regulations.

SERGEY KHALIZOV (Russian Federation), supporting that position, agreed that the Secretary-General’s activities had caused serious issues for a range of delegations.  Consideration of the use of resources from the regular budget was a Fifth Committee prerogative.  He questioned the justification of mandates of leading United Nations bodies and said he was ready to engage in a discussion in the Committee on several issues raised by the African Group.

For information media. Not an official record.