Seventy-eighth Session,
17th Meeting (AM)

Speakers Seek More Information on Governance, Cost Savings, Efficiency Gains, as Fifth Committee Considers Proposals for Improved Service Delivery

Optimistic that interlinked reform processes juxtaposed with improved service delivery within the United Nations will reinvigorate the Sustainable Development Goals at all levels and redirect savings towards development and carrying out the UN’s mandate, delegates in the Fifth Committee (Administrative and Budgetary) today called for more detailed information and data on the concept. 

The representative of Cuba, speaking on behalf of the Group of 77 and China, observed that the Secretary-General’s report on the topic did not include comprehensive information on the purpose and principles underpinning this concept, designation of service providers and services to be provided, plans and timelines for implementation, expected efficiency gains and budgetary impact.  Nor did it include information on the incorporation of lessons learned in the provision of shared services since the implementation of the global field support strategy, or details on the governance and accountability framework. 

“Strengthened governance, clarity on the delegation of authority, and oversight mechanisms, supported by a clear and effective accountability are critical for the success of any service delivery arrangements,” he said, expecting further information on the measures undertaken and envisaged in this regard. Supporting a harmonized approach to procurement, he also said that any proposals put forward to improve service delivery should be well integrated and coordinated with all other reform initiatives and strategies.  Moreover, more data and analysis are needed to ascertain that the utilization of other UN system organizations’ existing facilities will be cost-neutral and could yield cost savings. 

Presenting the Secretary-General’s report on “Improving Service Delivery in the United Nations” (document A/78/391), Atul Khare, Under-Secretary-General for Operational Support, Department of Operational Support, said the report focuses on ongoing efforts to develop the Secretariat’s existing global operational support architecture to improve the delivery of support services and is directed along three areas: an incremental approach; measures that mostly remain within the Secretary-General’s authority; and adjustments to the Secretariat’s existing support structure. 

The resident coordinator system, which since migrating to the Secretariat has benefitted from a network of support arrangements across 162 developing countries and territories, is a microcosm of what is possible across the Secretariat.  “In other words, the Secretariat is now truly delivering support services to all corners of the globe”, he said.  This has been achieved by using a combination of remotely and locally delivered support services, without unnecessary investment in new support capabilities.

He said the report also highlights the more advanced model of centralized, shared services adopted to support the high-volume requirements of peace operations, made possible through a trident solution that uses the Global Service Centre operation in Brindisi and Valencia; the Regional Service Centre in Entebbe; and the Kuwait Joint Support Office.  This has shown that using shared and remote service provision improves efficiency, interoperability, responsiveness and operational continuity.

He noted that the report lays out the ongoing shift towards “service excellence” in order to provide flexible, effective and efficient mandate implementation.  Opportunities to strengthen the Secretariat’s global operational support architecture will be shaped around several key objectives, including greater economies of scale and reduced duplication; greater responsiveness to mandate imperatives; and strengthened resilience and adaptability in support operations.

He said the evolving task is complex as the Secretariat consists of about 235 entities deployed across at least 175 countries with diverse presence and mandates.  The Secretary-General’s report acknowledges that the Secretariat’s existing support structures still need improvement, and the ongoing work aims to simply and harmonize processes in order to integrate service delivery.  “In this context, further adoption of shared support services, whether they be provided remotely, through a centralized source, or locally across collocated entities, remains a clear imperative,” he said.

Abdallah Bachar Bong, Chair of the Advisory Committee on Administrative and Budgetary Questions (ACABQ), introducing the Advisory Committee’s related report (document A/78/7/Add.13), noted that the Secretary-General’s report was brief on service delivery arrangements.  It did not respond to the General Assembly’s request, in its resolution 77/262, that the Secretary-General present a proposal on an improved service delivery concept for the Assembly’s consideration and approval. The Secretary-General’s report also lacked detail and clarity in areas highlighted in ACABQ’s related report.  Therefore, ACABQ recommends that that the Assembly ask the Secretary-General to provide an updated comprehensive report with a proposal requested by the Assembly.  

On governance and accountability, there should be a full articulation in the updated report of a governance structure and a well-defined accountability framework with clear key performance indicators, benchmarks, and deliverables to ensure effective monitoring and compliance by the various stakeholders, he said.  This should be in addition to a client survey process and methodology with systematic, rigorous and objective processes like client satisfaction surveys carried out in a manner that provides reliable data on the impact of service delivery.

The Advisory Committee trusts that detailed information on the savings achieved with the change of service provision from the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) to the Secretariat, broken down by services and entities, will be included in the next report.  It also reiterates its recommendation on the need to provide detailed information on system-wide initiatives pertaining to administrative and budgetary matters that are aimed at consolidating efficiency gains and improving coordination, including cost-recovery and cost-sharing arrangements.

For information media. Not an official record.