Press Releases

    GA/AB/3506
    14 May 2002

    Opening Second Part of Resumed Session, Fifth Committee Hears Introduction of Reports on Peacekeeping Financing

    NEW YORK, 13 May (UN Headquarters) -- Compared with the appropriations of $2.77 billion for the current period, the total amount proposed for United Nations peacekeeping for July 2002-June 2003 was $2.91 billion, the Fifth Committee (Administrative and Budgetary) was told this morning as it began the second part of its resumed session.

    Introducing some 40 reports of the Secretary-General on the budgeting needs and functioning of peacekeeping, United Nations Controller Jean-Pierre Halbwachs explained that the total estimate included the requirements for ongoing 12 peacekeeping missions, the support account, the United Nations Logistics Base (UNLB) in Brindisi, Italy, and the one-time costs for the new concept of strategic deployment stocks (SDS), envisioned to allow for rapid deployment of new missions.

    During its three-week session, the Committee is expected to devote its attention to various aspects of peacekeeping financing, taking up administrative and budgetary aspects of peacekeeping; performance reports and audited financial statements of individual missions for 2000/2001; and their budget requirements for 2002/2003.

    The financial year of peacekeeping operations runs from 1 July to 30 June, and their costs are assessed among Member States on the basis of a special peacekeeping scale. Unlike the regular budget, the total cost of United Nations peacekeeping is subject to considerable fluctuations from year to year, because decisions on the mandates of the missions by the Security Council are made at any time during the year, depending on the world situation.

    The concept of strategic deployment stocks was introduced by Michael Sheehan, Assistant Secretary-General for Mission Support of the Department of Peacekeeping Operations, who said that the SDS were being introduced to enhance materiel readiness for deployment of new missions within 30 to 90 days. They involved the materiel itself (for example, vehicles, engineering equipment, communications) and such services as airlift, construction services and water supplies. The new concept envisioned the expansion of the role of the UNLB, which should take on new responsibilities as an operational arm for SDS; training and conference centre; and support for air operations. If approved, the procurement process would start in July.

    [The United Nations Panel on United Nations Peacekeeping Operations (the so-called Brahimi Panel) had recommended that the SDS should be prepared for two missions per year, but upon consultations it had been decided that one complex mission should be sufficient. Those were also the recommendations of the Advisory Committee on Administrative and Budgetary Questions (ACABQ).]

    Introducing the ACABQ reports, the Chairman of the Advisory Committee, Conrad S.M. Mselle, said that in reporting balances of $279 million for missions in liquidation, the Secretary-General had proposed that $179 million of that amount be made available for the SDS. The Advisory Committee had recommended reducing that amount to $146.2 million, having concluded that in view of "the magnitude of the budgetary requirements involved, it would be prudent at this stage to proceed to implementation of one complex mission only". Regarding the budget for UNLB in Brindisi, the Advisory Committee recommended $14.29 million instead of the $16.2 million proposed by the Secretary-

    General. Out of 47 additional posts proposed for SDS, the Advisory Committee recommended accepting some 20 new posts and several upward reclassifications.

    Other reports before the Committee were introduced by Pramesh Bhana, Chairman of the Audit Operations and Director of External Audit of South Africa; Harriet Schmidt of the Department of Management; and Under-Secretary-General for Internal Oversight Services Dileep Nair, who also responded to questions from the floor.

    Participating in the discussion were the representatives of Venezuela (on behalf of the "Group of 77" developing countries and China), Syria, India and the United States.

    In other action this morning, the Committee appointed Kenshiro Akimoto (Japan) as member of the Committee on Contributions for the period ending on 31 December 2003.

    The Committee will continue its consideration of the agenda items introduced today at 10 a.m. Wednesday, 15 May.

    Background

    The Fifth Committee (Administrative and Budgetary) met this morning to consider its organization of work and to study reports related to the financing of peacekeeping operations. (For further details, see Press Release GA/AB/3505 of 13 May.)

    Organization of Work and Appointments

    The Committee was informed that since some documents were yet to be submitted by the Secretariat, it was proposed that reports relating to contingent-owned equipment, rates of reimbursement to governments of troop-contributing States, and death and disability benefits would be deferred for consideration during the fifty-seventh session of the Assembly. Similarly, the question of establishing a robust monitoring capacity in the Office of Human Resources Management for the monitoring of all relevant activities in the Secretariat, regardless of the source of funding, should be postponed until the fifty-seventh session.

    A representative of Venezuela (on behalf of the "Group of 77" developing countries and China) suggested that the Committee should postpone its discussion and decision on the programme of work for the session until Wednesday.

    The representative of Syria pointed out that flexibility was needed as far as the number of meetings and time of the session were concerned. A fourth week might be needed to conclude the work on peacekeeping. He also said that it was necessary to hold informal consultations on the United Nations Disengagement Observer Force (UNDOF) this week, because that matter required serious discussion.

    The Committee's Chairman, NANA EFFAH-APENTENG (Ghana), said that the Committee should "jump into work" and work seriously.

    The Committee decided to postpone its consideration of its programme of work for the second resumed session until Wednesday.

    The Committee then appointed Kenshiro Akimoto (Japan) as member of the Committee on Contributions for the period expiring on 31 December 2003, following the resignation of Kazuo Watanabe (Japan) from membership of the Committee.

    Introduction of Reports

    PRAMESH BHANA, Chairman of the Audit Operations Committee and Director of External Audit of South Africa, introduced the report of the Board of Auditors and the financial report and audited financial statements of the United Nations peacekeeping operations for 2000/2001. He said that the report addressed three special requests from the Assembly. The first one concerned a comprehensive assessment on contingent-owned equipment arrangements. The Board had found that verification

    reports were not always prepared in a timely manner and recommended, among other things, the provision of time benchmarks for the submission of such reports.

    Requested to review the adequacy of the resident audit function, the Board had come to the conclusion that it was an important oversight mechanism, although improvements were needed in such areas as reporting and training. It was necessary to continue paying special attention to this area, and the Board would continue to do so.

    In response to a request to monitor the process of objective-setting by missions, the Board of Auditors had addressed that issue as well, he said. Progress was evident in that regard, but the process of objective-setting was still in its infancy and required close monitoring.

    He went on to highlight other findings of the Board, which included discrepancies in the reports, in particular, those regarding non-expendable equipment; and understatement in respect of verified claims from troop-contributing countries. Despite continuing improvement, civilian police deployment remained a problem, and discrepancies were not followed up in a timely manner. It was imperative to improve controls and better evaluate resource requirements. Other recommendations of the Board concerned the need to improve procurement planning.

    The Board of Auditors also noted the recommendations of the Advisory Committee on Administrative and Budgetary Questions (ACABQ) regarding the implementation of its recommendations, and welcomed the prospect of close consultations on that manner.

    HARRIET SCHMIDT, of the Department of Management, introduced the Secretary-General's report on the implementation of the recommendations of the Board of Auditors concerning peacekeeping operations, saying that, for the most part, the report only addressed those recommendations which required additional comments. In the few cases where the recommendations remained unimplemented, the Secretariat had been unable to process them for such serious reasons as severe budgetary constraints.

    The Chairman of the ACABQ, CONRAD S.M. MSELLE, introduced the Advisory Board's report. He said that the ACABQ welcomed the auditors' comments and recommendations. Two aspects warranted particular attention: the two studies on resident auditors; and management of contingent-owned equipment. The ACABQ had commented extensively on contingent-owned equipment, both in general and individual peacekeeping reports. It welcomed measures taken by particular missions in implementation of new contingent-owned equipment arrangements, including the establishment of dedicated procurement units for that purpose. Good practices from more successful missions needed to be shared.

    He went on to say that the Secretariat, the Office of Internal Oversight Services (OIOS) and individual missions needed to take action to realize the full potential of the resident audit service. The ACABQ had indicated some of the steps to be taken and had drawn attention to the plan to expand the investigative service.

    Regarding objective-setting, he explained that it was the first time that missions were introducing results-based budgeting in their budget submissions, and the ACABQ had submitted extensive comments in that regard, cautioning against what appeared to be over-emphasis on theory and unrealistic assumptions regarding what could be accomplished. The ACABQ wanted the missions to tailor results-based budgeting techniques to the particular circumstances of each mission. Objectives and expected accomplishments should not be forced in cases where they were not practicable.

    Finally, he added that the ACABQ was recommending a change in the manner in which reports on the implementation of recommendations of the Board of Auditors were presented. The ACABQ was prepared to pursue that matter further with the Board.

    The United Nations Controller, JEAN-PIERRE HALBWACHS, introduced the Secretary-General's reports. He noted that, based on the proposed programme of work, the Fifth Committee had a total of 41 reports of the Secretary-General on the financing of peacekeeping operations and related administrative issues. The performance reports for the period July 2000 to June 2001 included amounts approved by the Assembly of $2.63 billion in respect of 12 ongoing missions and expenditures of $2.37 billion, resulting in an unspent balance of $250 million. That represented an implementation rate of 90 per cent, about the same as for the previous period. The recommendation of the ACABQ on disclosure of interest, miscellaneous and other income had been implemented, as well as other recommendations.

    The budget estimates for the 12 ongoing missions for July 2002-June 2003 amounted to $2.61 billion, he said, which compared with $2.67 billion for the current year. When the requirements for the support account, the United Nations Logistics Base at Brindisi (UNLB) and the one-time costs for the strategic deployment stocks were added, the total amount proposed for July 2002-June 2003 would amount to $2.91 billion, compared to $2.77 billion for the current period. Complying with General Assembly resolution 55/220, the Administration had identified objectives for the period, together with expected accomplishments, indicative achievements and external factors for each mission.

    He then introduced the peacekeeping mission reports. On the performance report of the United Nations Interim Force in Lebanon (UNIFIL) (document A/56/822), he noted that three budgets for the Force in one 12-month financial year had led to practical difficulties in implementing the budget. Rapid and successive operational changes and reconfiguration of the Force had resulted in a budget implementation rate of 89 per cent. Regarding the budget estimates for the United Nations Mission in Sierra Leone (UNAMSIL) (document A/56/855), he said the Mission would be assessed after the upcoming elections in Sierra Leone. The United Nations Mission in Bosnia and Herzegovina (UNMIBH) was expected to complete its core mandate by 31 December 2002. Its budget (document A/56/773), therefore, reflected the provision for the maintenance of the Mission from 1 July to 31 December 2002, and for its liquidation from 1 January 2003 to 30 June 2003.

    Regarding the concept of strategic deployment stocks and its implementation (document A/56/870), he said the concept was a cornerstone recommendation of the Panel on United Nations Peace Operations. The cost of establishing the strategic deployment stocks would be charged to the UNLB budget on a one-time basis. It would be funded from the balances available in several closed missions, for which final performance reports were being considered by the Committee at its current session. Financial authority was required for the Secretary-General to commit funds for procurement purposes before the adoption of a mission mandate, in order to ensure rapid-deployment readiness. There was a proposal that the Secretary-General be granted pre-mandate commitment authority up to the amount of $50 million when the establishment of a new peacekeeping mission was anticipated.

    MICHAEL SHEEHAN, Assistant Secretary-General for Mission Support of the Department of Peacekeeping Operations, presented the concept and implementation of the strategic deployment stocks (SDS). He said that the proposal for the SDS was being introduced to enhance materiel readiness for deployment of new missions within 30 to 90 days. They involved the materiel itself (vehicles, engineering equipment, communications, for example) and such services as airlift, construction services and water supplies. Strategic deployment stocks involved the expansion of the role of the UNLB, which should take on new responsibilities as an operational arm for SDS; training and conference centre; and support for air operations. If approved, the procurement process would start in July.

    The Brahimi Panel had recommended that the SDS should be prepared for two missions per year, but upon consultations it had been decided that one complex mission of about 10,000 troops should be sufficient, and those were the recommendations of the ACABQ. One third of those troops should be completely self-sufficient. As part of the SDS, the United Nations would be prepared to provide support to other troops.

    Staffing requirements had been submitted for two missions, but the ACABQ had recommended an increase of just 24 posts, with some upgrades. Some contractual services would be required for "surge" periods. Summing up, he said that one mission -- not two -- would be needed, and he believed that it was possible "to get the job done".

    From the logistics standpoint, the new concept was achievable. The rapid deployment would work in 30 to 90 days only if Member States provided the troops and equipment. It would take about a year to have the SDS completely in place. A lot of expensive materiel would be entrusted to the Organization, and careful management was needed to implement the ambitious proposals before the Assembly.

    CONRAD S.M. MSELLE, Chairman of the Advisory Committee, introducing the relevant reports on the missions referred to earlier, noted they contained extensive comments and recommendations. Other recommendations and comments could be found in the Advisory Committee's General Report (document A/56/887). The Advisory Committee had accepted the Secretary-General's proposals regarding the United Nations Disengagement Observer Force (UNDOF), United Nations Interim Force in Lebanon (UNIFIL), Kuwait, Cyprus, and the United Nations Mission in Ethiopia and Eritrea. With respect to UNAMSIL, the Advisory Committee had accepted the Secretary-General's proposals with a slight modification in assessments. Instead of an appropriation of $669 million, in view of the potential effect of the adjustment which might be implemented, the Committee recommended an assessment of $502.17 million from 1 July 2002 to 31 March 2003. Additional assessments would be reviewed in the context of the revisions the Secretary-General would make.

    In view of the potential for downsizing the Kosovo Mission because of political developments, the Advisory Committee recommended an assessment of $330 million. When the Committee reviewed the budget for the Mission for the next period in February/March 2003, it would look at the most up-to-date information regarding current performance.

    In the performance reports reviewed by the Advisory Committee, commented on in paragraphs 76 to 83 of the general report providing information on cancelled obligations, the Secretary-General had reported balances of $279 million and had proposed that $179 million be made available for SDS. The Advisory Committee recommended that that amount should be $146.2 million. He was pleased to note that the Secretariat had accepted the recommendation.

    Regarding the budget for UNLB in Brindisi, the Advisory Committee recommended $14.29 million instead of the $16.2 million proposed by the Secretary-General. He agreed with the Assistant Secretary-General for Mission Support that it might be necessary to use contractual services. Regarding the mission in Georgia, the Advisory Committee had recommended $31.70 million instead of the $35.53 million recommended by the Secretary-General, because of the comments the Advisory Committee had made regarding air operations and additional staff.

    Comments

    RAMESH CHANDRA (India) said that clarification would be useful on the Advisory Committee's general concern regarding the planning of stocks, particularly high-technology stocks, which devalued very quickly.

    Mr. SHEEHAN said that the DPKO would move forward very cautiously in that regard. Indeed, computers and communications technology changed very quickly. Since such equipment sat in Brindisi, the stocks would become obsolete if it would be rotated to missions as they came in, in order to keep the stockpile fresh.

    Introducing the OIOS reports, DILEEP NAIR, Under-Secretary-General for Internal Oversight Services, said that having conducted an internal audit of mission liquidation activities, the OIOS had found some improvements. However, it was important to speed up the liquidation process, and 13 recommendations had been made to that effect. In the future, particular attention would be paid to the issue of write-offs, as the OIOS continued its follow-up on liquidation activities.

    He went on to describe the reports on other OIOS audits, which had been conducted on mission subsistence allowance (MSA) rates, policies and procedures for recruiting international civilian staff, and the oil-for-food programme in Iraq.

    In view of the significant financial implications involved, he said, the OIOS believed that the Office of Human Resources Management should immediately conduct a review of mission allowance rates. It was advisable to make such rates the same as, or lower than DSA of short-term staff, because Mission staff usually stayed in the area for longer periods of time and did not always live in hotels and eat at restaurants. Any reduction should be implemented in a phased fashion to give the staff a chance to get accustomed to the changes. He was pleased to note that the Assembly, by its resolution 56/246, had requested the Secretary-General "to ensure that the recommendations of the OIOS with regard to the new mission subsistence allowance . . . are fully and expeditiously implemented". The OIOS would continue to monitor and review the new MSA rates.

    Regarding recruitment of international civilian staff for field missions, he said that the OIOS also advocated full delegation of recruitment authority to field missions, but emphasized the need for establishing recruiting standards, deploying qualified recruitment specialists in the affected missions, and establishing effective monitoring mechanisms at Headquarters.

    Updating the Committee on developments regarding the oil-for food programme, he said that the Office of the Humanitarian Coordinator in Iraq needed to focus on the coordination and monitoring of programme activities in northern Iraq. The Coordinator had taken a number of steps to increase the efficiency of the humanitarian programme in the North, but much remained to be done. For example, staffing levels were still inadequate for the tasks they were charged with, and it was evident that closer coordination was needed among the United Nations entities and agencies implementing programme activities. Fully adopting a programme approach to implementing projects remained a challenge.

    The Compensation Commission was responsible for the processing of a large number of claims resulting from Iraq's invasion of Kuwait, he continued. The high value and often complex nature of those claims entailed significant risks to the Organization. Although there existed some safeguards, there was ample opportunity for mistakes and irregular activities. The Executive Secretary had agreed with the OIOS on that issue, and now a second auditor post had been introduced to focus on high-risk claim areas.

    THOMAS A. REPASCH (United States) said the reports were very informative and helpful. He urged the Secretary-General and the Secretariat to implement the OIOS recommendations as expeditiously as possible because that was what oversight was about. He noted that the OIOS had made 13 recommendations regarding mission liquidation activities, and had decided to undertake a follow-up review, and asked why the implementation of those recommendations seemed to be more complicated than he would like.

    He agreed with the OIOS regarding the purpose of MSA and urged that no other issues would be involved in calculations for MSA. He urged the Secretary-General to implement the recommendations mentioned in the relevant report, since MSA expenditures were a large portion of mission budgets.

    As for recruitment of international staff, he again urged implementation of the recommendations made. He also asked for clarification of the fact that there was a 29 per cent vacancy rate for international staff at the UNLB in Brindisi, which was an incredibly high rate. He asked for some elaboration on coordination of the audit activities of the many organizations involved in the oil-for-food programme in Iraq which were providing oversight. He also asked whether the second auditor post for the United Nations Compensation Commission had been approved.

    In response to the questions and comments, Mr. NAIR said mission liquidation activities were often long and drawn out. The OIOS had received answers from those Missions on comments and questions asked, but would like to make an in-depth analysis of responses before passing judgement. He noted, however, that, contrary to the past, DPKO had now looked with some urgency at the issue.

    He said recruitment was still not as efficient as it should be. However, there had been some innovations, such as the Galaxy system, which enabled recruitment through the Internet, resulting in a faster turnover of applications. He hoped that those initiatives and OIOS recommendations would be taken into consideration. OIOS would review that matter after July.

    There were nine agencies involved in implementing the Iraq oil-for-food programme, he said. On the initiative of OIOS, a working group had been established to coordinate audit activities. Collaboration was working well, but he would give an update on the matter. A request had been submitted for the second auditor post, and he favoured confirmation for that post. He noted that that second post was the required minimum to fulfil mandated tasks.

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