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Fifth Committee Takes Up 2009/10 Budgets for Observer Force on Golan Heights, Mission in Sudan, Hybrid Operation in Darfur

14 May 2009
General AssemblyGA/AB/3903
Department of Public Information • News and Media Division • New York

Sixty-third General Assembly

Fifth Committee

43rd Meeting (AM)



As the Fifth Committee (Administrative and Budgetary) today took up the first three of more than a dozen peacekeeping budgets to be considered for the upcoming 2009/10 financial year, the Committee was told that projected delays in the deployment of troops to Sudan suggested the possibility of reductions to the amounts proposed by the Secretary-General for the multi-million dollar United Nations Mission in the Sudan (UNMIS) and the billion-dollar African Union-United Nations Hybrid Operation in Darfur (UNAMID), although some States cautioned against underbudgeting.

The proposed budget for UNMIS was $980.6 million for the period beginning 1 July 2009, and that of UNAMID was $1.79 billion, according to the Secretary-General’s budget reports for those two missions, introduced by Controller Jun Yamazaki (documents A/63/714 and A/63/717, respectively)).

He said the $980.6 million for UNMIS represented an increase of 19.5 per cent over approved resources a year earlier.  Contributing to that increase were additional staff requirements, higher projected deployment of military personnel, and the proposed establishment of 145 additional international posts, 451 national posts and 68 United Nations volunteer positions.  It was also due to an expanded construction programme and increased air transport costs.

Susan McLurg, Chair of the Advisory Committee on Administrative and Budgetary Questions (ACABQ), summarized the findings of a report containing an analysis of the UNMIS budget (document A/63/746/Add.5), explaining that it reflected the Mission’s desire to realign its strategy to accommodate the political and administrative structure in Sudan.  The Mission’s frame of reference would change from a “sector-level concept” to a “state-level concept”.

“While the sector-level concept was developed to monitor and verify the security arrangements of the Comprehensive Peace Agreement, it did not correspond to the political and administrative structures in the Sudan,” she said.  The $980.6 million budget also included items to support the disarmament, demobilization and reintegration programme throughout North and South Sudan, expected to be operational in the next financial period.

She said the Advisory Committee recommended that the budget be revised to assume a higher vacancy rate than usual -- by a factor of 75 per cent -- because of “uncertainties on the ground” connected with the disarmament programme.  The Advisory Committee pointed also to anticipated delays in the construction of staff accommodations, which, when totalled with other reductions, would bring down overall costs 5 per cent, to a total of $951.67 million.

The representative of Angola, however, expressed concerns about the smaller budget recommended by the Advisory Committee.  Speaking on behalf of the African Group, she recalled UNMIS had been underbudgeted in the 2007/08 financial year by about $56 million, raising concerns among the Group of a repeat in the upcoming financial year.  That view was supported by the representative of Brazil.  That view was supported by the representative of Brazil.  In addition, the Brazilian representative said it was important that the Mission received full support for disarmament, demobilization and reintegration activities, which was critical to the promotion of peace, national reconciliation and development.  He was unconvinced by ACABQ’s suggestion that the budget assume a 75 per cent vacancy rate for international staff.  Also, $1 million for quick impact projects was not enough to support areas such as health, education, public infrastructure and social services.

The representative of Sudan, who also spoke on the UNMIS budget, noted that no funds had been allocated to UNMIS to help with elections, which were anticipated to take place in February 2010.  But, with all elements in place for holding elections -- the work of defining electoral districts and political party registration by the National Electoral Commission was now complete -– he expected the Mission to submit its request.  He also called for more money for quick impact projects, aimed at benefiting local inhabitants directly.

As for UNAMID, Controller Yamazaki said the $1.79 billion proposal for the Operation marked an increase of 19.3 per cent from the last financial period, due in part to higher deployment.  Other reasons for the variance in budget were price increases in air transport, information and communications technology, and medical and special equipment.

But the ACABQ report (document A/63/746/Add.4), again introduced by Ms. McLurg, suggested that the figure could be reduced by $168.7 million -- to $1.62 billion -- citing lower-than-anticipated deployment levels and an associated delay in construction projects, as reasons.  Other cuts could come from anticipated savings associated with a new system of providing rations to troops and savings in transport costs using updated fuel prices.

Concerning UNAMID spending, the Committee also heard a report by the Under-Secretary-General for Internal Oversight Services, Inga-Britt Ahlenius, on an audit of the Secretary-General’s use of “extraordinary measures” in the initial stages of the Darfur Hybrid Operation (document A/63/668).  Through one extraordinary measure, the United Nations had been able to award a $250 million contract without competitive bidding to Pacific Architects and Engineers (PAE) for the provision of “multifunction logistic services”.  The awarding of that contract was believed to have attracted negative publicity, damaging the reputation of the United Nations.

She said the contract had been arranged without a detailed cost-benefit analysis, and no assurance had been provided about the reasonableness of PAE’s offer.  In the opinion of the Office of Internal Oversight Services (OIOS), the Department of Field Support and the Department of Management had had an opportunity to perform an assessment as early as December 2006 -- when the issue had first been broached by the Department of Peacekeeping Operations.  Furthermore, the Department of Field Support was fully aware of conditions in Darfur through UNMIS operations, and a Darfur planning team had been in place since March 2006.

Ms. Ahlenius added that, while representatives of the Office of Internal Oversight Services had been present at meetings attended by the Department of Management’s Procurement Division, their attendance did not “constitute the audit division’s concurrence with management’s decision regarding […] sole-sourcing”.

“It is management’s responsibility to manage risks and not that of the Office of Internal Oversight Services,” she stressed.

Nancy Hurtz-Soyka, Director of Policy Coordination and Oversight Support Service in the Department of Management, who presented the Secretary-General’s response to the audit (document A/63/668/Add.1), said the choice of a sole-source contractor brought risks, but that those were judged less onerous than risks brought by disruptions in the supply chain, or by failing to build infrastructure needed to support the Operation.

The Sudanese representative expressed agreement that the exceptional measures were not valid and did not facilitate UNAMID’s mission, and that there were excessive costs for administrative services that were not provided in the Secretary-General’s budget.  More generally, he remained concerned at the mission’s operational capacity -- the non-provision of contingency-owned equipment, the lack of enabling units and the lack of helicopters, multi-use aircraft and armoured carriers.  He appealed to States to assist in those areas.

The Fifth Committee also took up the performance budget for United Nations Disengagement Observer Force (UNDOF) in the 2007/08 financial period (document A/63/521), as well as the proposed budget for the upcoming 2009/10 period (document A/63/686).

Mr. Yamazaki, introducing the Secretary-Generals reports on UNDOF, said the mission was seeking additional requirements of nearly $2.58 million to cover unforeseen costs that had arisen in the 2007/08 reporting period.  That amount would go towards, among other things, three light armoured patrol vehicles to enhance the safety of mission personnel.  Meanwhile, the Secretary-General’s report on the budget for 2009/10 placed the requirements for the upcoming financial period at $45.37 million, a slight decrease from the last period, of 0.8 per cent.

Ms. McLurg said the Advisory Committee had recommended that the Assembly appropriate slightly less than what was asked for, $45.26 million.  According to that body’s report, the smaller budget -- by $113,600 -- derived from the reduction of one post from P-4 to P-3 level and from the elimination of one Administrative Assistant post (document A/63/746/Add.2).

The representative of Syria commented that the Civilian Affairs Officer requested at the P-4 level would have an important role to play in fostering good relations with the local community.  Located in the Office of the Force Commander, the Civilian Affairs Officer would complement regular communications done by the military authorities.  He added that interactions with civilians were conducted by a member of the Truce Committee, in conjunction with the relevant Syrian security authorities.

He also took the opportunity to raise concerns about that the Advisory Committee’s habitual recommendation to “review” the financial arrangements for supporting two observers, UNDOF and the United Nations Interim Force in Lebanon (UNIFIL).  The General Assembly had not authorized such reviews in either of its resolutions dealing with those two missions, and the Syrian Government expected the Advisory Committee to stay within the limits of those resolutions in making its recommendations.

The Committee will meet again tomorrow, Friday 15 May, at 10 a.m., to continue its work for the second resumed session.

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