SPEAKERS IN BUDGET COMMITTEE STRESS NEED FOR STRONGER MANAGEMENT, BUDGETARY DISCIPLINE IN FACE OF RISING PEACEKEEPING COSTS
|Department of Public Information • News and Media Division • New York|
Sixty-first General Assembly
48th Meeting (AM)
Speakers in budget committee stress need for stronger management,
budgetary discipline in face of rising peacekeeping costs
Wide Range of Reports Taken Up, Including from Board
Of Auditors, Office of Internal Oversight Services, Joint Inspection Unit
Faced with the possibility that the total 2007-2008 peacekeeping budget would exceed $6 billion, should the Security Council authorize new operations on Chad, Central African Republic, Darfur and Somalia, members of the Fifth Committee (Administrative and Budgetary) this morning scrutinized the cross-cutting aspects of peacekeeping, including results-based budgeting, planning and management of complex missions, recruitment, and regional and inter-mission cooperation.
With a significant surge in peacekeeping and nearly 85,000 peacekeepers deployed in the field, several speakers advocated better justification of resources, stronger management, budgetary discipline and fiscal prudence. Of particular relevance in that regard were the reports of the Organization’s oversight bodies -- the Board of Auditors, the Office of Internal Oversight Services (OIOS) and Joint Inspection Unit -- which contained numerous recommendations to improve peacekeeping budgeting, management and administration.
Presenting three OIOS reports, Inga-Britt Ahlenius, Under-Secretary-General for Internal Oversight Services, said that all of them highlighted one noticeable management shortcoming: the absence of a robust internal control framework that set out management’s responsibility for the control environment, risk assessment, control activities, information and communications and monitoring. To establish such a framework, it was not enough to “submit elegant documents describing the theoretical concepts and ambitions”. The establishment of an internal control framework took time, and management was responsible for carrying that process through.
Japan’s representative shared the concern of the Advisory Committee on Administrative and Budgetary Questions (ACABQ) that there was an “absence of evidence of concrete action” to ensure efficiency of management and administrative processes, before additional resources were requested. The problem of duplicative and top-heavy structures in integrated missions remained unsolved, and there appeared to be little Headquarters involvement in the monitoring of structures in individual peacekeeping operations. Japan “strongly cautioned” against a “template approach” to staffing and insisted on the need to carefully scrutinize the peacekeeping budgets, both at Headquarters and in the field, to ensure they were justified and that budgetary discipline and fiscal prudence were exercised. The budgeting process should clearly show the linkage between indicators, outputs and resources, in line with the concept of results-based management.
On a similar note, Australia’s representative, also speaking on behalf of Canada and New Zealand, noted the comments of the Board of Auditors, the Joint Inspection Unit and the ACABQ that results-based budgeting had been more of a “paper exercise” and had not been practically applied as a management tool. She supported the refinement of the indicators used in the budget, so that they had “concrete meaning”. When seeking increased resources for administrative and support functions, the Secretary-General should demonstrate that work processes were efficient. As for the benchmarking analysis aimed at developing planning models for multidimensional missions, she supported the ACABQ’s recommendations that they be based not on past patterns alone, but also take into consideration the relationship between staff members, concrete workload and potential difficulties.
The representative of the Dominican Republic, speaking on behalf of the Rio Group, advocated the idea of defining policies that would be applied across all peacekeeping operations, to guarantee efficiency and improved effectiveness. In doing so, unique features of each operation should be taken into account. Examining cross-cutting issues was a good basis for promoting rationalization, and to develop measures that were general in nature.
The representative of Pakistan, who presented the position of the “Group of 77” developing countries and China, was distressed by the Board of Auditors’ observation that some activities in the work plans for support account posts had not been stated “in a manner to facilitate the identification of their relation to peacekeeping operations”. That posed difficulties for determining whether posts under the support account had been used, and continued to be used, for the intended purpose of backstopping peacekeeping operations.
He also stressed the need to address the underlying causes of high vacancy rates in all peacekeeping missions, which could seriously constrain their ability to implement their mandates. He took note of the steps taken in that regard, such as delegation of recruitment authority to missions and temporary deployment of officers to accelerate recruitment in missions with high vacancy rates, but underlined the need for appropriate accountability measures in that process.
The Group of 77 also emphasized -- and the Group of African States, represented by Benin, echoed that position -- that recruitment efforts should pay due regard to equitable geographic distribution and gender balance, especially the recruitment of female candidates from developing countries. He also reiterated the importance of hiring national staff as a means to overcome that continuous problem in all missions.
Noting that air transportation and fuel management accounted for about one-half of operational peacekeeping expenditures in the current budget cycle, the representative of Germany, on behalf of the European Union, said that addressing such issues in an overall manner had led to a more cost-efficient and responsible management culture within peacekeeping. Initiatives, such as the introduction of an operation-wide fuel management policy would not only translate to more efficient peacekeeping operations, but could help reduce fraud. Air transport and fuel management were two “big ticket” examples of the potential benefits of addressing peacekeeping operations in a comprehensive manner.
Among other issues addressed today were the significant amounts of unencumbered balances and cancellation of prior-period obligations; sexual exploitation and abuse; fraud and mismanagement; vehicle fleets; quick-impact projects; and personnel management.
Also speaking today was the representative of Canada (also on behalf of Australia and New Zealand).
Reports before the Committee were introduced by United Nations Controller, Warren Sach; Chairman of the ACABQ, Rajat Saha; France’s Director of External Audit and Chairman of the Audit Operations Committee of the Board of Auditors, Pierre Brouder; Chief of the Oversight Support Unit, Office of the Under-Secretary-General for Management, Jonathan Childerley; Director of the Administrative Support Division of the Department of Peacekeeping Operations, Philip Cooper; and Joint Inspection Unit Inspector, Even Fontaine Ortiz.
The Committee will continue its consideration of administrative and budgetary aspects of peacekeeping and begin its debate on individual missions’ budgets at 10 a.m. Thursday, 10 May.
The Fifth Committee (Administrative and Budgetary) met this morning to begin its consideration of the administrative and budgetary aspects of peacekeeping financing, as well as several reports by the Board of Auditors, Joint Inspection Unit and Office of Internal Oversight Services (OIOS).
The first document before the Committee was the Secretary-General’s overview of United Nations peacekeeping financing for the periods from 1 July 2005 to 30 June 2006 and 1 July 2007 to 30 June 2008 (document A/61/786). The report estimates peacekeeping financing for 2007-2008 at $5.34 billion, compared with the approved level of $5.24 billion for the current financial year. As at 30 June 2006, the Peacekeeping Reserve Fund stood at $157.1 million.
According to the report, a review of the management structure and levels of posts in all missions was conducted prior to the individual missions’ budget submissions for 2007-2008. Phase I of the review identifies basic building blocks from which missions are constructed -- security, legal affairs, public information, and other components -- while Phase II identifies factors that affect staffing for each building block. The Department of Peacekeeping Operations is now beginning work on a staffing strategy to address the ACABQ’s [Advisory Committee on Administrative and Budgetary Questions] concerns regarding the gradual replacement of international staff with national staff, so as to facilitate the transfer of skills.
In response to the ACABQ request that recruitment and placement be improved, the Personnel Management Support Service was reorganized into a Senior Leadership Section and a Recruitment and Outreach Unit to better vet candidates for inclusion on the roster. Separating the rostering and selection process has increased the level of checks and balances in missions’ staffing. Since May 2006, the Service has achieved an approximate 25 per cent increase in the number of selections, but challenges persist, with only 1,467 out of 2,069 recruitments initiated between January and October 2006, in addition to a turnover of 30 per cent among professional staff. A staff-management central review body will be introduced to oversee rostering of candidates.
Regarding “quick-impact projects”, the Secretary-General states that the Department of Peacekeeping Operations has established a policy for implementing small-scale projects to gain acceptance of missions by the host communities. Those projects will affect the budget from 2008 onwards. The efforts to improve regional cooperation resulted in a new Regional Safety Office at the United Nations Logistics Base, while all medical evacuations from the United Nations Organization Mission in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (MONUC), United Nations Operation in Burundi (ONUB), United Nations Mission in the Sudan (UNMIS) and United Nations Mission in Ethiopia and Eritrea (UNMEE) are now being coordinated by the United Nations Office in Nairobi (UNON). Other regional efforts include the sharing of air assets between agencies; setting up air medical evacuations within the United Nations Truce Supervision Organization (UNTSO) and the United Nations Disengagement Observer Force (UNDOF); and establishing a Strategic Air Operations Centre at the Logistics Base.
Among proposed management initiatives is the joint African Union-United Nations plan of action, which will focus on peacekeeping in Africa, including medium- and long-term issues leading up to the planned 2010 date of operation for the African Standby Force. An African Union Peace Support Team, which began operating within the Department of Peacekeeping Operations at the end of January, has been able to support African Union planning for Somalia, among other things. Other initiatives include expanding the strength of the standing police to between 50 to 100 staff by the first half of 2008; a Formed Police Unit Support Component to manage strategic and operational support for the deployment of police units worldwide; and the establishment of an integrated training service for civilian, military and police, which will meet the training needs of the standing police and support the demand for pre-deployment training for Formed Police Units.
To address misconduct, the Department has established Conduct and Discipline Teams in 10 peacekeeping missions. The Department also recommends that the Secretary-General carry out a comprehensive review of welfare and recreation needs for peacekeeping personnel.
The Advisory Committee on Administrative and Budgetary Questions (ACABQ), in a related report (document A/61/852) states that its work was hampered by late submission of reports from the Secretariat. The ACABQ recommends that the Directors of Administration/Chief Administrative Officers and finance chiefs be held accountable for timely submission of budget reports. It further suggests that missions submit draft budget proposals to Headquarters by 30 November, to be reviewed by the Department of Peacekeeping Operations and the Department of Management within 30 to 60 days, so that advance copies of the budget can be submitted to ACABQ between 1 and 28 February.
Noting the efforts to improve the presentation of results-based budgets, the ACABQ also notes that, often, requests for resources are not linked to outputs or to expected accomplishments. Recommendations for an improved budgeting system include: a closer alignment between a mission’s budget and its mandate; that the budget reflect the mission’s efforts rather than those of Member States; that indicators of achievement be measurable; and that the budget and the e-PAS system be synchronized, to promote greater accountability on the part of senior managers.
On management issues, the ACABQ says that many proposals are based on a template for an integrated mission, rather than an analysis of individual missions’ concrete workload, functions and responsibilities. An examination of the effectiveness of the template in light of experience would be timely. Also, adding post and non-post resources for inefficient processes is not acceptable -- for instance, the effectiveness of Best Practice Officers must be evaluated. The Advisory Committee suggests that the Secretary-General, with the support of the Office of Internal Oversight Services, streamline procedures to support a more efficient administrative process. The ACABQ recommends that the Secretary-General submit a plan -- with a timeline, delineation of responsibilities and methods for assessing progress -- to the Assembly during the second part of its resumed sixty-second session.
On financial management, the ACABQ says the Secretary-General’s next overview report should identify the resources in the field and at Headquarters devoted to the budget process. The budget process should be streamlined and expedited, while ensuring fiscal prudence and budgetary discipline. Other financial management issues include the need for clear lines of responsibility and accountability; alignment of financial reporting with cost centres; follow-up to the work on a benchmarking analysis; and the need for stricter control over obligations.
The report also calls for more accurate forecasting of staffing requirements, with the ACABQ recommending that the Secretary-General be asked to explain and analyse the requirements for staff, and review the relationship between staff numbers and concrete workload. The analysis should be based on mandate and not draw on past patterns alone. The ACABQ also emphasizes the importance of planning prior to the deployment of missions and of drawing on lessons learned, as well as the need to delineate clearly the roles of the mission and its partners and to ensure that modalities of cooperation are well understood.
Regarding military personnel, the ACABQ notes significant overbudgeting for military and police personnel costs and recommends greater efforts to budget realistically and to keep obligations under review. Also noted are increased costs for troop rotations in some missions, and the Secretary-General is encouraged to explore ways to reduce them. As for rates of reimbursement for a number of new items associated with the deployment of a naval force in the United Nations Interim Force in Lebanon (UNIFIL) and heavy equipment, the ACABQ felt that they should be taken up by the working group on contingent-owned equipment. The Advisory Committee also recommends acceptance of the recommendation of the Department of Peacekeeping Operations’ working group on the status of United Nations staff officers, which proposed that they should be given a “mission subsistence allowance” in place of “reimbursement to troop-contributing countries”.
Regarding civilian personnel, the ACABQ recommends that missions reduce the vacancy rate before requesting increases in their staffing tables. It favours enhanced delegation of authority to mission officials with regard to recruitment, which should be accompanied by appropriate steps to ensure accountability. In recruitment, attention should be given to appropriate language skills, an appropriate balance in selections at the senior management level and improved gender balance. Other issues considered in the report include the policy on temporary-duty assignments; keeping post levels under review during mission downsizing; the cost of supporting United Nations Volunteers; and the need to justify requests for increases in national staffing.
On quick-impact projects, the report states that, while a valuable tool for strengthening the links with the local population, they should be implemented with minimal or no overhead charges to ensure that the maximum amount goes for the benefit of the local people. The ACABQ will review the matter further, based on additional information on the policy that is proposed to apply from 2008 onwards.
The report also touches on operational costs, such as the cost of air operations, which amounted to $600 million or one third of all operational costs in 2006-2007. The Secretary-General is requested to provide, at the sixty-second session, an overview of transportation requirements in large missions that are due to be completed at the end of 2007. In future budget proposals, increases in air operations expenditure must be accompanied by explanations of mitigating actions taken by the mission or Headquarters. Other issues touched on by the ACABQ include training, fuel management, travel, mismanagement-related issues, procurement, public information and regional cooperation.
The Board of Auditors’ audit of peacekeeping financing (document A/61/5, vol.II) indicates that, for the 2005-2006 period, total peacekeeping income stood at $5.1 billion, while total expenditure totalled $4.6 billion. The 12 per cent increase in expenditure over the preceding period was brought about by the expanded operations of UNMIS, United Nations Operation in Côte d’Ivoire (UNOCI) and United Nations Stabilization Mission in Haiti (MINUSTAH).
The Board issued an unqualified audit opinion on the peacekeeping financial statements for 2005-2006. However, in so doing, it has drawn attention to several matters of concern, including the fact that outstanding peacekeeping assessments older than 12 months amounted to $706.3 million of the total of $1.27 billion. The Organization has made no provision for delays in collection of these contributions from Member States. The savings on or cancellation of prior-period obligations amounted to $304.2 million, representing an increase of 81.3 per cent over the preceding period. Based on the accounting policy that recognizes obligations as part of expense prior to their actual disbursement, the Board is concerned that prior-year expenditures were overstated. Also, financial statements did not disclose the actuarial valuation of liabilities for after-service health insurance of peacekeepers. The provision in respect of peacekeeping staff is reflected in the United Nations financial statements in aggregate with other Secretariat personnel.
Among other things, the Board has reiterated its recommendation that the Administration monitor ex post facto procurement awards and presentations to ensure adequate justification and accountability for delays. The Board also found, among other things, that the Procurement Service was unable to influence geographical distribution of contracts; mandatory registration documents were not presented before suppliers were registered in the United Nations Interim Administration Mission in Kosovo (UNMIK) roster; United Nations Mission for the Referendum in Western Sahara (MINURSO), UNMIS and the United Nations Logistics Base did not submit vendor performance evaluations; adequate performance bonds had not been obtained from contractors at Headquarters and the United Nations Peacekeeping Force in Cyprus (UNFICYP); and there was inadequate procurement planning in UNMIK, MINUSTAH and UNOCI, as well as two offices at Headquarters.
Turning to air operations, the Board of Auditors notes that they significantly increased as a result of expanded activities at UNMIS and UNOCI, despite a decrease of related budget provisions due to the conclusion of the United Nations Mission of Support in East Timor (UNMISET) and the United Nations Mission in Sierra Leone (UNAMSIL). Only 16 of 53 United Nations carriers had been subjected to on-site quality inspections and about 30 per cent of the aircraft were not subjected to performance evaluation on a regular basis. Also there were not enough aviation support staff to manage the increased fleet; an aviation safety council was not yet established at the Department of Peacekeeping Operations; and unauthorized non-United Nations passengers were allowed to board aircraft in the Sudan.
On the peacekeeping support account, the Board noted that there was no defined formula to show its relationship to the level and complexity of peacekeeping operations. It is necessary to undertake the planned review of proposals for new posts. The Administration needs to determine the criteria that hamper efficient management in respect of changing requirements. Also, some job descriptions and workplans did not provide clear, consistent and updated information to facilitate review and verification of the use of posts as intended.
On human resources, the report states that, while the Department of Peacekeeping Operations had initiated several projects under review to improve their management, it had failed to adhere to some human resources planning requirements. The Board noted the absence of a human resources annual training plan, the lack of gender equality, and insufficiency in evaluating the training needs. The average vacancy rate for international civilian staff for all missions was 26 per cent, 3.4 per cent lower than the previous year. Also, deficiencies were noted in the areas of monitoring and payment of overtime; medical insurance premium payments; signing of appointment letters; and approval of leave applications.
Other issues addressed in the report include rations contracts; efforts to enhance results-based budgeting; information and communication technology; quick impact projects; management of the Department’s fleet of 15,532 vehicles; and strategic deployment stocks that were valued at approximately $88.2 million in June 2006.
Also, as requested by the ACABQ, the Board evaluated the ageing of its previous recommendations that had not yet been fully implemented. Of a total of 72 recommendations, 25 (35 per cent) had been implemented, while 44 (61 per cent) were under implementation and 3 (4 per cent) had not been implemented. Of the 44 recommendations not yet fully implemented, 22 (50 per cent) relate to the 2004-2005 period; 16 to 2003-2004; 4 to 2002-2003; 1 to 2001-2002; and 1 to 2000-2001.
Another document before the Committee (document A/61/811) provides additional information in response to the Board’s recommendations. According to the document, 2 out of 28 “main” recommendations were not accepted by the Department of Peacekeeping Operations and the Department of Management; 12 have been implemented; and 14 are in progress. Target dates have been set for 10 recommendations. Regarding the status of implementation of all 62 recommendations, the report states that 4 have not been accepted by the Administration; 21 have been implemented; 37 are in progress; and target dates have been set for 26.
On some of the Board’s main recommendations, the Administration states that financial statements are prepared in accordance with the United Nations system accounting standards, the Organization’s Financial Regulations and Rules and legislative authority. The Board has stated in its audit opinion that the financial statements were presented “fairly” in accordance with these standards. The standards that currently apply only require that the policy in respect of delays be disclosed in the notes to the financial statements. Therefore, the financial statements are prepared in full compliance with standards that are currently applicable, and the Board’s comments may not be appropriate at present.
The Advisory Committee, in a related report (document A/61/866), welcomes the Board’s efforts to formulate its recommendations in a manner which facilitates implementation, including measurement of progress achieved, and encourages it to continue improvements along those lines.
Responding to the Board’s observation that it has proven necessary to cancel significant amounts of prior period obligations, which suggests shortcomings in budget planning and administration, the ACABQ states that it has consistently and repeatedly called for stricter control over obligations. Despite inherent uncertainties in peacekeeping budgeting, as compared with the regular budget, the Organization now has enough experience to make significant progress in resolving those problems, especially in more stable missions.
The Advisory Committee notes with interest that a Field Liaison Team has been established to administer procurement cases submitted from missions for review by the Headquarters Committee on Contracts and that a new section for planning, compliance and monitoring is being created. The ACABQ trusts that these initiatives will help expedite procurement and ensure compliance with relevant rules.
Concurring with the Board’s observations regarding “what appears to be over-budgeting for air transportation costs”, the Advisory Committee stresses that realistic estimates should take into account usage patterns, as well as any known variables that affect the usage of air assets, such as a change in the mandate or activities related to elections. A cost-benefit analysis of the new air operations’ costing structure is long overdue and should be expedited.
Regarding the Board’s recommendation that the Department of Peacekeeping Operations, in collaboration with relevant missions, develop and implement regional coordination plans aligned to the missions’ objectives, the Advisory Committee notes that the administration has again rejected the recommendation, stating that a “plan” for regional coordination is not appropriate and that, instead, the focus should be on inter-mission cooperation to address cross-border activities. Despite its non-acceptance of the recommendation, the Administration had reported in its overview report on progress achieved in the development and implementation of regional coordination/inter-mission plans and cross-cutting services. The ACABQ continues to believe that planning for regional cooperation is desirable and reiterates its support for the Board’s recommendation.
According to the report on procedures for the purchase and utilization of vehicles and other equipment by United Nations field missions (document A/60/842), the Department of Peacekeeping Operations has been enhancing the standardization of the vehicle fleet by establishing systems contracts, with 90 per cent of all vehicles coming from six major manufacturers, and reduction of the spare parts inventory holdings in missions. But, the Department also needs to continue monitoring spare parts holdings of missions and further develop inventory management. Mission budgets are reviewed to ensure compliance with standard ratios, and limits are set on the number and price of vehicles provided to senior personnel. To minimize accidents, safety advisers have been appointed and uniform driver testing standards are advised in the Surface Transport Manual. The manual also requires rotation of vehicles to ensure optimal use and maintenance.
The report on improvement of internal controls in management, accounting, and reporting of assets of all United Nations field missions (document A/60/843) states that the Department of Peacekeeping Operations has promulgated a Property Management Manual to standardize practices across all field missions and provide guidance on day-to-day operations. The Department also issues guidelines for the preparation of year-end inventory reports, and missions provide monthly status reports on assets pending write-off and disposal. The Galileo Inventory Management System was implemented in missions, and a special asset disposal module was tested. Staff receive training on property management and receiving, and inspection of assets in the field. Two full-time Department staff are dedicated to strengthening codification, management and reporting of mission property. Finally, a Property Management Steering Group is being constituted for continuous review of cross-cutting issues.
In his report on disarmament, demobilization and reintegration (DDR) (document A/60/705), the Secretary-General discusses the development of a new policy approach to disarmament, demobilization and reintegration, based on lessons learned in a number of complex operations. Referred to as integrated DDR standards, this new approach was created by an Inter-Agency Working Group comprising 15 United Nations entities. The standards address all aspects of DDR, emphasizing a people-centred approach; flexibility, transparency and accountability; integration; and national ownership.
The United Nations has begun to pilot the standards through the formation of integrated DDR units -- staffed jointly by personnel of the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) and the Department of Peacekeeping Operations -- in MINUSTAH and UNMIS and joint training of their personnel. Implementation of an integrated approach would require new coordination mechanisms, which could be modelled after those integrated DDR teams, or take form of a country team DDR steering group, which facilitates exchange of information, joint planning and operations within the mission and with the country team. The Secretary-General recommends creating an integrated, inter-agency DDR capacity, building on the existing secretariat to include additional staff from other departments, agencies, funds and programmes and mandated to provide wider support to DDR.
The ACABQ, in a related report (document A/60/929), notes that DDR activities were previously funded exclusively through voluntary funding. In his report, the Secretary-General explains that the time taken to raise and disburse voluntary funding results in a gap between the disarmament and demobilization phases, which are relatively easy to fund, plan and implement, and reintegration, which is dependent on voluntary funding. The presence of idle ex-combatants waiting for reintegration opportunities creates risks to the peace processes.
The ACABQ trusts that, in formulating his proposals for the creation of secretariat structures, the Secretary-General will take note of existing capacities. It also points out that it will be necessary to define the relationship of the Inter-Agency Working Group on Disarmament, Demobilization and Reintegration to the Peacebuilding Commission.
The Committee also had before it two Secretary-General’s reports on sexual exploitation and abuse (documents A/60/861 and A/60/862), according to which the increase in reported allegations from 121 in 2004 to 373 in 2005 may reflect, in part, greater awareness of reporting mechanisms. The Secretary-General emphasizes the importance of continuing to improve those mechanisms and to analyse the data received in order to fully understand the scope and nature of the problem.
Measures to stop sexual exploitation and abuse include designation of focal points, training and measures to increase staff awareness. In January 2005, a Task Force was established on Protection from Sexual Exploitation and Abuse. Efforts are also being made to strengthen community outreach.
The Secretary-General also sets out a comprehensive strategy, which provides, among other things, for the training of military, police and civilian personnel, and provides justification for a proposed dedicated capacity to address conduct and discipline issues in peacekeeping operations. Between 1 January 2004 and mid-May 2006, investigations were completed into allegations of sexual exploitation and abuse involving 307 personnel in all missions, resulting in 16 civilians being dismissed and 155 uniformed peacekeeping personnel being sent home.
With more than 85,000 United Nations personnel in the field, dedicated resources to address conduct and discipline issues are a necessity, the Secretary-General states. Conduct and discipline teams are required both at the Department of Peacekeeping Operations and in all field missions. For 2007-2008, the Secretary-General intends to request approval of dedicated posts in all field missions and ask for the establishment of conduct and discipline units there.
The Advisory Committee, in a related report (document A/61/886), trusts that the implementation of the strategy outlined by the Secretary-General will lead to a significant decrease in the number of cases of serious misconduct. It also states that serious misconduct, especially with regard to sexual exploitation and abuse, deserves to be highlighted within the context of the redesign of the internal system of justice, in order to ensure that an effective Organization-wide framework is developed and implemented.
The Joint Inspection Unit’s report on the evaluation of results-based budgeting in peacekeeping operations (document A/60/709) discusses factors that are critical to results-based management, as a basis for developing a management strategy for peacekeeping. The report recommends that the Secretary-General lead the preparation of an institutional framework within the United Nations System Chief Executives Board for Coordination (CEB), to be submitted for consideration by the legislative organs of the United Nations. The Department of Peacekeeping Operations should develop a results-based management training module, based on the Joint Inspection Unit (JIU) benchmarking framework for results-based management and modules developed by other United Nations organizations and the United Nations Staff College, to train senior management staff at peacekeeping operations and results-based management focal points.
An addendum to the Joint Inspection Unit report (document A/60/709/Add.1) says the Secretary-General stands ready to submit detailed proposals to the Security Council -- the legislative body responsible for establishing mandates of peacekeeping operations -- if requested to do so. However, guidance would be needed from the Assembly on a detailed assessment of programme and resource requirements, their sources and the related pre-agreed division of labour among the partners involved (United Nations departments, programmes and funds, specialized agencies, other international organizations and non-governmental organizations).
A report of the OIOS, Part two: peacekeeping operations (document A/61/264 (Part II)) covers peacekeeping oversight activities from 1 July 2005 to 30 December 2006. The Office’s comprehensive audits related to the management of the Department of Peacekeeping Operations and the Department of Political Affairs’ ability to manage and direct special political missions. The OIOS found a high risk of duplication and overlap regarding the functions of regional divisions of the Department of Political Affairs and the DPKO’s Office of Operations. In 2007-2009, the OIOS intends to carry out comprehensive audits of all special political missions. Following its audit of the Department of Peacekeeping Operations, the OIOS has noted that the Department has already made efforts to improve its management structures. Its reform programme, Peace Operations 2010, launched in 2005, included many initiatives to improve management structures in such key areas as people, doctrine, partnerships, resources and organization.
The OIOS says it substantiated allegations that military contingent members had sexually abused underage girls at MONUC and UNMIS. It also substantiated evidence of gross negligence, corruption and serious mismanagement at some peacekeeping missions. Serious deficiencies were identified in procurement management, including serious weaknesses in internal controls and inadequate managerial accountability. The Procurement Task Force issued 11 reports detailing findings of waste, abuse negligence and other forms of mismanagement, as well as fraud in several missions. Significant corruption in the procurement of food rations was reported for the United Nations Mission in Liberia (UNMIL) and UNMEE, facilitated by the failure of a senior official and two other staff members in supervisory positions to “exercise due care”.
The Secretary-General’s response on the OIOS findings is contained in an addendum to the report (document A/61/264 (Part II)/Add.1). Regarding one of the comprehensive audits, the Secretary-General states that, while there is an appearance of duplication in the functions performed by Political Affairs Officers in the two departments, including the fact that their job descriptions are similar, those Officers carry out different functions. On internal controls and accountability, the Secretary-General states that programme managers have acted in accordance with the norms of the United Nations system of justice in holding staff accountable for misconduct and mismanagement by submitting cases to OIOS for investigation, followed by referral to the Office of Human Resources Management, where necessary. In other cases, action was taken through performance appraisals and administrative censure. With the establishment of Conduct and Discipline Teams, managers are provided with further policy guidance and technical advice in addressing misconduct.
Other subjects discussed in the addendum include: the work of Conduct and Discipline Teams, both in the field and at Headquarters; mission appointments through the Department of Peacekeeping Operations’ Succession Planning Panel, to better manage senior leadership appointments; and efforts to deal with high vacancy rates among field staff, through a specially dedicated independent team within the Department.
Another OIOS report presents the results of the horizontal audit of fuel management in peacekeeping missions (document A/61/760 and Corr.1), stating that a mechanism to monitor fuel consumption was either lacking or inadequate in all missions audited, and internal controls over fuel management need significant improvement in several missions. The Office made 182 recommendations in the audit reports that were issued to the management of the 10 missions audited. Out of those, 174 were accepted and were in the process of being implemented in February. OIOS will monitor the status of actions taken by the missions in implementing OIOS recommendations, such as the need for the United Nations Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA), UNMEE, UNMIK, UNMIL, UNMIS and UNOCI to implement the “Mission Electronic Fuel Accounting System”.
The OIOS noted instances of non-compliance with the provisions of the Procurement Manual in the procurement of fuel products in MINUSTAH, UNAMA and the United Nations Assistance Mission for Iraq (UNAMI). In UNMIS, the amended contract for the supply of fuel included additional costs of $9 million for operation and maintenance charges, although the United Nations had the option of extending the contract at the original terms with a lower rate. The Mission also paid the contractor $921,000 for fuel equipment at rates higher than those provided in the contract and for the procurement of some additional equipment not provided for in the contract, without any formal amendment to the contract. OIOS recommended further investigation be made of the irregularities.
According to the OIOS report on its investigation into some 217 allegations of sexual exploitation and abuse against a total of 75 peacekeepers in the United Nations Organization Mission in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (document A/61/841), only one allegation was fully substantiated for a variety of reasons, including the fact that many complainants became frightened at the prospect of being confronted with the subjects of investigation.
Presenting its five recommendations on the matter, the OIOS emphasizes that issues of child prostitution and sexual exploitation and abuse cannot be eradicated by the Department’s training initiatives, and believes such activity should be addressed at Headquarters, in conjunction with other United Nations organizations in the Democratic Republic of the Congo and the wider non-governmental organization community. The Office recommends that a strong prevention programme be implemented.
According to the report, MONUC responded by saying that the Department of Peacekeeping Operations had sent a high-level investigation team in December 2004, which “segued” into the Office for Addressing Sexual Exploitation and Abuse, in March 2005. The same month, MONUC’s Code of Conduct was revised. Investigating teams from the Office of Sexual Exploitation and Abuse travelled to Ituri on eight occasions and investigated 28 allegations. From August 2005, OIOS assumed responsibility for responding to allegations of sexual exploitation and abuse. From that point onward, MONUC’s Conduct and Discipline Team have been focused on prevention, training and outreach. Four “train the trainers” sessions were conducted in Ituri in 2006.
Introduction of Board of Auditors Reports
PIERRE BROUDER, France’s Director of External Audit and Chairman of the Audit Operations Committee of the Board of Auditors, introduced the Board’s report.
Among the Board’s findings, he mentioned the fact that the Procurement Service had been unable to influence geographical distribution of contracts; mandatory registration documents had not been presented before suppliers were registered in the roster of UNMIK; vendor performance evaluations had not been submitted to the Procurement Office by several missions; adequate performance bonds had not been obtained from contractors at United Nations Headquarters and UNFICYP; and inadequate procurement planning had been observed in UNMIK, MINUSTAH and UNOCI, and in two offices at United Nations Headquarters. The Board had also found that the declarations of independence by procurement staff were not signed in UNMIL; and there had been ex-post facto submissions by MINUSTAH to the Headquarters Committee on Contracts. At UNMIL, there were lengthy lead times for approval of contract submissions by the Headquarters Committee on Contracts. Purchases of goods at the United Nations Military Observer Group in India and Pakistan (UNMOGIP) and UNOCI were approved by officials without adequate authority; and deliveries of services by suppliers in MINUSTAH and ONUB were made without signed contracts.
Turning to strategic deployment stocks, he said that the Board had noted that their replenishment was tracked through the Galileo system upon actual receipt of goods by the recipient-missions, instead of at the time of the issuance of the material release order. A total of 24 shipments had exceeded the 26-day lead time for inspection adopted by the United Nations Logistics Base for 2005-2006.
JONATHAN CHILDERLEY, Chief of the Oversight Support Unit, Office of the Under-Secretary-General for Management, introduced the Secretary-General’s report on the implementation of the Board’s recommendations. He said that, while the implementation of all recommendations would be treated as a priority, 28 “main recommendations” had been designated a high priority, and the others as medium priority. The administration continued to work closely with the Board and had made every effort to provide full and complete information for inclusion in the Board of Auditors report. Thus, in document A/61/811, the Secretary-General had only provided further comments on 39 of 63 recommendations made by the Board. The document also provided a full explanation of the delays in implementation for the period ended 30 June 2005.
RAJAT SAHA, Chairman of the ACABQ, presented that body’s report contained in document A/61/866.
IMTIAZ HUSSAIN (Pakistan), speaking on behalf of the “Group of 77” developing countries and China, said the Board of Auditors’ findings and recommendations, with which the Group concurred, deserved the “categorical support” of Member States for “expedited implementation” by the Administration. The Group noted the “ageing” of the Board’s 72 previous recommendations that had not been fully implemented and reiterated that the administration had the responsibility for implementing them. There was concern over outstanding assessed contributions for peacekeeping operations, which were older than 12 months and which amounted to $706.3 million out of a total of $1.27 billion. Noting that the administration had regularly provided Member States with information on the outstanding assessments and had urged prompt settlement, the Group appealed to Member States that had not yet done so to pay their assessed contributions on time, in full and without conditions.
He said the Group recognized the fact that the saving on, or cancellation of, prior-period obligations had gone up to $304.2 million -- an increase of 81.3 per cent from the $167.8 million from the preceding period. That “significant” amount indicated a requirement for better budget planning and administration. Reasons should be assessed for the increase and future overbudgeting avoided. In terms of procurement and contract management, the Group was concerned with the issue of “increasing opportunities in procurement” for vendors from developing countries and countries with economies in transition. The Group planned to closely monitor measures taken by the administration on vendor registration, vendor performance evaluation, performance bonds, procurement planning, delegation of authority, vacancy rates for procurement staff and the practice of ex post facto submission for approval of procurement contract awards.
He said that, in African missions, 56 per cent and 20 per cent of the total value of contracts had been allocated to vendors in the European and American regions, respectively, as observed by the Board of Auditors. That occurrence was disconcerting. It was hoped that the Administration would comply with the guidelines of the Procurement Manual and ensure proper procurement and contract management.
He said safe and well-managed transportation was a necessity for efficient and effective peacekeeping operations, as well as for maintaining the safety and welfare of peacekeepers. The Group was concerned by the gap between budgeted and actual expenditures and flight hours for air operations. The low rate of on-site quality inspection for registered air carriers was also of concern, as was the shortage of aviation staff and unsatisfactory aviation performance evaluation reports. The Group called for a study on how the new costing structure for air operations resulted in savings and how it reflected current commercial practices.
He said the Group was of the view that successful peacekeeping operations required effective coordination, both on inter-mission cooperation, as well as at regional levels. It would like to see the speedy implementation of regional coordination plans aligned to the missions’ objectives. Finally, on the peacekeeping support account, the Group was distressed by the Board of Auditors’ observation that some activities in the work plans for support account posts had not been stated “in a manner to facilitate the identification of their relation to peacekeeping operations”. That posed difficulties for determining whether posts under the support account had been used, and continue to be used, for the intended purpose of backstopping peacekeeping operations. The Group looked forward to the Secretary-General’s comprehensive analysis of the evolution of the support account.
THOMAS THOMMA ( Germany), speaking on behalf of the European Union and associated States, said the Union remained concerned at the total outstanding assessed contributions of $1.27 billion for the 2005-2006 period, an amount that included $700 million for the acting missions. Although that represented a significant improvement over 2004-2005, the persistent negative impact on cash flows was obvious and encouraged cross-borrowing between individual peacekeeping accounts. Thus, it was essential that all member States pay contributions in full, on time and without conditions.
Voicing appreciation that the Board of Auditors’ report referred to previous recommendations, he remained concerned that 47 of the recommendations had not been implemented. He urged that they be implemented without delay, particularly given the surge in peacekeeping operations. In that context, the Union welcomed the Board of Auditors’ initiative to highlight progress achieved and to form recommendations in a prioritized manner.
The Union noted with deep concern the increasing number of cancellations of prior-year, unliquidated obligations. It would raise that issue, as well as issues related to procurement, air operations, vehicle fleet management and regional cooperation during informal sessions. As the Board of Auditors’ report addressed in a comprehensive manner the issues before it, the Union would work with States to implement its recommendations to make peacekeeping operations more efficient.
Introduction of Reports
Presenting several reports on the administrative and budgetary aspects of peacekeeping financing, United Nations Controller, WARREN SACH, said that the scope, dynamic nature and unpredictability of peacekeeping activities continued to challenge the Secretariat’s capacity. Last summer, shortly after the Assembly had concluded action on the 2006-2007 budget proposals, the Security Council had authorized a new mission in Timor-Leste and significantly expended the Force in Lebanon. With the recent completion of all the budget proposals for 2007-2008, the peacekeeping budget level was currently estimated at $5.3 billion, taking into account the closure of ONUB; downsizing in UNMIL, UNMIK and UNMEE; the new UNMIT mission; full deployment of the expanded UNIFIL; and Security Council authorization in respect of MINUSTAH and UNOCI; as well as provision for the support account and the Logistics Base. The Council’s current discussions on Chad, Central African Republic, Darfur and Somalia could result in new operations within the next 12 months. While it was difficult to ascertain the final resource requirements for 2007-2008, it was possible that their total level could exceed $6 billion.
Regarding budget performance for 2005-2006, he said that total resources for that period amounted to $5 billion, inclusive of the support account and the Logistics Base. Related expenditures amounted to some $4.6 billion, resulting in an unencumbered balance of $463 million. The overall budget implementation rate for the period was 91 per cent.
On another issue, he said that the Secretary-General had made recommendations for funding after-service health insurance, proposing that $410 million should be drawn from interest and other income and unencumbered balances of peacekeeping operations to contribute to funding the total liability. Such action was reflected in the performance reports for individual missions. Taking into account the Assembly’s decision in resolution 61/264, those amounts would instead be credited in full to Member States.
Turning to the 2007-2008 budget proposals, he said that efficiency gains totalling some $40 million were presented there, compared with $17 million for 2006-2007 under the section on analysis of variances. The efficiency gains represented cost savings as a result of specific management initiatives. Such initiatives were described in the results-based budgeting frameworks under the support component as service improvement outputs and related indicators of achievement. The resources presented in budget proposals already took those efficiency gains into account.
The Assembly was requested to endorse the proposed management initiatives described in the overview report and apply the balance of some $7.1 million at 30 June 2006 in excess of the authorized level of the Peacekeeping Reserve Fund to help meet the financing of the support account for peacekeeping operations for the 2007-2008 period.
PHILIP COOPER, Director of the Administrative Support Division of the Department of Peacekeeping Operations, introduced the Secretary-General’s reports on sexual exploitation and abuse.
Related reports of the ACABQ were introduced by its Chairman, Mr. SAHA.
Presenting OIOS reports, INGA-BRITT AHLENIUS, Under-Secretary-General for Internal Oversight Services, said that all three reports highlighted one noticeable management shortcoming: the absence of a robust control framework that set out management’s responsibility for the control environment, risk assessment, control activities, information and communications and monitoring. Internal control was the responsibility of management and should be established and maintained by it. A good control environment encouraged people to conduct their activities and carry out their responsibilities with integrity, high ethical values and competence. A weak control environment was a recipe for failure. To establish an internal control framework, it was not enough to “submit elegant documents describing the theoretical concepts and ambitions”. The establishment of an internal control framework took time, and management was responsible for carrying that process through.
Presenting the Office’s annual report, part II, on peacekeeping operations -- the first report dedicated to peacekeeping oversight -- she said that, during the period from 1 July 2005 to 30 December 2006, the OIOS had issued over 170 oversight reports related to peacekeeping, which accounted for 50 per cent of all recommendations made during that period. Some 463 allegations of sexual exploitation and abuse in missions had been received by the OIOS. In two separate cases, the OIOS had substantiated allegations that military contingent members had sexually abused underage girls. Senior officials in one military contingent at UNIFIL, including the Commanding Officer, had put in place a scheme whereby they fraudulently overstated their fuel requirements and then sold the excess fuel to local buyers. They also sold United Nations food rations to local supermarkets. The same contingent sought reimbursement from the United Nations for numerous vehicles that were not used.
The Procurement Task Force had a caseload of 225 cases in the Peacekeeping Department and various missions, she continued, and 148 of those cases were currently under investigation. The Task Force had found 4 staff members and 7 vendors to have committed fraud, 3 staff members to have violated United Nations rules and regulations, and 4 staff to have committed acts of mismanagement. Extensive fraudulent schemes, which had gone on for many years, had been identified at Headquarters and in missions. One involved a sophisticated scheme between a vendor and a procurement official, which involved several high-value contracts. A number of vendors had been debarred as a result of wrongful conduct. In UNMIS, OIOS audits had found serious control weaknesses, potential fraud indicators, wasteful expenditures, overpayments to vendors and questionable procurement practices. In MINUSTAH, the Office had identified 12 procurement actions totalling $9.1 million that had not been carried out in accordance with established procurement procedures. A quick-impact audit of compliance with bid-opening procedures, covering 10 missions, had identified a low level of compliance.
Regarding the investigation into allegations of sexual exploitation and abuse in MONUC, she added that the OIOS was of the view that girls and young women in Bunia remained at high risk, but the investigation had acknowledged the proactive approach of one military contingent in preventing opportunities for further sexual exploitation and abuse. Such efforts should be used as a model for all peacekeeping operations. All the Office’s recommendations had been accepted by the Department and MONUC, and four recommendations remained in the process of implementation.
Presenting the Joint Inspection Unit report on the administrative and budgetary aspects of peacekeeping financing, Inspector EVEN FONTAINE ORTIZ said that, since the finalization of the report, the Assembly had endorsed the benchmarking framework for the implementation of results-based management in May 2006, and the Unit had issued a more comprehensive report on the subject entitled “Results-based management in the United Nations in the context of the reform process” (document A/61/805), which the Committee was expected to take up in the forthcoming sixty-second session. In 2005, the United Nations System Chief Executives Board for Coordination had invited all United Nations system organizations to endorse the benchmarking framework and to use it as “the chapeau” for their respective implementation of results-based management.
More needed to be done to obtain the full benefits of a results-based approach, he said. In any results-based approach, the expected results should be properly commensurate with the resources allocated, he said. Setting the objectives and the provision of matching resources were the main responsibility of the legislative organs concerned. In the case of peacekeeping operations, unlike other organizations and entities, there was a mismatch in that regard, as the Security Council set the overall objectives and the resources were approved by the Assembly. If those two bodies wished to pursue a results-based management approach for the conduct of peacekeeping operations, they should find ways and means to ensure coherence and consistency in the adoption of mandates and objectives of peacekeeping operations and the provision of related resources.
The evolution of peacekeeping operations into complex operations with multidimensional elements had gone well beyond the initial concept of “peacekeeping”, he continued. Each operation was unique in terms of geography, timing, surrounding events and problems to be solved. A key for success in the implementation of results-based management was the predictability of external factors, which should be properly identified and taken into consideration from the very early stages of planning, through the development of meaningful assumptions. There was little or no control over external factors, but they could and must be part of the planning exercise.
The Joint Inspection Unit had also highlighted the issues of coherence and coordination, he said. As a daring attempt to contribute to a lasting solution to that challenge, one of the Unit’s recommendations invited the Secretary-General to lead the preparation of an institutional framework, proposing an operational doctrine, road map, rules of engagement and guidelines for United Nations system involvement in integrated peace missions. Many practical measures within the Secretary-General’s purview could be taken without delay, in particular in enforcing full integration and coordination within the Secretariat and United Nations funds and programmes, as suggested by the Unit.
As for the Integrated Mandate Implementation Plans, a key step for results-based management was to identify the long-term goals and objectives to be pursued by peacekeeping operations, he said. The Security Council had repeatedly committed itself to set clear, credible and achievable mandates and, therefore, the Secretary-General should have sufficient capacity to prepare sound, comprehensive preliminary assessments and strategic analysis of pre-conflict situations. The Brahimi Report had recommended that the Secretary-General should establish an entity to support the information and analysis needs. The Assembly in 2004 had approved the establishment of a small Executive Committee on Peace and Security (ECPS) secretariat, but that body lacked sufficient resources and expertise. The Unit recommended that the Assembly revisit the Brahimi recommendation, requesting the Secretary-General to establish an entity, referred to as the ECPS Information and Strategic Analysis Secretariat, which would support the information and analysis needs of all members of ECPS.
Mr. SACH then introduced the Secretary-General’s comments on issues related to the OIOS and JIU reports.
IMTIAZ HUSSAIN (Pakistan), speaking on behalf of the “Group of 77” developing countries and China, said he attached great importance to considering cross-cutting policy matters related to the administrative and budgetary aspects of financing United Nations peacekeeping operations. Recognizing that each operation had its own mandate, he said cross-cutting resolutions were important policy tools that provided guidance to the Department of Peacekeeping Operations on issues common to peacekeeping missions.
He stressed that full implementation of resolutions 60/266 and 59/296 was crucial to ensuring the effectiveness of peacekeeping missions, and he remained concerned that certain provisions had not been adequately addressed in the Secretary-General’s overview report. As the late submission of reports seriously undermined the work of the ACABQ and Fifth Committee, he urged the Secretariat to follow the timeline for presenting peacekeeping budget documentation.
He regretted that no information was being presented on the use of consultants, adding that consideration should be given to hiring those well-versed with national situations. Noting that high vacancy rates in peacekeeping missions would seriously constrain their ability to implement their mandates, he stressed the need to address underlying issues. The hiring of United Nations Volunteers also should comply with relevant General Assembly resolutions.
On the report requested on accountability, fraud and corruption, he regretted that section V of resolution 60/266 had not been presented, as those issues could impact the Organization’s functioning. Voicing concern at inadequate managerial accountability, he stressed the importance of implementing a comprehensive internal control framework and ensuring its monitoring by the Secretariat and the Office of Internal Oversight Services (OIOS).
He also expressed concern over the high vacancy rates in all peacekeeping missions, which could seriously constrain their ability to implement their respective mandates. Emphasizing the need to address the issues underlying that situation, the Group took note of the steps taken in that regard, such as delegation of recruitment authority to missions and temporary deployment of officers to accelerate recruitment in missions with high vacancy rates, but underlined the need for appropriate accountability measures in that process. The Group also stressed that recruitment efforts should pay due regard to equitable geographic distribution and gender balance, especially the recruitment of female candidates from developing countries. He also reiterated the importance of hiring national staff as a means to overcome that continuous problem in all missions.
His delegation strongly supported quick-impact projects. On another issue, he found it a “poor excuse” that the report reviewing all aspects of fuel management in peacekeeping missions had not been presented on the pretext that adequate funds had not been approved for hiring an external consultant to prepare that report. The Assembly would have benefited from considering the matter.
The Group emphasized the need to optimize air assets and requested more information on the activities of the management expert team the Secretary-General intended to establish. It also requested information on the Galileo and Mercury assets management systems, noting that efforts should be made to procure spare parts from developing-country markets.
On results-based budgeting, it was essential to ensure the adoption of coherent mandates, he said, noting the Group would request the Secretary-General to help implement Joint Inspection Unit recommendations. Noting serious concern at sexual exploitation and abuse, the Group expressed unreserved support for implementing a zero-tolerance policy. The Group regretted that the Special Committee on Peacekeeping had not adopted its annual report, due to the inflexibility of one delegation that, unfortunately, could have an impact on the Budget Committee’s consideration of cross-cutting issues. Thus, he requested the Fifth Committee Chair to urgently resolve the matter with the Chair of the First Committee and the Special Committee before closing formal consultations on the issue. Finally, the Group agreed with the Peacekeeping Department Working Group on the payment of mission subsistence allowance to staff officers in the mission area, in lieu of reimbursement to troop-contributing countries.
UDO FENCHEL ( Germany), speaking on behalf of the European Union and associated States, said that the fact the tentative programme of work contained six time slots for informal consultations on the cross-cutting issues underlined the importance of that comprehensive dossier.
The cross-cutting dossier went to the heart of what the Fifth Committee was about, he said, at once scrutinizing individual mission budgets and also allowing for a view of the bigger picture. Indeed, since the mid-1990s, the Committee had widened its scope to identify areas such as budget presentation, management structures and recruitment that related to all missions. Addressing such issues in an overall manner had led to a more cost-efficient and responsible management culture within peacekeeping. For example, air transport and fuel management accounted for about one half of operational peacekeeping expenditures in the current budget cycle and, given that, one could assess the enormous synergy potential of such a comprehensive approach.
Initiatives, such as the introduction of an operation-wide fuel management policy, would not only translate to more efficient peacekeeping operations, but could help reduce fraud. Air transport and fuel management were two “big ticket” examples of the potential benefits of addressing peacekeeping operations in a comprehensive manner.
As the number of reports dealing with peacekeeping was increasing, he urged that reporting requirements be streamlined. In that regard, the cross-cutting dossier facilitated the Committee’s work in the field of peacekeeping operations. The Union looked forward to a thorough analysis of the cross-cutting issues and swift agreement on a resolution.
LUIS LITHGOW (Dominican Republic), speaking on behalf of the Rio Group and aligning himself with the Group of 77 and China, said that, having examined the Secretary-General’s reports, and having heard the recommendations of the ACABQ and Board of Auditors, the Group believed it was a good idea to define policies for the Secretary-General to apply across all peacekeeping operations, to guarantee efficiency and improved effectiveness. In doing so, the unique features of each operation should be taken into account. Examining cross-cutting issues was a good basis for promoting rationalization, and developing measures that were general in nature. It was important to promote budget discipline among peacekeeping operations and missions. The draft report of the Department of Peacekeeping Operations’ working group must be approved as soon as possible, since it would serve as a guideline for the Committee work regarding cross-cutting issues.
Turning to quick-impact projects, he said Member States must apply all necessary effort to bring about their full implementation, since those projects would promote acceptance among locals of the missions’ work, and build confidence in the peace process. Those projects would go towards creating the socio-economic infrastructure needed to implement peacekeeping efforts. Artificial timelines should not be imposed on those projects, and the Group agreed with the Secretary-General that the necessity of quick-impact project be based on on-the-ground evaluations and not be tied to the age of the mission.
It was important not to place the Organization’s security or operational capacity at risk, he said. During informal consultations, the Group would request further information on the Secretariat’s assessment on use of air transport and decisions on staff rotation. The Group did not agree with the ACABQ’s recommendation regarding budget reductions on troop rotation. Further, it was surprised that the Committee was expected to address the question without receiving comments on the reduction of transport equipment. The Group would examine that topic further during the Committee’s informal discussions.
The Group noted that the use of new technology by the Secretariat, including videoconferencing and computer-based learning programmes, contributed to cost reductions. It was concerned by the high vacancy rates at peacekeeping missions, as well retention problems. The Group would examine that question during the discussion on contractual agreements and harmonization of conditions of service.
Regarding management initiatives, the Group had examined with interest the idea of creating dedicated capacities within the Department of Peacekeeping Operations to support peacekeeping in Africa, which had, as its first steps, the creation of a standing police capacity. The Group supports the payment of mission subsistence allowance to staff officers, and would seek further information regarding “categories” of staff during informal discussions. It would also request further information on death or disability compensation. As for disarmament, demobilization and reintegration programmes, the Group welcomed the inter-agency working group’s recommendation to increase the United Nations capacity to support that programme, in which predictability of financing was key.
The Group also believed it important to eliminate sexual exploitation and abuse, he said. A concerted effort was essential to developing action towards a zero-tolerance policy, and to ensure that perpetrators were punished. It would examine the OIOS recommendation on that topic, as well as that of the Secretary-General and ACABQ. It looked forward to recommendations from the group of experts established by the General Assembly regarding the matter. Finally, the Group regretted that the ACABQ did not address the question of spare parts, and would like to know why.
ERIC FRANCK SAIZONOU (Benin), speaking on behalf of the African Group, supported the position of the Group of 77 and underlined some pointes of particular concern to the African States, which attached great importance to the role of peacekeeping operations in the maintenance of international peace and security. He regretted that the overview report of the Secretary-General did not address certain provisions of importance. In particular, he was concerned about the question of recruitment. More efforts should be devoted to ensuring equitable geographical distribution and gender balance, especially recruitment of female candidates from developing countries. The proposal of hiring nationals of host countries could be an important tool in that regard.
He also regretted that the report on accountability, fraud, corruption and conflict of interest, as requested in resolution 60/266, had not been introduced today. He attached the utmost importance to that document, because of expectations placed on it for the image and credibility of the Organization.
He said that quick-impact projects had proven to be of immense importance for the improvement of the situation of populations affected by war and more attention should be devoted to such projects. The Group also remained concerned about the question on the use of consultants. In that connection, he stressed the need to take into account the particular situation of the countries where they were to discharge their duties. While no new information had been presented today in that regard, in handling the issue, it was necessary to be guided by the resolution on the use of consultants.
The Group also emphasized the importance of zero tolerance to sexual exploitation and abuse, he continued, encouraging the Secretariat to implement the recommendations recently made in that regard. He regretted that, due to the lack of cooperation from one delegation, the Special Committee on Peacekeeping Operations had not been able to adopt its report this year. That report was very important to the consideration of cross-cutting issues and its absence impacted negatively on the work of the Fifth Committee. He hoped the matter could be resolved. He also supported the recommendation of the Department of Peacekeeping Operations’ working group to pay mission subsistence allowance to staff officers in lieu of reimbursement to troop-contributing countries.
EDWINA STEVENS (Australia), also speaking on behalf of Canada and New Zealand, looked forward to considering the Secretary-General’s proposal to restructure the Department of Peacekeeping Operations later in the session. The peacekeeping budget had the potential of rising to more than $6 billion by the end of the year, and possibly higher in the first half of 2008. In the climate of increasing budgets, she looked to the Secretariat to ensure accountability, efficiency and innovation in peacekeeping management. It was noted that, as the budget of peacekeeping operations grew, so did the impact of outstanding assessed contributions. All Member States were urged to pay their assessed contributions on time, in full and without conditions.
Turning to results-based budgeting, she noted the suggestions of the Board of Auditors, the Joint Inspection Unit and the ACABQ that it had been more of a “paper exercise”. Results-based budgeting had not been practically applied as a management tool. The Secretary-General was encouraged to improve the application of results-based budgeting and she supported the refinement of the indicators used in the budget, so that they had “concrete meaning”. She was interested in the ACABQ’s recommendation to synchronize the budget with electronic performance appraisal cycles, and looked forward to hearing more on the topic. She also supported the alignment of financial resources to a results-based presentation.
She voiced support for the ACABQ’s recommendation that the Secretary-General develop a plan for work process improvement and that, when seeking increased resources for administrative and support functions, he demonstrate that those processes were efficient. She would like more clarity on what resources were devoted to the budget process. As for the benchmarking analysis aimed at developing planning models for sizing and structuring multidimensional missions, she supported the ACABQ’s recommendations that they be based not on past patterns alone, but also take into consideration the relationship between staff members, concrete workload and potential difficulties.
On the budgetary planning of peacekeeping operations, she expressed concern at the nearly 50 per cent increase of unencumbered balances for the 2005-2006 year, as compared to the previous financial year. There had been almost half a billion dollars in excess assessments, largely to the detriment of Member States that paid in full and on time. The pattern of overbudgeting was believed to be the result of resources being “asserted”, rather than programmatically justified. Indeed, good planning was the lynchpin to rigorous budgeting; the “template approach” had limitations. Realistic budgeting for staffing operations was encouraged and she supported new approaches to the recruitment of international and national staff for peacekeeping, along with commensurate accountability.
Regarding personnel management, she said she supported a uniform policy on mission subsistence allowance to staff officers, and accepted the Peacekeeping Department working group’s recommendation to pay mission subsistence allowance to staff officers in lieu of reimbursement to troop-contributing countries. She would like to learn more about temporary duty assignments between missions and whether it would be more effective to second a staff member for up to a year. She also supported the review of standards for the recruitment of national officers, to allow missions to draw on local human resources. The high vacancy rate in peacekeeping operations was a concern, which raised questions over the impact of high vacancy rates on the implementation of peacekeeping. She believed that posts that had been vacant for an extended period should be “rejustified”. There was also a need to study the high turnover rate in professional staff in peacekeeping operations.
She noted advances in regional and inter-mission cooperation, air operations, continued improvement in the use of technology, and plans to construct a central satellite hub at the United Nations Logistics Base.
OLIVIER POULIN ( Canada), speaking also on behalf of Australia and New Zealand, voiced support for the zero-tolerance policy on sexual exploitation and abuse. He believed it was the Committee and General Assembly’s duty “to spare no effort” during the current resumed session to ensure that clear policy guidance was provided to the Secretary-General on the matter, along with the commensurate resources for tackling the issue. The Comprehensive Strategy on sexual exploitation and abuse was welcome; the proposed three-pronged approach was aimed at prevention of misconduct, enforcement of United Nations standards, and remedial action. He commended the Secretary-General and staff for ensuring respect for the standards enclosed in its bulletin on special measures for protection from sexual exploitation and abuse.
He said he supported the Secretary-General’s request for a conversion to regular posts for the conduct and discipline positions, as well as for positions in the Office of Internal Oversight Services relating to sexual exploitation and abuse. Those posts were currently financed through general temporary assistance in the support account and peacekeeping operation budgets. Even if the structures of the teams and their resource requirements were to change in the future, they were part of ongoing functions and should be regularized. There was no rationale for maintaining their financing through general temporary assistance.
He stressed that the proposal being considered by the Committee constituted the first step in setting up the architecture for eliminating sexual exploitation and abuse. The General Assembly still needed to reach a decision on the revised draft model memorandum of understanding between the United Nations and troop-contributing countries. Similar understandings remained to be reached on the Group of Legal Experts’ Report on Criminal Accountability of United Nations Staff and Experts on Mission, and the Comprehensive Strategy on Assistance and Support to Victims of Sexual Exploitation and Abuse. He urged the Assembly to deal with those proposals urgently, and to follow the leadership of the Secretary-General’s Special Adviser on the matter, Prince Zeid Ra’ad Zeid al-Hussein.
MISAKO KAJI ( Japan) noted that the proposed budget for peacekeeping operations exceeded $5 billion and was envisaged to grow. Japan was, therefore, obliged to continue scrutinizing the budgets of peacekeeping operations, both at Headquarters and in the field, to ensure they were justified and that budgetary discipline and fiscal prudence were exercised. It was currently examining the Secretary-Genera’s proposal on strengthening the capacity of the Organization in peacekeeping operations, and would do the same with the forthcoming ACABQ report on that topic.
She said the Secretary-General had ample opportunity through the budgetary process to demonstrate his commitment to run an efficient, effective and accountable United Nations, and to provide Member States with a thorough explanation of his efforts. The General Assembly, meanwhile, should articulate future strategies for reflecting management improvements and efficiency gains through the budgetary process. That process should clearly show the linkage between indicators, outputs and resources, in line with the concept of results-based management. She stressed that the process “should not be merely a paper exercise”, since it was a way for Member States to ensure that the United Nations was making proper use of their taxpayers’ resources.
She said Japan shared the ACABQ’s concern that there was an “absence of evidence of concrete action” to ensure efficiency and effectiveness of management and administrative processes, before additional resources were requested. Japan agreed with the ACABQ that adding post and non-post resources for inefficient processes was not an acceptable management practice. The problem of duplicative and top-heavy structures of integrated missions remained unsolved, and there appeared to be little Headquarters involvement in the monitoring of structures in individual peacekeeping operations. In studying a mission template, Japan “strongly cautioned” against a “template approach” to staffing.
She added that the “significant amount” of unencumbered balances and cancellation of prior-period obligations suggested that there should be more realistic budgeting and a tighter control of budgetary planning and administration. Japan would like to see budgets based on realistic assumptions regarding delays in deployment and actual vacancy rates, as well as the latest expenditure pattern of a mission, and other missions in similar situations. Japan was eager to learn about the undertakings by the Department of Peacekeeping Operations to explore possible economies in operational costs, particularly of air operations, ground transportation, fuel management, information and communications technology, training and travel.
Regarding cooperation, coordination and the delineation of roles and functions among peacekeeping missions, she said she expected integrated missions to eliminate duplication. Enhanced synergies among partners was needed to facilitate collective international efforts in countries emerging from conflict, and missions should not simply duplicate activities carried out by funds, programmes and agencies involved in United Nations country teams. It would be “most unfortunate” if integrated missions were used merely as a mechanism for financing activities of United Nations entities from assessed contributions. To contribute to the effective use of mission resources, she supported further promotion of inter-mission cooperation. While Japan was conscious of the unique nature of individual missions, it was concerned that the Secretary-General had yet to implement General Assembly resolution 60/266, which had called for regional coordination plans. Finally, she said, no effort should be spared to tackle the issue of conduct and discipline, in the spirit of “zero tolerance”.
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