Delegates in the Fifth Committee (Administrative and Budgetary) today criticized the Secretariat for the recurring delays and cost overruns enveloping the complex billion-dollar enterprise resource planning project — known as Umoja — as the Organization faces increasing fiscal constraints that are jeopardizing its delivery of mandates.
The observer for the State of Palestine, speaking for the “Group of 77” developing countries and China, asked the Secretary-General to ensure the Umoja project is completed at the end of 2020. “At a time of fiscal austerity and uncertainty across the Organization, we would continue to take a hard look at Umoja and apply a consistent standard of fiscal discipline to this project,” she added.
The Russian Federation’s delegate said words like “disappointed” and “concern” have consistently been used when discussing Umoja and the project’s promised benefits remain unclear. The total cost of the project was $248 million and has increased to more than $1 billion as the project’s timeline drags on. He asked the project director to provide a road map for the full deployment of Umoja and its extensions.
Singapore’s representative, aligning himself with the Group of 77, also criticized the time delays and cost overruns, adding that the Board of Auditors’ recommendations must be carried out in a timely fashion. The risk of fraud, emanating from gaps in application controls for processing vendor payments and maintaining master data, remain.
Catherine Pollard, Under-Secretary-General for Management Strategy, Policy and Compliance, introduced the Secretary-General’s eleventh progress report on Umoja and said the project plays a key role in carrying out the Secretary‑General’s reform initiatives. Significant progress has been made over the past year, she said, adding that the report includes a request for resources of $22.6 million for 2020, after adjusting a carry-forward of more than $12.7 million unused resources. The project cost estimates have remained stable since the eighth progress report, which demonstrate the project’s continued financial discipline.
In introducing the related report of the Advisory Committee on Administrative and Budgetary Questions (ACABQ), Chairman Cihan Terzi expressed concern about the Secretariat’s request for another extension of its timeline and the additional costs. The Assembly should decide to close the Umoja project on 31 December 2020, he recommended. The Advisory Committee also recommends that the Assembly ask the Secretary-General to include, in the proposed 2021 programme budget, a proposal on the methodology to be used to estimate Umoja costs during the maintenance period after the project’s closure, he said.
Also today, delegates discussed the administrative expenses of the United Nations Joint Staff Pension Fund, which carries a value of more than $60 billion and provides vital resources to more than 128,000 participants and beneficiaries.
The Russian Federation’s representative said that the Fund is effectively carrying out its mandate, with an annual rate of return that meets the planned 3.5 per cent benchmark as assets grow to $67 billion. He noted the importance of investments meeting the criteria of safety, profitability, liquidity and convertibility.
His counterpart for the United States said she is encouraged by the improved processing of cases within the 15-day benchmark yet is concerned with the significant backlog of open workflows. She called for more concentrated and effective efforts to address the causes of delays.
The observer for the State of Palestine, again speaking for the Group of 77, said it will examine the merits of the Pension Board’s 2020 budget estimates, which total $102.13 million, an increase of $9.68 million compared with the revised 2019 appropriation. The Group welcomes the Fund’s commitment to improve its capabilities to help clients, its plans to separate client services from operations, and the creation of two clients service hubs in Bangkok and Nairobi, she said.
Philip Richard Owade, Chairman of the United Nations Joint Staff Pension Board, introduced the Board’s report on the Pension Fund’s administrative expenses, the work of its sixty-sixth session and its estimates for 2020. At the July session in Nairobi, various studies had confirmed the Fund’s long-term financial stability. The Board also noted the Fund has been meeting its benefit processing benchmarks and there was no backlog of entitlement cases in 2017 or 2018. “You will be pleased to note that the Fund is now performing at over 90 per cent in processing new claims, which is way above its benchmark,” he said.
Mr. Terzi introduced the Advisory Committee’s related report and noted the progress made toward processing pension benefits in a timely manner. He reiterated that all efforts should be made to eliminate the backlog.
Chandramouli Ramanathan, United Nations Controller and Assistant Secretary‑General for Programme Planning, Finance and Budget in the Department of Management Strategy, Policy and Compliance, introduced the Secretary-General’s report, which focused on how the Board’s report will impact the regular budget.
In other business, the Fifth Committee discussed the proposed programme budget for 2020 relating to construction and property management at the United Nations Office in Nairobi and reviewed the Secretary-General’s request for a subvention to the Extraordinary Chambers in the Courts of Cambodia. Fatoumata Ndiaye, Under-Secretary-General for Internal Oversight Services, introduced the audit report on the Chamber’s international component. Mr. Ramanathan introduced the Secretary-General’s reports on both subjects, with Mr. Terzi presenting ACABQ’s related reports.
Also speaking today were the representatives of Botswana (for the African Group), Kenya and Cambodia.
The Fifth Committee will meet again at 10 a.m. on Friday, 6 December, to discuss the proposed programme budget for 2020 relating to construction and property management at the Economic Commission for Africa (ECA), as well as flexible workplace at the United Nations Headquarters.
Administrative Expenses: United Nations Joint Staff Pension Fund
PHILIP RICHARD OWADE, Chairman of the United Nations Joint Staff Pension Board, introduced its report on the administrative expenses of the United Nations Joint Staff Pension Fund and report of the Board on the work of its sixty-sixth session (document A/74/331). He said that with the shift to an annual budget cycle, the document includes the report of the Board’s session from 22 to 26 July 2019 in Nairobi, and the Fund’s estimates for 2020. At that session, the Board was pleased to note various studies have all confirmed the Fund’s long-term financial stability. The Board also noted the Fund has been meeting its benefit processing benchmarks and there was no backlog of entitlement cases in 2017 or 2018. “You will be pleased to note that the Fund is now performing at over 90 per cent in processing new claims, which is way above its benchmark,” he said.
The Pension Board has acted on General Assembly recommendations made in 2018, including timely succession planning for the post of Chief Executive Officer, and the replacement of the dual role of the Chief Executive Officer with two distinct and independent posts: Pension Benefits Administrator and Secretary of the Board, he said. Regarding its size and composition, the Board agreed that the total number of seats with voting rights would remain at 33 and has recommended a re-adjustment to add a seat for the International Organization for Migration (IOM). “You will agree with me that the matter of size and composition of the Board is as complex as it is delicate,” he said. The Board renewed the mandate of its Working Group on Governance to continue consideration of the matter and welcomes the Assembly’s views.
After a request from the Advisory Committee on Administrative and Budgetary Questions (ACABQ), the Fund and Secretariat have agreed on a new methodology for cost sharing to better reflect reality, he said. The new methodology produces a significant decrease in the United Nations regular budget’s net contribution to the Pension Fund, whose 2020 budget largely reflects 2018 Assembly decisions. To enhance its service-delivery, the Fund has included in its 2020 budget proposal the continuation of its call centres and the creation of two client services liaison offices in Nairobi and Bangkok, which will serve beneficiaries in far-flung areas of Asia and Africa. The Fund is using information technology as an agent for change. Automated certificate of entitlement signature verification and the creation of a digital Certificate of Entitlement are now in a pilot phase.
The administrative expenses of both entities of the Fund, its secretariat and the Office of Investment Management, are paid out of the Fund’s assets, not the United Nations regular budget, he observed. There has not been an increase in established posts in the Office of Investment Management for six years, yet the assets under its management have increased by 36 per cent. The Office will pay for the entire proposed increase in the number of posts thorough savings already achieved, he said, pointing out that its 2020 budget is lower in dollar terms than the 2019 budget. “In conclusion allow me to reiterate that the Fund is on sound and solid footing, contrary to the propaganda mounted by its detractors over the last four or five years,” he said.
CHANDRAMOULI RAMANATHAN, United Nations Controller and Assistant Secretary‑General for Programme Planning, Finance and Budget in the Department of Management Strategy, Policy and Compliance, introduced the Secretary-General’s report on financial implications for the regular budget arising from the Pension Board’s report (document A/C.5/74/3). He noted that the overall resources of $7.8 million represented the estimated costs of services provided by the Pension Fund to the Organization, with $4.9 million under the regular budget and $2.9 million under the funds and programmes. Currently, $7.8 million is included in Section 1 of the proposed programme budget for 2020. Should the General Assembly approve the proposals and recommendations of the Pension Board, a reduction of $2.3 million would be required under Section 1.
CIHAN TERZI, Chairman of the Advisory Committee on Administrative and Budgetary Questions, introduced its related report (document A/74/7/Add.14), noting the progress made toward processing pension benefits in a timely manner. He reiterated that all efforts should be made to eliminate the backlog including through enhanced cooperation between the Fund and its member organizations. Regarding the additional staffing requirement for the Pension Administration in 2020, the Advisory Committee recommends against the proposed establishment of one professional Human Resource Officer post (P-3), one general service post for the Information Systems Assistant (OL), and three general temporary assistance positions for general service Benefit Assistant (OL). As for the increased staffing requirement for the Office of Investment Management, the Advisory Committee notes that the peer benching study used to justify the increase does not determine the optimum staffing level of the Fund, recommending that this study and further justification for the requested posts, be provided to the General Assembly at the time of its consideration of the present report.
LYNN SHAMI, observer for the State of Palestine, speaking on behalf of the “Group of 77” developing countries and China, said it will examine the merits of the 2020 budget estimates, which total $102.13 million, an increase of $9.68 million compared with the revised 2019 revised appropriation. The Group intends to analyse factors that have contributed to the reduction of the 2018-2019 biennium appropriation. Looking through the 2020 resources proposals, she said that the Group’s “interest is particularly piqued by proposals on staffing of the respective entities of the Fund”. It will seek information on the needs assessment carried out for functions assigned to these posts and positions.
The Group welcomes the Fund’s commitment to enhance its client-servicing capabilities, plans to separate client services from operations and the creation of two clients service hubs as liaison offices in Bangkok and Nairobi, she said. She noted that Fund’s net assets available for benefits were $60.7 billion as of 31 December 2018, down $3.5 billion, or 5.6 per cent, from $64.3 billion a year earlier. Despite the recorded decrease at year-end December 2018, the report states the Fund is financially sound and the Office of Investment Management has achieved the Fund’s long-term aim to meet or exceed the required 3.5 per cent real rate of return on a 2-year, 3-year, 10-year, 15-year, 25-year and 50-year basis. On the geographical diversification of the Fund’s investment portfolio, the Group observes that at year-end 2018, the Fund had investments in 102 countries and regions. Noting that investments in developing countries is still lagging, the Group encourages the Fund’s Investments Committee to continue identifying investment opportunities in these countries and looks forward to information on progress in this area in the next report on investment activities.
Turning to the Board of Auditors’ report, the Group notes that Pension Board followed up on the 38 outstanding recommendations as of 31 December 2017 and that 12, or 32 per cent, had been fully implemented; 22, or 58 per cent, were under implementation; and 4, or 10 per cent, had been overtaken by events, she said. The Group again stresses the importance of the Fund and its member organizations implementing all the Board of Auditors’ recommendations in a timely manner and of providing detailed annual updates to explain any delays.
CHERITH NORMAN CHALET (United States) noted that the Fund is valued at more than $60 billion and provides vital resources to more than 128,000 participants and beneficiaries. Recognizing the new initiatives, such as improvements to web-based services and the client service hubs, which provide new avenues of communication to the Fund’s beneficiaries, she said that her delegation is encouraged by the implementation of the new client grievance redressal mechanism. Her delegation is also encouraged by the positive trend of improved processing of cases within the 15-day benchmark. She, however, expressed a concern over the backlog of a significant number of open workflows, calling for more concentrated and effective efforts to address the causes of delays. Regarding governance, she noted the work of the Pension Board thus far and stressed that there is still much work to be done to fully implement the Assembly’s 2018 resolution. Acknowledging the efforts of the Office of Investment Management to minimize the impact of market volatility in 2018 on the Fund’s sustainability and maintain a long-term focus on achieving its real rate of return benchmark, she encouraged the continued focus on strengthening the Office’s operational risk control framework.
DMITRY S. CHUMAKOV (Russian Federation) underscored the Fund’s effectiveness in dispensing its mandate, noting that the annual rate of return is meeting the planned 3.5 per cent benchmark with assets growing to $67 billion. Welcoming measures to increase transparency and diversity asset class, he noted the importance for investments to meet the criteria of safety, profitability, liquidity and convertibility. His delegation supports the Pension Board’s proposals on governance. While there is not adequate justification to change the composition of the Board, he has no objections to an adjustment and welcomes the introduction of the rotation scheme. His delegation stands ready to discuss the Board’s recommendations and observations by ACABQ.
Umoja/Enterprise Resource Planning Project
CATHERINE POLLARD, Under-Secretary-General for Management Strategy, Policy and Compliance, introduced the Secretary-General’s eleventh progress report on the enterprise resources planning project (document A/74/478), stressing that Umoja continues to be a major priority for her Department as it is a key enabler of the Secretary-General’s reform initiatives. Umoja has made significant progress in many areas over the past year. Besides implementing a wide range of Umoja Extension 2 projects involving new software solutions, it has supported three reforms relating to management, peace and security and the development system; replaced its entire aging hardware infrastructure; enhanced many current functionalities; and rolled out a new platform to enable the use of Umoja on mobile devices and improve user adoption. This has been accomplished as the project team has become self-sufficient to develop and maintain the system, eliminating the need for a systems integrator.
While most of the software development has been accomplished, the project was set back in finalizing a software contract for two elements of the Umoja Extension 2 supply chain management, namely demand planning and supply network planning, she continued. Though a cloud-based SAP software was identified in 2018 and commercial terms negotiated for its use, the legal terms for the software took nearly nine months to negotiate. The contract was executed in mid-September and the project is focusing on completing these deployments in 2020. Though back-end information technology infrastructure has already been mainstreamed into the Office of Information and Communications Technology, the report describes how various business-facing functions are being mainstreamed and the remaining work.
The report includes a request for resources of $22.6 million for 2020, after adjusting a carry-forward of more than $12.7 million in unused resources, she said. The project cost estimates have remained stable since the Secretary‑General’s eighth progress report, attesting to the project’s continued financial discipline. The resource proposals also reflect a continuing reduction of general temporary assistance and contractual resources as part of downsizing project resources. Ensuring the adoption of Umoja Extension 2 will require strong business engagement and senior management’s support in all business areas, she added. The Organization’s operations depend critically on the smooth functioning of Umoja, which has demonstrated its value in managing ongoing financial liquidity challenges.
Mr. TERZI, introducing the Advisory Committee’s related report (document A/74/7/Add.17), expressed concern that implementation of the Umoja project’s full scope was not completed within the approved timeline and budget and that the Secretary-General’s report indicates that another extension of the project timeline and more project costs are required. The Advisory Committee requests the Secretary-General to give the Assembly, at the time of its consideration of the present report, a roadmap for completion of the overall Umoja project and of each Umoja Extension 2 subproject by the end of 2020. Further, the Assembly should decide that the Umoja project will be closed on 31 December 2020 and the Secretary-General should take all necessary steps to ensure full implementation of the project by that date. The Advisory Committee also stresses the need to prioritize completion of the Umoja Extension 2 subprojects and avoid any expansion of the project scope except for essential elements for the system’s proper functioning that will not affect the project timeline or costs. The Advisory Committee recommends that the Assembly request the Secretary-General to submit his final report for the Assembly’s consideration at the main part of its seventy-fifth session.
In addition, the Advisory Committee recommends that the Assembly ask the Secretary-General to include in the proposed 2021 programme budget a proposal on the methodology to be applied for the estimation of Umoja costs in the maintenance period following the project’s closure, he said. The Advisory Committee notes the Secretary-General’s statement that the project has been organizing specialized training for its staff to ensure institutional capacity to support Umoja, welcomes the progress made and encourages the Secretary-General to continue to pursue such efforts with a view to reducing the project’s dependency on outside contractors and consultants. Concerning the proposed requirements for 2020, in view of the under-expenditure incurred in 2019, the Advisory Committee recommends that the Assembly reduce the proposed resources by 3 per cent.
Ms. SHAMI, speaking again for the Group of 77, said that oversight of Umoja is crucial in a project of this magnitude and complexity. She urged the Secretary-General to ensure the recommendations of the Board of Auditors are implemented fully and without delay. The Group is dismayed that the Umoja team did not complete the implementation of the full scope of the Umoja Extension 2 project within the approved timeline and budget. It is disappointed that there is another request to extend the project timeline to the end of 2020 at additional cost to the Organization and Member States, despite its repeated delays and ballooning costs. “We share the Advisory Committee’s deep concerns of persistent weaknesses in project planning and monitoring which should not be happening at this late stage of the project,” she said.
Significant financial resources have already been spent on Umoja and the Secretary-General has yet to give a final update on the total cost of ownership of the system, the full extent of benefits realization, or a mainstreaming plan. “There is clearly an urgent need to take corrective action,” she said. The Secretary-General should ensure the project is completed by the end of 2020 and make enforcement of mitigation measures to ensure there are no more delays a priority. A benefits realization plan must be set up quickly to establish a clear transparent record of Umoja’s quantitative and qualitative benefits. “At a time of fiscal austerity and uncertainty across the Organization, we would continue to take a hard look at Umoja and apply a consistent standard of fiscal discipline to this project,” she said. The Group looks forward to detailed updates on deploying Umoja Extension 2, its impact on supply chain management and payments to troop- and police-contributing countries, as well as updates on the urgent steps required to plug gaps in Umoja’s application controls and maintenance of master data, among the concerns flagged by the Board of Auditors and Advisory Committee.
Ms. CHALET (United States), describing Umoja as one of the most important and transformational projects undertaken by the Secretariat to date, said it is essential in providing greater transparency and better financial management of United Nations resources. The United States concurs with the Board of Auditors’ recommendations regarding challenges related to project management, risk assessment and mitigation measures. She expressed concern that its full implementation will be delayed further and cost more. “Member States have long supported the principle need for an enterprise resource planning system for the United Nations system and provided the Umoja project with funding, guidance, and encouragement,” she said, stressing that its full implementation should not be delayed further.
KENNY TAN (Singapore), aligning himself with the Group of 77, expressed concern about repeated delays in completing the Umoja project and its significant cost escalation. It is baffling that a project touting savings and efficiency will at completion have taken three times as long as envisioned and cost over twice its original estimation. Also stressing the need to implement the Board of Auditors’ recommendations in a timely fashion, he said the risk of fraud due to gaps in application controls for processing vendor payments and maintaining master data still persists. Moreover, considering the growing reliance on Umoja across the United Nations, the Secretary-General should ensure the Organization has the capacity to maintain the system and enhance its resilience against possible shocks, with minimal dependency on outside expertise.
Mr. CHUMAKOV (Russian Federation) said that the legacy of Umoja is very difficult indeed and words like “disappointed” are very much used. This makes it very difficult for the Under-Secretary-General as she has inherited the project. He expressed hope that the project will be brought to the state where Member States will not be using words like “disappointed” and “concern” with such frequency. The total cost of the project was $248 million and has turned into more than $1 billion and dragged on in terms of the timeline. This increase is taking place in a context in which the promised benefits are unclear. Member States still do not have the benefits realization plan which has been requested in repeated Assembly resolutions. He expressed concern that the Secretary-General has not planned to complete the project within established timelines and budget. The Russian Federation is disappointed that the Secretariat’s report does not include the full scope of the system and the absence of the expected completion date. He asked the project director to provide a road map for Umoja’s full deployment and extensions.
Progress on Replacing Office Blocks A-J at United Nations Office at Nairobi
Mr. RAMANATHAN introduced the Secretary-General’s report on progress on the replacement of office blocks A to J at the United Nations Office in Nairobi (document A/74/343). He said that the updated schedule foresees completion of the project in 2023, with closeout continuing into 2024. The total projected cost remains unchanged at $66.26 million, despite some minor redistributions between 2020 and 2021. Reporting that the project has progressed well, he stated that the design on the early-works component is well advanced and a request for proposals to solicit the services of a professional design firm for the flexible workplace strategies was issued in May 2019.
The new building component, he said, will deliver a right-sized building (or buildings) that meet space needs after the demolition of the ageing blocks and will incorporate flexible workplace strategies. Project management was strengthened with the appointment of a Project Manager at the P-5 level as well as the successful recruitment of other key personnel in late 2018 and early 2019. The Assembly is being requested to approve the establishment of a multi-year construction-in-progress account for the project. Also requested is approval of the rollover of the unspent balance from 2019 to 2020 and an appropriation of $10.49 million for project activities planned for 2020. The completed project will ensure safe, accessible and modern offices and operational facilities for all United Nations entities requiring secure space in Nairobi, ensuring that no further major investment in such space will be needed for a minimum of 20 years, he said.
Mr. TERZI introduced the Advisory Committee’s related report (document A/74/7/Add.15), noting that it did not provide an updated project proposal as requested by General Assembly resolution 73/279 (2018). As such, he expressed concern that the scope of the project may not be finalized before the end of 2020, recommending that the General Assembly request the Secretary-General to present the full scope for the body’s approval in his next progress report. This report should include details on actual space requirements as well as the number and specifications of new buildings. Moreover, while noting with concern that a slippage of six months has already occurred, he called on the Secretary‑General to closely monitor and mitigate risks and ensure that the project will be delivered within the scope, budget and timeline approved by the General Assembly.
He went on to note that while the Secretary-General proposes introducing flexible workplace strategies, the Advisory Committee considers that more information is needed before proceeding in this regard. This information includes a status update and information on feedback from tenants on the three ongoing pilot projects on such workspace strategies. Moreover, he noted that agreements are needed from tenants about whether they plan to implement the strategies and provide related financial resources. Finally, he recommended that the General Assembly request the Secretary-General to establish a multi-year construction-in-progress account for the United Nations Office at Nairobi, since such accounts are already established for similar projects.
SAED KATKHUDA, observer for the State of Palestine, speaking on behalf of the Group of 77, welcomed the establishment of a Host Country Liaison Subcommittee to implement host country-led projects in the Gigiri, and reiterated the importance of close cooperation between the United Nations Office at Nairobi and the Government throughout the implementation period. The A-J construction block is instrumental in the management of the property by promoting workplace safety and security, as well as generally improved work conditions. “This project will go a long way in addressing issues of compliance, with seismic migration codes and maximizing space utilization,” he said, noting that the 20-year strategic capital review aims to ensure the Office has enough space to accommodate all United Nations requirements.
He strongly requested that the project be completed within the timeline and approved budget, encouraging the Secretary-General to continue conducting regular rental studies and noting that the project governance structure proposed in the Secretary-General’s 2017 report remains unchanged — a significant point for ensuring consistency as the critical construction phase for both the flexible work space and the new building begins. Equally important is the coordination and oversight role of the Global Asset Management Policy Service and he urged the Secretary-General to build on best practices in project governance. As there is relatively low but increasing confidence that the project will be completed within the approved budget, he expected the Secretary-General to closely monitor and mitigate the risks with the aim of avoiding unnecessary delays.
KATLEGO MMALANE (Botswana), speaking on behalf of the African Group and aligning himself with the Group of 77, expressed appreciation to the Government of Kenya for the support it continues to lend to the United Nations Office at Nairobi. Recalling 2014 assessments that office blocks A to J had reached the end of their useful lives and did not meet security requirements, he commended the Secretary-General for taking steps to bring the facilities in line with prevailing codes. He noted the effectiveness of phased execution and the objectives of flexible workspace strategies as depicted in the current report. He also noted, however, that measures to address concerns of non-secretarial tenants over investments in furniture and technological equipment were not presented and he looked forward to receiving information on such measures in the next report.
Turning to project management, he said that the Group will also seek to be apprised of the status of positions for which recruitment is still in progress. Welcoming the establishment of a risk management strategy for the project, he reiterated the call to the Secretary-General to continue to adopt risk mitigation strategies that ensure that costs and timelines are not unduly impacted. Emphasizing the overarching imperative of governance and oversight mechanisms, he reiterated the central role of the Global Management Policy Service to achieve synergies and apply best practices in that regard. The Group looks forward to discussing the Secretary-General’s proposal to establish a multi-year construction-in-progress account for the project during informal consultations, with a view to a positive outcome. Local materials and other local capacity should be used in such projects, as underlined in previous resolutions.
LAZARUS O. AMAYO (Kenya), associating himself with the Group of 77 and the African Group, said that the Office in Nairobi has expanded over the years, with new office facilities built in 2010 to accommodate all United Nations funds, programmes and agencies. However, there have been more requests from various United Nations agencies seeking to be accommodated in the United Nations compound, while others have indicated that they need more office space. By its relevant resolutions (documents A/RES/72/262 and A/RES/72/279), the Assembly appropriated $7.09 million for construction of blocks A-J in 2018-2019. His delegation welcomes the Secretary-General’s projected expenditure for 2020 of $13.12 million for the project. He noted that the implementation of the early works component is behind schedule by six months due to delays in the design and tendering processes. He encouraged the Secretary-General to continue putting in place adequate mitigation measures to avoid further delays. Over the years, the infrastructure supporting the Gigiri area location of the Office has been improved considerably, he said.
Construction of blocks A-J will have some significant benefits, including the renewal and replacement of the key elements of existing office buildings, he continued. These works will increase the remaining useful life of the building and minimize major capital investment requirements for the next 20 years. His delegation fully supports the Advisory Committee’s recommendations that the Assembly approve creation of a multi-year construction-in-progress account for the project. The presence of the Office demonstrates Africa’s commitment to multilateralism and a rules-based world order, he said, expressing hope that the United Nations system will continue to increase funding for the Office so it can be on a par with all other United Nations headquarters.
Subvention to the Extraordinary Chambers in Courts of Cambodia
Mr. RAMANATHAN introduced the Secretary-General’s report on a request for a subvention to the Extraordinary Chambers in the Courts of Cambodia (document A/74/359), explaining that the report outlines the progress and results achieved by the Extraordinary Chambers under each of the judicial cases and addresses the Chambers’ financial challenges in 2019 while also providing the 2020 requirements for its national and international components. Despite fundraising efforts, voluntary contributions and the commitment authority approved by the Assembly have been insufficient to cover the 2019 revised budget. As a result, the Extraordinary Chambers has taken measures to defer expenses in order to maintain its most critical functions, including freezing recruitment for nonessential vacant posts, he said, reporting that these measures are projected to reduce costs by $2.5 million in 2019.
He went on to note that the commitment authorities approved by the General Assembly have been crucial in enabling the United Nations to continue to provide support to the Extraordinary Chambers to ensure accountability for the crimes committed by the Khmer Rouge in 1975, adding that the Office of Internal Oversight Services (OIOS) observed that the provided support allows due process and rule of law standards to be upheld there. Considering the financial situation, the Secretary-General seeks the Assembly’s approval of a $8.5 million subvention to the international component of the Extraordinary Chambers for 2020.
FATOUMATA NDIAYE, Under-Secretary-General for Internal Oversight Services, introduced the audit report on the international component of the Extraordinary Chambers in the Courts of Cambodia (document A/74/281), stating that the OIOS conducted an audit of the international component of the Extraordinary Chambers at the request of the Assembly’s to assess whether the operations of the international component of the Chambers were effective and efficient in supporting the achievement of the mandate of the component. Overall, the international component made progress in executing its mandate by supporting the completion of three cases, identifying efficiency-enhancing measures and effective processes to mitigate funding challenges, and gradually reducing its staffing capacity.
OIOS issued four recommendations to address the issues raised in the audit, she said. First, the United Nations Assistance to the Khmer Rouge Trials, through the Office of Administration of the Extraordinary Chambers, should liaise with the judicial chambers and offices to ensure that revised translation requirements are duly communicated and considered in the projection of completion timelines for the remaining cases. Second, it should establish mechanisms to monitor the continued eligibility of foreign lawyers to serve as members of the defence teams of the Extraordinary Chambers. Third, it should review and establish whether the Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific (ESCAP) is providing all required services in accordance with the memorandum of understanding signed between the two parties and determine whether the reimbursement to ESCAP is commensurate with the services received and, if necessary, renegotiate the fee specified in the memorandum of understanding. Fourth, it should ensure that supervisors and heads of offices follow up on the requirement for all staff to complete mandatory training and performance appraisals by the respective target date. These recommendations were accepted, she said.
Mr. TERZI introducing the Advisory Committee’s related report (document A/74/7/Add.16), noted completion of investigations and issuance of closing orders in specific outstanding cases, emphasizing the need to take necessary measures to expedite case completion. Considering the Secretary‑General’s progress in developing a framework for completion of the Extraordinary Chambers’ work, the Advisory Committee recommends that the Assembly request the Secretary-General to expedite finalization of the framework for completion of the Chambers’ work and identification of possible residual functions. Regarding the national component, the Advisory Committee notes with appreciation sustained contributions by the Government of Cambodia. As for funding challenges the international component faces, the Advisory Committee notes cost-saving measures taken and trusts that the impact of such measures will be kept under review to avoid any detrimental effect on the expeditious completion of cases. Finally, considering the projected funding shortfall in the international component for 2020, the Advisory Committee recommends that the Assembly authorize the Secretary-General to enter into commitments of up to $7 million to supplement the voluntary financial resources of the international component for 2020 as a bridging financing mechanism.
Mr. KATKHUDA, speaking for the Group of 77, welcomed the findings of the OIOS’ August report which concluded that controls over the Extraordinary Chambers’ general operating expenditure were adequate. He noted that the United Nations Assistance to the Khmer Rouge Trials has accepted and begun implementation of the OIOS’s recommendations such as monitoring the eligibility of foreign lawyers to serve on defence teams. Expressing concern about the financial challenges facing the Chambers, particularly decreasing voluntary contributions, he encouraged the Secretary-General to continue with cost-saving measures and efforts to mobilize necessary funds to fulfil the funding gaps. A financial failure for the Chambers would constitute a renewed tragedy in the quest for justice of the Cambodian people and a serious setback in the international community’s fight against impunity, he emphasized. In that regard, his Group supports the Secretary‑General’s proposal to supplement the Chambers’ extrabudgetary resources for 2020.
SOVANN KE (Cambodia), aligning himself with the Group of 77, conveyed the positive response of his country to the request for a subvention to the Extraordinary Chambers’ international component and for Cambodia’s continued contribution to the full funding of the national component for 2020, as conveyed by the Secretary-General in a 12 November 2019 letter to the country’s Prime Minister. Quoting the Prime Minister’s response, he affirmed that the subvention to the international component is agreeable based on the good partnership and cooperation with his country’s Government. In addition, he specified that the Government will maintain its commitment of direct contribution for the national component in 2020 as previously made for the last five consecutive years by providing $3.8 million, of which $1.6 million is for general operations and $2.2 million for the payment of at least the first six months of salaries of national staff. Regarding the remaining shortfall of $1.24 million, the country looks forward, he added, to receiving continued support from the United Nations in efforts to raise funds from other donors. He thanked all those who support the cause of justice in Cambodia.