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    Press Release No:   UNIS/GA/AB/42
    Release Date:   22 March 2000
    Fifth Committee Takes up Reports on Administrative Matters, Discusses Proposed Definition for ‘Exigency’ in Procurment

     NEW YORK, 21 March (UN Headquarters) -- The Fifth Committee (Administrative and Budgetary) took up a number of reports on administrative matters this morning, as it continued its first resumed session.

     A proposed definition of the circumstances where United Nations rules on procurement -? called exigency -? was introduced by the Assistant Secretary-General for Central Support Services, Toshiyuki Niwa.  By its terms, procurement rules could not be waived to compensate for bad planning, but only when there were exceptional, compelling and emergent needs that would lead to serious damage, loss or injury, if not met immediately.

     Some Member States expressed concern at the lack of context for the definition, and sought more specific examples of when it might apply.

     The Chairman of the Advisory Committee on Administrative and Budgetary Questions (ACABQ), C.S.M Mselle, who also introduced that body’s report endorsing the definition, offered the example of a peacekeeping mission where a sudden deterioration in security might require an emergency evacuation of some people.  That would not be a good time to call for bids, he explained.  He also warned the Committee to avoid overloading the definition, which was merely an operational guideline.

     The Director of the Programme Planning and Budget Division, Warren Sach, introduced the Secretary-General’s note on rules governing the programme budget planning and implementation processes.  It included the text of a draft rule guiding programme managers on the implementation of regulation 5.4 on budget planning and evaluation.  The proposed new paragraph aimed at clarifying the relationship between expected accomplishments, and objectives and outputs.

     Mr. Sach said the document had primarily been submitted to the Assembly to be noted.  Following that, the Secretary-General would promulgate the guidelines, he said.  The views of the Committee for Programme and Coordination were sought on the changes, and that body’s Chairman, Tommo Monthe, responded to questions.  The Committee then decided to consider the document in informal consultations.

     Mr. Niwa also introduced a report from the Secretary-General on progress in setting up the Integrated Management Information System (IMIS) -- a computer system designed to assist with many of the United Nations internal administrative functions.  Related comments from the ACABQ were introduced by Mr. Mselle.

     Louis Dominique Ouedraogo, Chairman of the United Nations Joint Inspection Unit (JIU), introduced two JIU reports -- on services shared in common by United Nations agencies based in Geneva and prospects for such common services, and on the operations of a coordinating committee of heads of certain United Nations organizations, called the Advisory Committee on Coordination.  The Director of the Secretariat’s Office of Inter-Agency Affairs, Qazi Shaukat Fareed, introduced the response from that Committee and its chair, the Secretary-General.

     Statements were made by the representatives of Cuba, Portugal (for the Union and associated States), Cameroon (for the African Group), Nigeria (for the “Group of 77” developing countries and China), United States, Canada, Syria, Republic of Korea, Egypt, United Republic of Tanzania, Tunisia, Saudi Arabia, Japan, Italy and Australia.

     The Committee is scheduled to meet again at 10 a.m. on Thursday, 23 March, to hear a statement from the Under-Secretary-General for Management, Joseph E. Connor, on the United Nations financial situation.

    Programme of Work

     The Fifth Committee (Administrative and Budgetary) met this morning to consider a new definition of exigency needs, Joint Inspection Unit (JIU) reports on common services in Geneva and on the Administrative Committee on Coordination (ACC), as well as responses to those reports from the Secretary-General and the ACC, the Secretary-General's latest report on the Integrated Management Information System (IMIS), and on a proposed new rule for programme managers.

     [For background on the new rule for programme managers, see Press Release GA/AB/3346 of 30 November 1999.]

     Exigency

     The Committee had before it a report from the Secretary-General proposing a new definition of exigency, for the purposes of United Nations procurement (document A/54/650*).

     [“Exigency” is the term used in United Nations procurement regulations to describe a situation where circumstances are such that the need to follow the full gamut of requirements is waived.]

     The report points out that the Assembly, at its most recent session, described the definition previously proposed by the Secretary-General as too broad to exercise the required level of control, and it called for a sharper and clearer definition of exigency.

     Three factors were taken into account in determining the new definition:  (a) exigency is unavoidable; (b) exigency is essentially a management, not a procurement, issue; and (c) the responsibility for managing exigency lies with the head of the substantive department, who must certify that exigency is genuine and unavoidable.

     Exigency is now defined as “an exceptional compelling and emergent need, not resulting from poor planning or from concerns over the availability of funds, that will lead to serious damage, loss or injury to property or persons if not addressed immediately”.

     Common Services in Geneva

     Also before the Committee is the report of the Joint Inspection Unit on common services in Geneva (document A/53/787).

     A related note from the Secretary-General contains his comments, along with those of the Administrative Committee on Coordination, on the Joint Inspection Unit report on the United Nations system common services at Geneva (document A/54/635).

     The Joint Inspection Unit report aims to provide a coherent framework for creation and strengthening of unified, comprehensive and centralized common services in Geneva, to rationalize overheads and costs and to concentrate diminishing resources on constitutional mandates.  It reviews expenditures and staffing patterns and highlights possible constraints and commonalities among the Geneva-based secretariats.  It also analyses the pattern of administrative cooperation and coordination in Geneva.

     In his comments, the Secretary-General states that the thrust of the report is in line with his strategy to expand and strengthen common services and with recent efforts of the Director-General of the United Nations Office at Geneva.  To that end, the Secretary-General reports that the Executive Coordinator has focused on establishing and supporting multi-organizational groups dealing with planning, coordination and implementation in the area of common services, developing evaluation criteria to allow choices among common services, including lead agency approaches, outsourcing, umbrella agreements and electronic procurement facilities, and pursuing harmonization and synchronization of different operational instrumentalities.

     While the JIU report focuses on a centralized common services entity, the Secretary-General's reform proposals emphasize decentralization of functions and delegation of authority to programme managers.  Other Geneva-based organizations have decentralized.  It is not true that pooling administrative services is inherently more cost-effective than providing them separately.  Organizations caution against potential diseconomies of scale, such as increased complexity, conflicting priorities of client organizations, and differing quality and technical standards, all of which are likely to compromise some common service ventures.

     The Secretary-General also notes that the JIU report could have benefited from considering alternatives to centralization, such as the Vienna approach, where separate administrations provide specialist services to each other in those functions for which they are best suited, thus effecting cost savings for all.  Additionally, the report should distinguish between routine and recurrent support services (such as mail and pouch, payroll, telecommunications and computers, and language and management training) and those that repeatedly require decisions (such as personnel, management and budgeting).  The former are more suited to pooling, while programme managers are reluctant to relinquish control over the latter, as they affect the success of programmes for which they are accountable.

     The Joint Inspection Unit recommends that a new framework for common services in Geneva be established.  The Secretary-General advises that the General Assembly and the legislative bodies of specialized agencies located in Geneva may wish to endorse the new framework proposed by the JIU, and require biennial reports on its implementation.

     To revitalize common services in Geneva, the JIU recommends the establishment of a common services committee, and possible appointment of a high- level official to foster common services objectives and arrangements.  The Secretary-General will establish such a committee, but does not support the idea of establishing a high-level post, which, by adding another senior executive level, would not be cost-effective.

     Regarding intergovernmental oversight of common services at Geneva, the JIU suggests arrangements for strengthening regular and coherent oversight of Geneva common services, including a more active role by the Geneva Diplomatic Committee and more meetings of the ACABQ in Geneva on issues of coordination among the Geneva-based secretariats.  The Secretary-General agrees.  The Administrative Committee on Coordination (ACC) points out that it is important to avoid proliferating conflicting internal and external governance and oversight arrangements.

     The Secretary-General also makes specific comments on a number of issues raised by the JIU, including expenditure and staffing trends, support costs of the Economic Commission for Europe, intergovernmental mechanism for common services, support provided to the United Nations Environment Programme at Geneva, and the patterns of common services and administrative coordination.

     Review of the Administrative Committee of Coordination

     The Committee had before it a review by the Joint Inspection Unit of the Administrative Committee on Coordination (document A/54/288).

     [The Administrative Committee on Coordination is composed of the heads of United Nations common system agencies and programmes and is chaired by the Secretary-General.  It examines matters that are of common interest or relevance to the different common system organizations, such as salaries and conditions of employment.]

     The report aims to contribute to enhancing the effectiveness and impact of the ACC and its machinery and reinforcing the ACC's interaction with intergovernmental bodies.  It draws conclusions and makes recommendations highlighting the need for continued efforts to further interaction between that Committee and intergovernmental bodies, particularly the Economic and Social Council.

     It makes a series of recommendations about the ACC and its machinery.  Among those, the JIU recommends the ACC continue to demonstrate the impact and relevance of its work by addressing issues which lend themselves to system-wide scrutiny, and develop policy-oriented strategies to strengthen the system’s capacity to respond rapidly to major international developments.  It also recommends executive heads actively pursue a new name for the ACC, which would better reflect its scope and functions, and submit a proposal to the Economic and Social Council.

     Regarding the ACC machinery, the JIU recommends that new working methods approved by the ACC should include continuous and wide-ranging interaction among the four standing committees of the ACC, and should consider new names for some of these standing committees.  According to the JIU, the ACC should ask its committees to propose ways and means to avoid duplication in staff training.  It should also examine the need for an inter-agency standing committee within the ACC.  The possibility of using a “virtual secretariat” for the ACC is mooted, and a report is called for ?- to be submitted to the Economic and Social Council -? on a system-wide management of information.

     In related comments from the Secretary-General and the Administrative Committee on Coordination (document A/54/288/Add.1), they note that a common feature of United Nations’ reform processes has been a strong emphasis on broadening partnerships within the system, as well as with other international organizations and the wider civil society.  The ACC welcomes the report, which it states is timely.  It responds to each of the recommendations made by the JIU.  Responding to the recommended proposed name change, the ACC states that it had considered this before, and while some agencies supported the idea, others felt the change would be merely cosmetic.  It states it will reconsider its name, as it reviews its role and functions.

     The ACC states that it shares the JIU’s desire to avoid duplication between agencies, notably in staff-training, and explains that different options to achieve this are currently under consideration.  It notes that the strengthening of the ACC’s interactions with intergovernmental bodies, particularly the Economic and Social Council, has been greatly assisted by the changes that have taken place within that Council.  The new spirit of consultation and cooperation prevailing in the ACC should also serve to support the renewal of the Council.  It notes that while the Council is developing new approaches to coordination, ACC executive heads are renewing efforts to engage their governing bodies more systematically on system-wide issues and concerns.

     The ACC expresses hope that its efforts towards stronger system-wide cooperation will make an increasingly useful contribution to the work of the central intergovernmental bodies, and to enhanced interactions of mutual support among them, as well as between the central intergovernmental machinery and the governing bodies of the specialized agencies.  Advances already achieved notwithstanding, the executive heads remain committed to further improvement to enhance relevance and effectiveness in the activities, structures and methods of work of the ACC machinery, and in the overall management of the United Nations system.

     Regarding the recommendation that the ACC should continue to demonstrate the relevance and impact of its work by addressing issues which lend themselves to system-wide scrutiny and developing policy-oriented and forward-looking agendas which contribute to strengthen the system’s capacities, it states that the view that the ACC offers a unique forum for advancing intersecretariat cooperation and coordination in the United Nations system is shared.

     It also agrees that secretariat support for the ACC should be of concern to all its members, and have thus welcomed the establishment of the Office for Inter-Agency Affairs to provide both substantive and technical secretariat support to the ACC on a full-time basis.  This support has been demonstrated in the secondment of staff to the Office from the various organizations.

     The use of lead agency arrangements to deal with needs-driven, time-bound tasks that cut across the mandates of different organizations is becoming increasingly prevalent within the system, it states.  The JIU recommendation that the use of lead organizations and task managers be encouraged as part of a wider virtual secretariat for the ACC is an integral part of the ACC’s modus operandi.

     Integrated Management Information System (IMIS)

     Also before the Committee was the Secretary-General's eleventh progress report on IMIS (document A/54/474).  The report states that, since the tenth progress report, there have been many new developments.  The System has been institutionalized and is being implemented at all major duty stations, and its maintenance has been entirely assumed by United Nations staff.  Estimated completion costs have remained within the projections.

     Over the past year, the new version of Release 2 (Staff entitlements) was implemented at Nairobi, two new versions of Release 3 (Finance and support services) were implemented in New York, Release 3 was successfully implemented at Vienna and Beirut, and the “Time and attendance” component was implemented at Headquarters.  Progress has been achieved in the development of Releases 4 (Payroll and related functionalities) and 5 (Operational applications).  The reporting facility was enhanced and new human resources functions were introduced.  Usage of the system has increased.

     The next steps will see implementation of Release 3 at all offices away from Headquarters by November 2000, and implementation of Releases 4 and 5, in New York by the first quarter of 2000 and at all major duty stations by December 2000.  The delay in completion compared to 1998 projections is due to the modification of implementation plans for Release 3 at offices away from Headquarters to better take into account the offices' implementation support requirements, and expanded testing of Release 4.

     Based on most recent experience, there are reasons to believe that the targets will be achieved while remaining within the approved budgetary provisions.

     In related comments from the ACABQ (document A/54/7/Add.4), that body states that the Secretary-general's report should have been more succinct, avoiding repetitions by cross-referencing the main report with the annexes and previous progress reports.

     It notes that progress for the implementation of IMIS in peacekeeping missions will require technical solutions for the high volume of transactions those missions require.  An implementation plan will need to be developed for the peacekeeping operations, and it may be anticipated that it could be incorporated into the twelfth progress report on the IMIS project.

     The ACABQ regrets the lack of progress in the implementation of IMIS in peacekeeping operations and the tribunals.  It recommends vigorous action be taken and asks the Secretary-General to provide information on the development of the system for field missions and the tribunals in his next progress report on IMIS, including resources required to overcome technical and personnel constraints.  It further recommends a pilot project be established as soon as possible in a peacekeeping mission and that the costs of implementing the project be included in the budget of the mission.

     The ACABQ recommends that the General Assembly take note of the eleventh progress report of the Secretary-General on IMIS (document A/54/474), of the revised completion date of the project and of the activities planned for the next 12 months.  It also recommends that after full implementation, the Secretary-General submit a comprehensive final report on implementation of the system, including a full analysis of lessons learned and experience gained, and addressing the issue of long-term strategy for further development of the system.

     Statements on Rules Governing Programme Planning

     WARREN SACH, Director, Programme Planning and Budget Division, introduced the Secretary-General’s note on rules governing programme planning, programme aspects of budget, monitoring of implementation and methods of evaluation.  It included the text of a rule that would be included to reflect the revision of programme planning, budgeting monitoring and evaluation regulation 5.4.

     A review of those regulations had been held, and at the fifty-third General Assembly session, a new set of regulations had been approved, he said.  In 1999, the Secretary-General had presented a set of revisions to the underlying rules that related to those regulations.  Those revised rules had been reviewed by the Committee for Program and Coordination (CPC) last June.  The CPC had then suggested that the Secretary-General bring to the attention of the Assembly an additional rule, giving guidance to programme managers on the better implementation of regulation 5.4, which had been revised to incorporate text regarding expected accomplishments.

     The Secretariat had then drafted an additional rule for inclusion in the revised rules responding to this requirement, which appeared in paragraph 4 of the document, he said.  The document was before the Assembly primarily to be noted, following which, the Secretary-General would promulgate the guidelines.

     EVA SILOT BRAVO (Cuba) said it was important that programme directors had specific guidelines allowing them to be clear about the usefulness of including the new concept.  The proposal in the report must be developed further.  The Committee should discuss the matter in informal consultations.

     EDUARDO MANUEL DA FONSECA FERNANDES RAMOS (Portugal), speaking for the European Union, said the document met the request of the CPC.  The Union would have preferred that the document had been taken note of in the formal session.  As the Cuban representatives wished to have informal consultations, the Union hoped this would be only a short consultation session.

     PAUL EKORONG A DONG (Cameroon), for the African Group, thanked the Director for introducing the report and said he wanted the Chairman of the “Group of 77” developing countries and China to speak.

     HASSAN MOHAMMED HASSAN (Nigeria), for the Group of 77, said the Group’s position would be crystallized during informal discussion.

     THOMAS REPASCH (United States) said what was suggested in the document -? that the Assembly take note of the additional paragraph -- could be done today.  Rule-making was clearly within the Secretary-General’s prerogative.  He said he frankly did not see anything additional to discuss, although he would participate if informal consultations were requested by other Member States.  He asked if the Chairman of the CPC could provide his comments on the matter.

     JAMES ORR (Canada) said he supported those who suggested action be taken today, although he recognized that the possibility that it could not.  He agreed that rules were within the Secretary-General’s purview.  He thought, therefore, that any objections should be aired in an open meeting, so they could be placed on the record.  Canada had no objection to the rule change.

     ABDOU AL-MOULA NAKKARI (Syria) said he wished to support those Member States that felt this paper should be considered in informal consultations before a decision was taken.  It contained several concepts and ideas that must be looked into before the Assembly could take note of the changes.

     PARK HAE-YUN (Republic of Korea) said he considered the proposed new paragraph appropriate.  He would prefer to take note of it immediately, although he would participate in informal consultations in the hope of reaching a consensus as quickly as possible.

     The Chairman of the Committee for Programme and Coordination, TOMMO MONTHE said there was no need to make a statement on the substance of the change, as Member States had said they had proposals to make.  He would be available for any clarifications they required when those proposals were made.

     It was true that rules were within the purview of Member States and that regulations that clarified them were within the competence of the Secretary-General.  The CPC had asked for clarifications, to allow better application of the concept of expected accomplishments.  He had no difficulty with the substance of the text, and thought no insurmountable problems lay ahead.  Given that informal consultations had been requested, he would be available to answer questions.

     The Fifth Committee Chairman, PENNY WENSLEY (Australia) then said that informal consultations would be arranged, but that she hoped they would be expeditious given the heavy programme of work before the Committee.

     Statements on Review of Efficiency

     TOSHIYUKI NIWA, Assistant Secretary-General for Central Support Services, introduced the report on procurement reform:  definition of exigency needs.  The revised report had been prepared in close consultation with the Advisory Committee on Administrative and Budgetary Questions (ACABQ).  The revised definition would be incorporated into the procurement manual, along with application procedures.

     CONRAD S.M. MSELLE, ACABQ Chairman, introduced that body’s views.  Based on lively discussions in December, the Secretariat had revised the report.  The ACABQ fully concurred with the new definition and recommended that the Committee approve it.

     [The definition reads:  “exigency shall be defined as ‘an exceptional compelling and emergent need, not resulting from poor planning or from concerns over the availability of funds, that will lead to serious damage, loss or injury to property or persons if not addressed immediately’”.]

     AHMED DARWISH (Egypt) asked about the definition.  How did such urgency arise -? was it because of shortage of resources or capacities?

     Mr. HASSAN (Nigeria), for the Group of 77 and China, said the Group believed the document would facilitate deliberations on the matter.  But the circumstances under which exigency would be used must be clearly defined.  He therefore wanted to see an explanation in the procurement manual on which circumstances exigency may be applied.

     Mr. NAKKARI (Syria) supported the questions posed by the previous two speakers.  What was meant by exigencies not resulting from poor planning? he asked.  Normally, planning was a long-term operation, but administration must respond rapidly to emergencies.  If “planning” was to be replaced by “management” or “administration”, that would be clearer.  Also, the reference to the shortage or non-availability of funds should be further clarified.  Otherwise, the paragraph was sound in terms of showing logic about why there was need to meet urgent requirements.

     MUHAMMAD YUSSUF (United Republic of Tanzania) said he was satisfied with the definition as it stood, but thought that it had not gone far enough to leave no room for ambiguity.  He thought some examples should be given ?- one or two, should be provided so Member States were not called on to guess what exigency really entailed.

     Mr. EKERONG A DONG (Cameroon) said he wanted to point out that the definition need not give rise to any problems.  However, any definition must be placed in context.  Implementation and its consequences were something different from definition, and he felt they still required considerable discussion in the Fifth Committee.  He would like to discuss how the definition would be used.

     RADHIA ACHOURI (Tunisia) said she understood that it was not possible to list all times when exigency would come into effect, but that it was also necessary, as the report stated, to determine when exigency should not apply and normal procedures should be followed.  The Assembly had not asked for a definition; it had asked that the objective of controlled management be met through the rules put in place.  The certification of the head of department was not enough control for these procurement activities.  They were beyond control by definition.  She asked Mr. Niwa to clarify the process of certification by heads of department.  She also asked how the review process would work.

     AHMED FARID (Saudi Arabia) said he agreed that more explanation and examples must be given.  Exigency would probably apply to any new peacekeeping operation.  He sought clarification on this from Mr. Niwa.

     Mr. Niwa responded to Member States questions.  He said that when the number of peacekeeping operation had jumped in the nineties, a number of situations had forced the Chief Procurement Officer to look at the issue of exigency.  There were two parts to the procurement process.  First, there was operational requirements, including planning and trying to foresee needs so that action could be taken in accordance with procedures.  The procurement reform process recognized that the other part -? the actual procurement -? required strengthening.

     Instances of the application of exigency had dramatically decreased in the last two years, he said.  There had been about 17 cases in 1987, and now there were about four per year.  They all applied to urgent peacekeeping needs.

     In the Procurement Manual, it stated that poor planning or lack of sufficient management should not be a reason for use of exigency procedures, he said.  There must be genuine unforeseen needs.  He would provide specific examples on a bilateral basis.  Urgency meant more than simply urgent, as good planning was a required part of all procurement processes.  The definition insisted that exhaustive effort and good planning must occur, but acknowledged that there were certain circumstances where this was not possible or not enough.

     He said eliminating ambiguity was very difficult, as the circumstances by their nature called for judgement to be exercised.  It was therefore difficult to be more precise than he had been.

     Mr. Mselle then gave an example of when exigency might come into effect.  Where the security situation in a peacekeeping mission deteriorated dramatically, and evacuation of individuals was required, exigency would immediately come into play.  There was no time to wait to solicit bids as waiting would risk death or injury to people.  This would be an exceptional circumstance, that was compelling and emergent -? and therefore, it would meet the three criteria set out in the definition.

     Exigency situations would be audited, he continued.  The auditors would determine whether they believed the situation was exceptional, compelling and emergent, and what would have happened if no action was taken.

     The definition before the Committee had been examined very carefully, he said, and the proposal was a workable guideline.  He was happy with it.  If it proved to need revisiting, this could be done through the audit process.

     Mr. NAKKARI (Syria) said planning was important but so was management.  The Assembly had adopted the United Nations budget and the medium-term plan and this was part of planning, but implementation of that planning was up to programme managers.  Exigency should not come into play as the result of bad planning or of bad management.  In the document, the definition of urgent stipulated that the head of the technical department must certify a decision as to whether a situation required exigency procedures.  The questions of what circumstance would be considered urgent and who would decide that urgency must be addressed for the definition to work.  The definition must also include the responsibility of the technical department or programme.

     Mr. FARID (Saudi Arabia) said that in the case of peacekeeping, good planning in procurement was required.  The United Nations logistic base in Brindisi could serve as a good base for supplies for an emergency.  One could plan for emergencies.  In the light of the huge peacekeeping budget for 2000 -- expected to be about $1.8 billion ?- he asked if there was a plan to reorganize the procurement department to meet increased responsibilities.

     Mr. MSELLE said the Committee should avoid the temptation to “overload the definition”.  Otherwise, it might become an operational guideline.  This was a regulation-type definition, to be adopted by the Assembly.  The Secretariat would then prepare modalities on how to implement the regulation that the Assembly would adopt.  Those details would be internal, though there would be nothing to prevent them from being made available to Member States.  If delegations felt it would be easier to go along with the definition, there would be no harm in including management in the second line, so it would read:  “not resulting from poor planning, management, or from concern over the availability of funds”.  But in any case, the operational guidelines the Secretariat would prepare would indicate the hierarchy of command and responsibility.

     Mr. NIWA agreed with those comments.  Management could be added to the definition.  The attempt had been to make a regulation-type definition.  Clearly, operational procedures had to be provided regarding how it was applied, and what the accountability mechanisms were.  Those were to be developed and reflected in the procurement manual.  The procurement division had been reorganized to address peacekeeping requirements.

     Mr. NAKKARI (Syria) said his delegation had raised the question of the cafeteria on two occasions and was still awaiting replies.

     Committee Chairman PENNY WENSLEY (Australia) suggested discussing this later, as there were still agenda items to be discussed.

     Statements on Programme Budget for 1998-1999

     Mr. MSELLE introduced the report of the ACABQ on the Integrated Management Information System (IMIS).  At the time his group had reviewed the Secretary-General’s report, IMIS had been installed in 11 different sites in eight locations around the world, and completion of implementation of IMIS had been scheduled for the end of 2000.

     The ACABQ commented on implementation of IMIS in peacekeeping operations and the tribunals in its report, he said.  It regretted the lack of progress in that area, and had requested that “vigorous steps” be taken to accord high priority to that area.  The ACABQ had also referred to personnel problems reported by the Secretariat, in particular the recruitment and retention of skilled information technology staff under current United Nations salary scales.  The Assembly might wish to consider special rates for United Nations staff in the information technology field.  Subject to the recommendations in its report, the ACABQ recommended that the Committee take note of the report.

     Mr. NIWA introduced the eleventh report on IMIS.  The development and implementation of the system had been more difficult than expected at the outset, but the project was close to completion and today, the Organization relied on IMIS heavily.  The current stage was one of improving the system.  Capitalizing on the knowledge acquired through the development and implementation phases, the work would be carried out as part of the normal programmed of work of the IMIS team.

     Over the past years, discussion had focused more on the difficulties encountered than on the project’s achievements, he said.  But through IMIS, the Organization had been able to modify, rationalize and document administrative processes.  Except for implementation at Payroll at Headquarters, all activities this year and next would relate to completing implementation at offices away from Headquarters.  Never before had so much effort been concentrated on ensuring that all duty stations benefit from the same facilities for their daily administrative work.

     The implementation schedule for payroll and Release 3 at some offices away from Headquarters had encountered “some minor slippage”, he said.  That was due to resource constraints in terms of experienced staff, and also related to the need to ensure that the last steps were flawless.  More than 500 staff were now being trained in Geneva for implementing Release 3, scheduled for 10 April.  That was the largest remaining effort.  The other implementations, though complex, would be more manageable.  The last major part of the software, Release 4, had been delivered by the contractor several months ago and the testing of it was near completion.  He was confident that the project would remain within cost projections contained in the tenth progress report and approved by the Assembly.  He thanked the Committee for its “critical and constructive support over the years”.

     Mr. RAMOS (Portugal), spoke for the Union, Czech Republic, Estonia, Hungary, Latvia, Lithuania, Poland, Romania, Slovenia, Cyprus, Malta, Turkey and Norway.  He attached utmost importance to IMIS as it provided for enhanced efficiency in the Secretariat’s management.  Regarding Release 4, the Union trusted that implementation at duty stations away from Headquarters would be completed by December 2000.  He commended the Secretary-General for having enhanced budgetary discipline in the management of IMIS and expected that expenditures would remain within the budget approved by the Assembly.  He asked that the Secretary-General provide information on the development of the system for field missions and the tribunals in his next progress report.

     THOMAS REPASCH (United States) agreed that too often in the course of discussion on IMIS, the Committee had focused on difficulties, cost overruns and delays in bringing the project along and completing aspects of it.  His delegation admitted to joining in on some of those criticisms.  But it was a good time to take a look at what had been achieved.  The United States delegation appreciated what had been achieved.  IMIS was an important part of steps to reform the United Nations, especially in administration and management.  It was essential that the United Nations have modern tools for management.

     He had some questions about information in the report, he said.  There was mention of missions by staff to implement releases of IMIS at duty stations, which would present a unique opportunity for reviewing local processes, transferring knowledge to local staff, and understanding the needs of local units.  But had the process also led to streamlining bureaucratic and other processes that IMIS was created to automate? he asked.

     The report stated that implementation of Release 4 would be scheduled in the first quarter of 2000 -? where did that stand now? he asked.  What had been the cost of making the old system Y2K compliant?  The report mentioned the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), but what was the status of implementation of IMIS in other entities?  Could further elaboration be provided on IMIS in peacekeeping missions?

     The United States was prepared to take note of the report, he said.  But the report of the ACABQ had not complied with the Assembly’s resolution requiring that conclusions and recommendations contained in reports be printed in bold.  The Secretariat, the Board of Auditors, the OIOS and the Joint Inspection Unit had complied with the long-standing resolution.  When would the ACABQ comply? he asked.

     Mr. HASSAN (Nigeria), speaking on behalf of the Group of 77 and China, said this project had been a very expensive undertaking, and he would have expected that the Secretary-General’s report be clearer through cross-references, as the ACABQ had said.  The Group would like to speak on the matter at a later date.

     KOJI F. X. YAMAGIWA (Japan) said that the issue of special occupational rates for United Nations staff in the information technology area required serious consideration by the Fifth Committee, but under another agenda item.

     Mr. PARK (Republic of Korea) asked the Secretary-General to expedite IMIS in the areas, such as peacekeeping, where there had been delays.  He also asked what steps were being taken to ensure coordination with those agencies of the United Nations system that were not using IMIS.

     RENATA ARCHINI DE GIOVANNI (Italy) said she understood from the reports of the ACABQ and the Secretary-General that common services were being developed for the IMIS unit, and she asked for information on this.

     Mr. Niwa then responded to Member States questions.  Regarding peacekeeping implementation, top priority at present was given to the completion of IMIS, and availability of qualified staff was key.  Given scarce resources, he believed it would be best to complete the main part of IMIS and then move it into peacekeeping missions and tribunals.

     Regarding streamlining procedures, he would return to this matter in a later discussion.  He would also provide the cost of YEAR 2000 computer compliance later, but he noted those costs would have been incurred in any case.

     As for implementation by other users, he said that the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) had implemented Releases 1 and 2 some time ago and Release 3 in January 1999.  The United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) had implemented Releases 1 and 2.  An outside consultant had been hired to assist in formulating a common services approach.

     Regarding lack of coordination in administrative procedures, they were different due to the different funding arrangements of the organizations, he said.  An additional benefit arising from the common services effort for IMIS was that organizations of the system learned how procedures worked in other agencies.  Ways were being sought to synchronize those procedures; however, because accountability requirements were different, it was not possible to completely harmonize processes.

     Mr. REPASCH (United States) said he wished to take advantage of Mr. Niwa’s offer of bilateral communication of information on the streamlining of bureaucratic processes that had occurred through IMIS.  He also wished to be informed, perhaps bilaterally, of the cost of Year 2000 compliance.  It seemed, initially, that there might not have been a plan to make the old Legacy system Year 2000 compliant, perhaps because it was expected that IMIS would be fully functional by the time the problem arose.

     Mr. PARK (Republic of Korea) said he had actually asked not about administrative procedures, but rather about references in the ACABQ report to certain United Nations system agencies that were developing their own administrative and financial software.

     Mr. Niwa said IMIS had suffered from bad publicity and so some people had certain problems in accepting that it might be a useful system for their organizations.  That was unjustified.  Although the level of effort and resources required had been underestimated, the expenditure on IMIS had not been extraordinary when compared to either the public or the private sector.  Perhaps, IMIS should be marketed to others, but resources did not exist to do this.  He was focussing all available resources on completing the mammoth implementation task.

     Regarding Year 2000 compliance, it had indeed not been envisaged that the old system would be needed by 2000, but the decision had been taken to make the system compliant as a backup.

     Statements on Review of Administrative and Financial Efficiency

     Dominique Ouedraogo, Chairman of the Joint Inspection Unit (JIU), introduced the Unit’s reports on common services in Geneva, and on its review of the ACC and its machinery.

     Common service had been scrutinized by the Unit for many years, he said; its first report on the subject had been issued in 1984.  In the current series of reports, the Inspectors had pursued the objective of encouraging the United Nations organizations to establish, at different duty stations, a coherent framework for increased administrative management synergies, to rationalize their overhead structures and costs and to concentrate diminishing resources on their core constitutional mandates.

     The Geneva duty station had the highest concentration of United Nations system staff, but also was the most expensive among the eight major duty stations of the system, he said.  The Geneva-based secretariats operated very few services in common, and the overall picture was one of considerable fragmentation and duplication of overhead structure and costs.  Geneva was therefore a duty station where Member States should encourage and support efficiency reforms and greater intersecretariat collaboration in seeking more cost-effective arrangements for delivering mandated programmes, especially by means of common services.  While progress had been achieved in some areas, much remained to be done to provide a satisfactory degree of administrative and budgetary coordination to reduce administrative support costs.

     The Unit recommended establishing a ten-year plan of action (2000-2010) and framework for achieving common services that would be operated at the United Nations Office at Geneva, the International Labour Organization (ILO), and the World Health Organization (WHO), he said.  While the level of expected savings could be debated, the Unit believed that there was potential for significantly reducing administrative support cost budgets over a ten-year period, in particular from judicious applications of information technologies and systems to administrative and other support tasks.

     To achieve meaningful economies of scale and greater efficiency throughout the system, Member States must continue to stress the need for expanded common services in the legislative organs of all the organizations of the United Nations system, he said.  The General Assembly should adopt a resolution encouraging the Secretary-General and the ACC to take concrete steps to enhance common services and report back to the Assembly at its fifty-sixth session on the measures taken.  The resolution should invite the legislative organs of other organizations to take similar action.

     Turning then to the report on the ACC and its machinery, he said it was the first time that the Unit had “dared” to review a mechanism composed of the Secretary-General, as Chairman, and the executive heads of the other United Nations system organizations.  Since its establishment in 1946, the ACC -? the only forum bringing together the executive heads of the United Nations system under the leadership of the Secretary-General -? had become an important actor in the coordination process within the system as a whole.

     Due to its composition and the different mandates of its participating organizations, it was vital that the ACC renew its sense of ownership and continue to demonstrate its relevance and impact, he said.  Current efforts should be vigorously pursued, aiming at addressing issues lending themselves to system-wide scrutiny, and also to developing policy-oriented and forward-looking agendas, to strengthen the system’s capacity to respond rapidly to major international developments.  The ACC should keep in mind the need to ensure that the outcomes of its meetings were more action-oriented and that they underlined activities for which secretariats were accountable, and other issues requiring guidance or action by governing bodies.

     The praiseworthy desire to be open to civil society would be just a “pious wish” if the Internet Web sites were not multilingual, he stressed.  Non- English speaking Web users were legitimately concerned that Web site information for some system bodies was provided only in English.

     The JIU’s report on the ACC had already been taken note of by the Economic and Social Council, in resolution 1996/66, by which it also invited the ACC to pay particular attention in its annual report for 1999 on progress made towards a system-wide management of information, he said.

     While recognizing that the cost of coordination was not always easy to assess, the Unit argued for more transparency in the reporting made by secretariats to their legislative bodies on the financial implications of the inter-agency coordination process, he said.  The shares of each organization in the budgets of the ACC’s jointly-financed secretariats were agreed upon between ACC members on the basis of two cost-sharing formulae.  Owing to the need to secure full funding for the total budgets for those activities, cost-sharing arrangements, decided upon by the secretariats without any legislative supervision became, in practice, as much a commitment by Member States as the scale of assessments of the overall budgets of individual organizations.

     Therefore, the Unit recommended that, on the basis of a review by the ACABQ, the total budgets of jointly financed secretariats be submitted to the General Assembly for approval, in the same manner as the budget of the Unit and the ICSC, which were also joint financed, it being understood that each participating organization would continue to budget its share as agreed upon.

     Qazi Shaukat Fareed, Director of the Office of Inter-Agency Affairs, then introduced the Secretary-General’s comments and those of the ACC.  He said that the JIU and the ACC had worked closely in the preparation of the JIU report, and the ACC members welcomed the report.  In many areas, the JIU reflected the reality of the ACC review of its machinery.  In-depth analysis within the ACC -? for example, on globalization -? had helped agencies deal with arising issues.

     On management of information, there were slight differences in approach between the JIU and the ACC, and it may be unrealistic to aspire for more centralized development of systems, he said.  A further review of the ACC had recently been implemented and the eminent person review team was finalizing its report.  This team had benefited from the JIU report.

     Mr. RAMOS (Portugal) spoke for the European Union, Czech Republic, Estonia, Hungary, Latvia, Lithuania, Poland, Romania, Slovenia, Cyprus, Malta, Turkey and Norway.  The Union commended the Unit for its timely reports.  The common services report fit with the Secretary-General’s programme for reform, which included strengthening the common system.  As noted in the Union’s budget statement on common support services, the issue of common services must be given system-wide priority, based on cost-effectiveness.  That should not hinder cooperation among organizations involved in the overall search for enhanced synergy and achievements of economies of scale in using common services, both in Geneva and throughout the United Nations system.

     He then recalled the recommendations of the Office of Internal Oversight Services on the review of the common services, contained in document A/54/157.  The Inspection Unit should continue to pursue the issue, and Geneva-based organizations engage in follow-up with the Unit on the development of common services.  The Union hoped that lessons learned from this exercise would be disseminated to other major duty stations.

     Mr. HASSAN (Nigeria), speaking on behalf of the Group of 77 and China, commended the reports and said the Group would further discuss their contents in informal consultations.

     Ms. SILOT BRAVO (Cuba) said the subject was very important and an additional session should be held to discuss these matters.

     Mr. REPASCH (United States) asked that Mr. Fareed’s comments on the ACC be provided to Member States in writing if possible.  Regarding the Geneva common services, the narrative helped focus the discussion of the issue of common services.  He asked to see more evidence of the duplication of costs or unnecessary expenses referred to, and asked for some examples.

     The United States was in favour of common services with one reservation, he said.  Common services were not an end in themselves; rather, they were a tool for managers to assist them in obtaining goods and services in an effective and cost-efficient way.  Sometimes, commons services seemed to be an end in themselves, and served only as an excuse to build empires.  The goals of all common services had to be cost effectiveness of operations.

     Last year, the Assembly had approved a recommendation of the JIU on follow-up that required Member States to consider each legislative action recommended by the JIU, rather than just take note of a whole report.  This was needed to make the follow-up to JIU recommendations useful.

     Regarding the report on the ACC, he noted that the Economic and Social Council had taken action on the report and asked what action the JIU expected from the Fifth Committee.  He asked if several committees would need to take action to allow the follow-up to take place, and how would they be coordinated.

     HENRY FOX (Australia) said he was disappointed in the JIU report on Geneva common services.  While it was analytical, it offered little in the way of concrete steps to address the problems it identified.  The key recommendation was to create yet another high-level post in Geneva and committees to develop frameworks.

     The report said there were 4,656 overhead staff in Geneva at a cost of some $650 million per year, he continued.  The number and costs were shocking, but JIU recommendations concerning them were lacking.  A ten-year plan was not a good suggestion, and events outside Geneva were not even considered.  Australia had long sought cuts in overhead costs, but the recommendations in this report would only add to such costs.  He hoped that the JIU would produce more action-oriented reports in the future.

     Answering Member States’ questions, the JIU Chairman, Mr. Ouedraogo, said the Economic and Social Council decision covered different issues from those the JIU thought the Fifth Committee should cover.  The JIU made administrative and budgetary recommendations concerning the ACC, and those were more appropriately discussed in the Fifth Committee and the General Assembly.  The Committee should also add value to the JIU comments on the information system coordination committee.  Those issues had not been covered in the debate in the Economic and Social Council.

     Statements on Other Matters

     Mr. NIWA, Assistant Secretary-General for Central Support Services, said he understood there were two issues being raised about food services:  the hours of operation of the Staff Cafeteria, and the Vienna Café being open whenever official meetings were held.  The Cafeteria was open until 8 p.m. every day, and later than that, in December to cater to delegates’ requirements.  The Vienna Café was open until 5:30 p.m. every day.  His understanding was that the Syrian delegation felt the Café should be open whenever a meeting was held.  He would be happy to convey that request to the contractor.

     Regarding audio-visual tapes, he said he was not sure what the questions involved.  The activity had been outsourced for years.  If he could be enlightened on a bilateral basis, he would be happy to return with further information.

     Mr. RAMOS (Portugal), speaking for the Union, recalled that he had last week, in the statement on the Committee’s organization of work, expressed interest in the report on the Department of Economic and Social Affairs, Non-Governmental Organization Section.  He had invited the Bureau to consider whether that report could be considered during the resumed session.  Had steps been taken in that direction?

     Ms. WENSLEY (Australia), Committee Chairman, said she would find out.

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