Press Releases

    GA/AB/3507
    16 May 2002

    Speakers Favour Concept of Strategic Deployment Stocks to Speed Activation of New Peacekeeping Missions

    Several Delegations Request Coordination of Operation Mandates with Peacekeeping Budget Calendar

    NEW YORK, 15 May (UN Headquarters) -- Speakers this morning agreed that the concept of Strategic Deployment Stocks in the context of rapid deployment of peacekeeping missions would be the central issue in the current Fifth Committee (Administrative and Budgetary) general debate on financing of peacekeeping missions.

    [The concept of Strategic Deployment Stocks (SDS) would enhance materiel readiness for deployment of new missions within 30 to 90 days and would envisage the expansion of the role of the United Nations Logistics Base (UNLB) at Brindisi (Italy), which should take on new responsibilities as an operational arm for SDS; as a training and conference centre; and as support for air operations. If approved, the procurement process would start in July.]

    Echoing other speakers, the representative of Canada (speaking also on behalf of Australia and New Zealand) said establishment of SDS at Brindisi would be a critical next step in significantly improving rapid deployment. At this time, sufficient SDS for one complex mission a year was a prudent, realistic and economical approach. [In his report, the Secretary-General had proposed SDS for one complex mission and one conventional mission a year, while the Advisory Committee on Administrative and Budgetary Questions (ACABQ) had proposed SDS for one complex mission a year.] As establishment of SDS, together with the peacekeeping reserve fund, would double the resources currently available for establishing new missions, it might be appropriate to review the conditions under which such a fund would be used.

    He saw great opportunity for making improvements in the way the United Nations managed, budgeted for, and financed peacekeeping operations. The financial framework supporting peacekeeping was cumbersome and inflexible, as a result of which many missions continued to experience negative cash balances. He suggested that a more flexible system for integrating peacekeeping budgets should be considered.

    While agreeing with the concept of SDS, the representative of Mexico questioned the proposal to give the Secretary-General authority to obligate funds of up to $50 million for each new mission without waiting for the Security Council resolution on the matter. In that connection, he wondered what would happen to the funds used for the planning of a mission if the Security Council subsequently failed to reach agreement on its mandate. There was a tendency to believe that the Security Council was infallible, but sometimes the Council could not react to changing situations, as had been the case some weeks ago when the Assembly adopted a resolution the Council could not. He wondered if there was any legal foundation for using other missions' budgets for a new hypothetical mission on the basis of a Council President's letter.

    As the Committee concluded its general discussion on 13 agenda items related to peacekeeping budgeting, speakers also commended the Department of Peacekeeping Operations (DPKO) on its efforts to present the budget reports for peacekeeping operations in a results-based format, but stressed that results-based budgeting was a work in progress. The representative of the United States said peacekeeping was one of the key functions of the Organization, and entailed one of the largest collective budgets in the United Nations system. For that reason, the Committee was especially challenged to ensure that the funds contributed by Member States were used to maximum benefit. Results-based budgeting was key to the Committee's evaluation of mission performance, and it could serve as an effective management tool for the administration.

    Also this morning, as the Committee concluded its discussion of the reports of the Office of Internal Oversight Services (OIOS), the representative of Iraq reiterated his call for the involvement of Iraqi auditors in the oversight of the work of the Office of the Iraq Programme (OIP), because it was "not fair for Iraq to absorb the loss of millions of its own money because of abuses and violations committed by United Nations staff". He requested a serious investigation of financial mismanagement within the OIP, and requested to be kept abreast of all reports on that issue.

    Responding to his requests, Esther Stern, Director of the Audit and Management Consulting Division of the OIOS, said that the OIOS had been unable to identify what the Iraqi representative had called "violations by the OIP staff", as well as gross misconduct and misappropriations. The Office had found some weaknesses, which had been summarized in its reports. If Iraq knew of any specific instances of violations, the OIOS would be happy to look into them.

    Among other issues addressed in the debate were the processing of contingent-owned equipment obligations, the need to adjust Mission Subsistence Allowances (MSA), and to speed up liquidation of closed missions.

    In other business this morning, the Committee approved its programme of work for the session, on the understanding that adjustments would be made as necessary during its course.

    The representatives of Venezuela (on behalf of the Group of 77 developing countries and China), Cuba, Spain (on behalf of the European Union and associated States), Russian Federation, Japan, Syria, India, China, Yugoslavia, Lebanon and Saudi Arabia also spoke.

    Responding to delegates' questions and comments were the Assistant Secretary-General for Programme Planning, Budget and Accounts and United Nations Controller Jean-Pierre Halbwachs, Assistant Secretary-General for Mission Support of the DPKO.

    The Fifth Committee will meet again on Monday, 20 May, at 10 a.m.

    Background

    The Fifth Committee (Administrative and Budgetary) met this morning to continue its consideration of peacekeeping financing, including the auditors' reports on the matter and the findings of the Office of Internal Oversight Services (OIOS). For more detailed information, see Press Releases GA/AB/3505 and GA/AB/3506 of 13 May.

    Organization of Work

    ASDRUBAL PULIDO LEON (Venezuela), speaking on behalf of the "Group of 77" developing countries and China, said that the proposed programme of work reflected a relatively balanced allocation of time, with priority being accorded to those items that were time-bound. However, he requested the Bureau to ensure availability of conference services for the fourth week of the resumed session, if necessary.

    He stressed that late submission of documentation was of persistent concern to the Group, for it continued to affect the smooth functioning not only of the Fifth Committee's work, but that of all Main Committees as well. That situation needed to be addressed seriously under the relevant agenda item. It was of utmost importance that the Secretariat comply with the six-week rule for the issuance of documents, so that all delegations had the opportunity to review the documents prior to their consideration.

    The Group was concerned about the disconcerting trend of proposals being mooted with utter disregard for established rules of procedure. He stressed the need for full implementation of the decisions and rules of procedure of the Assembly. With regard to specific items on the programme of work, he said that in the case of human resources management and administration of justice, the Group would appreciate explanations from the Secretariat during formal meetings in regard to the continuing delay in the publication of reports requested by the Assembly.

    As for the proposed list of documents to be postponed to the fifty-seventh session, he was concerned that some documents proposed for postponement had actually been issued, including those on the status of recruitment for the interpretation section at the Nairobi Office, contingent-owned equipment reimbursements and write-offs. The Group requested an explanation of the reasons for postponing consideration of such reports. The Fifth Committee should also be provided a report on the implementation of resolution 56/242 without any delay.

    EVA SILOT BRAVO (Cuba) said that her delegation would like to receive responses to the requests made by the representative of Venezuela on behalf of the Group of 77.

    The Chairman of the Advisory Committee on Administrative and Budgetary Questions (ACABQ), CONRAD S.M. MSELLE, said that report A/56/919 under the agenda item on the proposals to implement General Assembly resolutions had been issued after the Committee had concluded its winter session. The ACABQ had not taken up that report as it did not contain budgetary recommendations on which the Advisory Committee was required to report immediately. He had already provided explanations in that regard to the Group of 77. The Secretary-General had indicated in that report that some reductions might be required for servicing regional and other group meetings and common services, and, at this juncture, the ACABQ could not provide information to the Fifth Committee on the way to proceed on the implementation of the budget for 2002/2003. The most appropriate procedure would be to do programming exercises in the context of the performance report to be submitted to the fifty-seventh session of the Assembly. There was also a need to identify the effect that reductions were having on the number of mandated meetings and services before pronouncing on the future course of action. That information was not provided by the Secretary-General in his report.

    Ms. SILOT BRAVO (Cuba) said that the Group of 77 and China had made a specific request that a relevant report of the Advisory Committee be issued, and she hoped the report would be made available during the current session. The issues in question fell fully within the competence of the Fifth Committee. She was also awaiting an appropriate time for an explanation concerning the Nairobi Office and contingent-owned equipment. The Secretariat should provide explanations on a number of reports on human resources, which had been proposed for postponement. The Group was concerned about the tendency to postpone consideration of issues on which reports had not been issued on time.

    Mr. MSELLE replied that the Advisory Committee was not the problem -- the problem was the manner in which the proposed reductions had been handled during the fifty-sixth session. The proper procedure would have been to have a statement of programme budget implications before the final decision was taken by the Fifth Committee. The ACABQ would then have reviewed the programme budget implications and made proposals to the Fifth Committee in that regard. The issue was now political. The Secretary-General's report related largely to the effect the reductions were having on the ability of Member States to meet. It was not up to the ACABQ to make pronouncements on that issue. If the ACABQ was requested to review that report, he doubted it would be able to report on the issue before the end of the current session, or that its report would be more informative than the statement he was making today. To be pragmatic, the only way one could address the issue was in the context of the performance report, indicating the effect of proposed reductions. The Fifth Committee could then reprogramme the resources for 2003 and, if necessary, appropriate additional amounts.

    Ms. SILOT BRAVO (Cuba) said her delegation was just talking about procedural questions. As a subsidiary body of the Assembly, the ACABQ should be guided by its rules of procedure. As for the evaluation of the budget resolution, it was up to the General Assembly to evaluate its results, and she agreed with Mr. Mselle that it was a political decision now. The Group was officially requesting that the Advisory Committee, as an expert body, report its views in the plenary on the report on the agenda for the current session. Various budgetary reports should be treated in equal manner and the request of the Group should be heeded. As for the other issues, she was awaiting a reply, in particular on how to proceed with contingent-owned equipment.

    Committee Chairman NANA EFFAH-APENTENG (Ghana) recalled that on Monday he had addressed the issue of the availability of reports. At that time, he had said that since some documents were still to be submitted by the Secretariat, the Advisory Committee would have no time to comment on them. Thus, it was proposed that those reports be deferred to the fifty-seventh session. He appealed to the Committee to adopt the programme of work before it.

    The Committee then adopted its programme of work for the second resumed session.

    Ms. SILOT BRAVO (Cuba) said that it was important to take up such reports as those regarding contingent-owned equipment and Nairobi, and the possibility should be considered of making conference services available for the fourth week of the session, in particular, awaiting the reports to be submitted before the first week of June. She hoped those measures would be taken in order to avoid postponing consideration of important issues.

    The CHAIRMAN said that the matter would be discussed by the Bureau.

    Board of Auditors Reports

    There were no speakers on this item.

    Administrative and Budgetary Aspects of Financing of Peacekeeping Operations

    DANIEL SOTO (Spain), speaking on behalf of the European Union and Bulgaria, Czech Republic, Estonia, Hungary, Latvia, Lithuania, Poland, Romania, Slovakia, Slovenia, Cyprus, Malta, Turkey, Iceland and Norway, said the Union and associated States had over 6,000 personnel throughout United Nations peacekeeping missions, and accounted for a share of more than 40 per cent of the peacekeeping budget. It was essential that the most effective administrative and financial arrangements for peacekeeping operations be in place. Forecasting was crucial to allow Member States to properly plan resource requirements at an early stage. More regularized information on peacekeeping expenses would greatly help.

    He urged the Secretary-General to consider the need for an exit strategy in the early stages of planning, and to consider aligning the mandates of peacekeeping operations with the peacekeeping financial calendar. There was a need to agree on the most appropriate way to finance the strategic deployment stocks (SDS) approved by Member States. The European Union was ready to discuss the Secretary-General's proposal to finance the SDS from unencumbered balances from a number of closed missions, and supported pre-mandate commitment authority.

    He said the Union could not concur with ACABQ's comment on the tendency of some missions to establish separate special units, and regretted such requests when there was little justification for the posts requested. Mission subsistence allowance (MSA) should be consistent with actual living costs, and elements of hardship compensation should not be indirectly included in the MSA. The Union would appreciate a review of standard staff rations applied to peacekeeping operations, bearing in mind the use of information technology and improvements in core training, as well as an overall review of standard rations for all aspects of peacekeeping operations.

    He expressed concern that the United Nations had been forced to start mission operations without having signed status-of-forces agreements, and urged the Secretariat to consider an effective solution to that problem. He congratulated the Secretariat for the encouraging start in setting results-based objectives in the budget for the support account, which he saw as work in progress. It was important that the budgets of peacekeeping operations should also address the need for a gender-sensitive approach, the costs of which should be included in budget proposals for different missions. It was unacceptable that liquidation of missions could sometimes take as much as five years.

    He was concerned that training seemed to lack a strategic plan which would take into consideration core training needs of staff and priority training relevant to mission requirements. The lack of procurement planning and training continued to give cause for concern. The use of field assets control systems should enable better control of property in peacekeeping missions, but that seemed elusive. He also asked for information on action taken by the Department of Peacekeeping Operations to develop and implement a comprehensive policy that integrated the information and communication technology strategies of both the field missions and the Secretariat.

    He considered SDS to be one of the most important subjects of the current session. The implementation of SDS was intimately connected with the crucial role of the United Nations Logistics Base (UNLB) at Brindisi. It was advisable to ensure high quality and effective maintenance of the SDS, and the Secretary-General must devote careful attention to inventory management and the enhanced value of the stock. Before purchasing, it would be useful to review the standard costs of the technical components.

    MICHEL DUVAL (Canada), also speaking on behalf of Australia and New Zealand, said the nearly two-year-long process of reform that began with the Brahimi report had introduced wide-ranging improvements to United Nations peacekeeping capabilities. It was important now to focus on what was left undone, such as the establishment of SDS at the UNLB, which was a critical next step in significantly improving rapid deployment. Establishing SDS for one complex mission was a prudent, realistic and economical approach at this time. He also supported pre-mandate commitment authority, which could be achieved under current arrangements. In effect, establishment of SDS, together with the Peacekeeping Reserve Fund, would double the resources currently available for establishing new missions. It might, therefore, be appropriate to review the conditions under which the fund might be used.

    He was concerned about how effectively peacekeeping operations were managed. More remained to be done to increase productivity and efficiency in activities such as assets management, procurement, transport and communications. The United Nations ability to manage missions in transition also warranted continued attention. Congratulating the Secretariat on the first attempt to apply results-based budgeting, he regretted that there was no results-based narrative in the Secretary-General's report on the concept of SDS.

    He saw great opportunity for making improvements in the way the United Nations manages, budgets for, and finances peacekeeping operations. Examining the question of consolidating assessments to improve the ability of Member States to budget for and pay their assessments would be a good first step. The sheer volume of reporting could be streamlined. The financial framework supporting peacekeeping was cumbersome and inflexible, as a result of which many missions continued to experience negative cash balances. He suggested that a more flexible system integrating the peacekeeping budgets should be considered.

    PATRICK KENNEDY (United States) said that his delegation was disappointed that some reports were not ready for consideration at the current session. However, it was aware of the increasing number of reports the Secretariat was required to prepare in response to Member States' requests, in addition to the 41 reports on current and recently closed missions identified at last Monday's meeting.

    Peacekeeping was one of the key functions of the Organization, and entailed one of the largest collective budgets in the United Nations system, he said. For that reason, the Committee was especially challenged to ensure that the funds contributed by Member States were used to maximum benefit. Results-based budgeting was key to the Committee's evaluation of mission performance, and it could serve as an effective management tool for the administration. He supported the observation of the Advisory Committee that rational and achievable objectives should form the core of budgetary requests. His delegation would be examining the circumstances where MSAs were being paid at higher levels than necessary, given local conditions. It was incumbent on the Secretariat to ensure that the personnel of all missions were treated fairly and equally, and he could not support exceptional benefits without a pressing, demonstrated case for them.

    His delegation was concerned that many missions continued to have excessive amounts of unobligated balances, he continued. A record of relatively high levels of unobligated balances, across a range of missions, was sufficient reason to re-examine budgeting practices in detail. At the same time, problems with reimbursements to Member States continued. Not all of those problems related to shortages of funds. The lack of memorandums of understanding and agreements with troop contributors were a major concern, and he encouraged the Secretariat to work with affected members to remedy the situation as soon as possible.

    Another concern was that pre-arrival and operational reviews and inspections were not being performed in a timely manner, and that there were often discrepancies between what Headquarters believed to be staffing on the ground and what the mission commander reported. Those could lead to delays in payments to troop contributors and hide problems in need of remedy before full operational capacity was reached. The time needed to close missions and complete liquidation could and should be shortened.

    Large budgets and high operational risks related to peacekeeping emphasized the importance of effective oversight, he said, commending the Board of Directors and the OIOS for providing that critical service. Taking note of the Secretariat's detailed proposals for SDS to be located at Brindisi, he supported the concept of a single large mission plan for the initial stock. The original intention of the plan had been to procure big-ticket or long lead-time articles, and his delegation was examining the proposed stock lists to ensure that those extraordinary items received the bulk of any special funding. He supported the idea of using existing cash balances as the funding mechanism for the first stage of procurement. Using those funds would enable the Secretariat to immediately work to make the SDS a reality, rather than having to wait as funds were assessed and collected before starting the programme.

    Last but not least, he was concerned about the reports of exploitation of women and children by peacekeepers and other international personnel. All steps must be taken to investigate any such reports and put in place strong safeguards against any future occurrences.

    GENNADY M. GATILOV (Russian Federation) said that one of the most important elements in strengthening United Nations potential for rapid deployment was creation of the SDS. Now that the proposal was on the table, it was important to work through its administrative and budgetary aspects. To his mind, the Secretariat had taken a serious approach in preparing that proposal. Some issues deserved particular attention, however. A question of principle was the number of missions for which the SDS was to be established. He believed that, at this time, they should be limited to the deployment of one complex mission, as opposed to the initial proposal for two. In such a case, expenditures for the establishment of one complex mission would amount to some $146.2 million, according to the information provided to the Committee. Last Monday, the Committee had been told that the Secretariat agreed in principle with the ACABQ recommendations in that regard.

    His delegation shared the Advisory Committee's opinion that clear-cut and realistic policies for the replacement and rotation of components was needed, especially as far as information technology and computers were concerned. In that connection, it was important to ensure transparent and effective rules of financial accounting between the Logistics Base and the missions. The Secretariat must further focus on the attainment of agreement with Member States with regard to provision of specialized equipment, materiel and services. Among other factors, he stressed the importance of direct involvement of States and not commercial companies in that regard. Also important was an economical approach to storage and servicing of equipment.

    As for the additional authority up to $50 million to be provided to the Secretary-General prior to the formal establishment of new operations, he supported the view that -- taking account of existing resolutions on unforeseen expenses -- the Secretary-General already had quite adequate financial authority to begin planning and deploying operations. The letter of the President of the Security Council clearly expressing his agreement with the Secretary-General's intention to plan an operation could serve as a trigger to begin preparations for deployment. He supported the proposal to approve the concept of SDS, but further discussion was required on financing.

    SHINICHI YAMANAKA (Japan) said the proposed peacekeeping budgets would total $2.9 billion, which was still a high level of funding. He, therefore, emphasized the importance of adhering to Assembly resolution 49/233A in the budgetary process. The size of the SDS should be based on assessed needs, and it was realistic to use the planning assumption that one complex mission would be deployed per year. He expected that establishing SDS would alleviate the delay in deploying some peacekeeping missions, particularly in Africa.

    He had noted with interest that, according to Mr. Sheehan, Assistant Secretary-General for Mission Support, in order to maintain and enhance material readiness for new missions within 30 to 90 days, goods and commodities would be pre-positioned and stored at the UNLB, and services would be provided using commitment authority. He shared the opinion of the ACABQ that a letter from the President of the Security Council to the Secretary-General would constitute a decision sufficient to trigger the implementation of either an Assembly resolution on unforeseen and extraordinary expenses or resolution 49/233A, he said.

    To manage and maintain the reserve of SDS, all available facilities at Brindisi should be efficiently utilized, and he believed that post requirements in the relationship with SDS should be examined. The opinions and recommendations contained in the ACABQ reports were a good basis for more detailed discussions on SDS and pre-mandated commitment authority, as well as the UNLB budget.

    ABOU AL-MOULA NAKKARI (Syria) said the ACABQ report on the United Nations Disengagement Observer Force (UNDOF) should not be read in isolation of paragraph 3 of Assembly resolution 55/666. Dialogue between the Secretariat and local personnel of UNDOF was a process which should be pursued uninterruptedly, taking into account all staff concerns. He hoped the dialogue would be pursued and that the Assembly would be kept informed of the dialogue.

    He was concerned about the health and safety of local and international staff. Ensuring healthy working conditions required renewal of the infrastructure, as provided for in the renovation plan. He would appreciate more information on the Secretariat's reaction to ACABQ's report on the master plan for improvement. He supported the proposal for three international posts. Regarding the Secretary-General's report, he asked about the integration process between the Golan Observation Group and the operations of UNDOF, as noted in observation 3 of section 10. He also wanted additional information about the indication in the report that no conversion of General Service staff posts into local staff posts was possible, and asked what criteria were used in assigning local staff to other missions. He had hoped the Secretary-General's report would have dealt with mobility of local staff.

    He wondered whether the recommendations in paragraph 25 of the ACABQ report regarding financing of the mission of the ACABQ should not be amended to make it consistent with the statement made during introduction of the report.

    ERNESTO HERRERA (Mexico) said that the maintenance of international peace and security was one of the priority purposes of the Organization, and it was important to ensure that resources for that purpose were used in an efficient way. Regarding the concept of SDS, Mexico believed that the best peacekeeping operation was not necessarily the biggest one, but it should be timely. The time of deployment could be a matter of life and death and, for that reason, it was important to have SDS.

    The Secretary-General's proposal on SDS was essentially administrative and budgetary in nature, he continued. The report did not propose that the Secretary-General should begin deployment without mandate from the Security Council, but it mentioned authorization to obligate funds of up to $50 million for each new mission without waiting for the Council resolution in order to stock equipment and materiel at the Brindisi Base. With regard to the role of the Council, his delegation wanted to know what treatment would be given to such funds, if the Council did not authorize the mission as a result of a last-minute veto or failure to ensure the required number of votes. Council resolutions were not only the go-ahead to begin action, but also the instrument to provide financing. They were also the legal justification to request resources from capitals. While the intention of the proposal on SDS was to allow for quick response, he wanted to be clear about the procedure if the actual course of events was not consistent with the projections.

    RAMESH CHANDRA (India) said that, as a country intimately associated with peacekeeping, India had been supporting peacekeeping efforts all over the world and ensuring that resources should be provided for that purpose. On SDS, he shared the opinion expressed by several delegations that it was one of the most important subjects during the current session. During its Monday meeting, the Committee had been informed that the Department of Peacekeeping Operations was prepared to go along with the concept of deploying one complex mission, instead of two, and that the additional commitment authority sought for the Secretary-General fell within the scope of the start-up phase in relevant resolutions. Following the introduction of the SDS concept by the Assistant Secretary-General for Mission Support, as amended by the Advisory Committee, he believed the proposal would be successful. The proposal to establish a peacekeeping reserve fund could also be applied to financing the SDS.

    Turning to the UNLB, he said that within the context of an 80 per cent increase in total gross resources, it would be worthwhile to consider such issues as high vacancy rates and the fact that post adjustment rates were not applied to the salaries of staff posted there. As for the MSA payments, he concurred with the views of the OIOS that it was necessary for the departments involved to address the issue. He also expressed concern that the views of the Special Committee on Peacekeeping Operations had not been properly taken into account in that regard.

    Regarding contingent-owned equipment, he agreed with the ACABQ that management of contingent-owned equipment arrangements required priority attention to remedy serious flaws. He was curious to know how the Secretariat was going to implement the recommendations on improved reimbursement arrangements. He also wanted to know why some reports, including those on processing claims and self-sustainment arrangements, had not been issued on time. To end on an optimistic note, he congratulated the Secretariat on an encouraging beginning of the implementation of recommendations on results-based budgeting, instead of budget-based results.

    WANG XIUXIA (China) hoped the Secretariat would adopt practical measures to prevent future delay in issuing documents. She asked for inclusion of the gender issue in peacekeeping budgets. The issue should also be included in the recruitment activities of the Department of Peacekeeping Operations. She also asked for further exploration of possible streamlining of the budgeting process.

    Regarding the issue of SDS, she said that if the concept would improve the efficiency of peacekeeping missions, it was a good proposal. In fact, them United Nations Organization Mission in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (MONUC) and the United Nations Mission in Ethiopia and Eritrea (UNMEE) had used the SDS concept, and she would like to hear about that experience., Issues of recruitment were very important. New posts and reclassifications should not be confused, as she had noticed in some documents. The former practice should be continued and one should abide by United Nations regulations. Also, people seemed to be accustomed to the notion that reclassification was always upward. In accordance with conditions in the field, and in order to improve efficiency, she noted that it could also be downward. In procurement of SDS, one should be concerned both about cost-effectiveness and about quality and fair geographical distribution. Procurement should be transparent.

    The Secretary-General, she said, had indicated 80 posts for Brindisi, while the ACABQ had stated that Brindisi could operate on the current level or that that level could even be reduced. The ACABQ had approved 24 posts. She, therefore, wondered what factors had suggested the number of 80 posts. The total budget for SDS of $179 million was based on two missions, one complex and one traditional. The total ACABQ-endorsed amount, however, was $146 million, based on one complex mission. She asked how the Advisory Committee had come up with that number. Was $33 million enough to equip a conventional mission? If the proposed amount was a one-time allocation, how should one deal with SDS during a year when there was not a mission? she asked.

    VLADISLAV MLADENOVIC(Yugoslavia), addressing the reports on the United Nations Interim Administration in Kosovo (UNMIK), supported the budget proposal of the Secretary-General in the amount of $391 million. He said that last November elections had been held in the province of Kosovo and Metohija, the autonomous province of the Yugoslav constituent Republic of Serbia, and that provisional institutions of self-government had been established. Nonetheless, UNMIK would continue to shoulder responsibilities in important segments of the administration of the Province, for which appropriate financial resources must be provided. That was important because the security situation continued to be grave, and one of the priorities of the international community was the substantial return of internally displaced persons.

    The proposed reduction of resources should not jeopardize implementation of Security Council 1244, he said. If the proposed reduction was approved, particular note should be taken of the ACABQ recommendation that priority should go to retention of staff for the police, the judiciary and the penal system and for services for minorities and returnees, including resettlement and integration.

    HOUSSAM ASAAD DIAB (Lebanon) said that when the Committee took up a resolution on the financing of the United Nations Interim Force in Lebanon (UNIFIL), he would be introducing amendments regarding the 1996 incident in Qana.

    JEAN-PIERRE HALBWACHS, United Nations Controller, thanked the delegates for their constructive comments regarding the Secretariat's first attempts to introduce a results-based format to peacekeeping budgeting. Regarding the SDS commitment authority, he said that the Secretary-General had the capacity to request such authority, and it should not present a problem. As for Mexico's question, while it was possible that the Council would not approve a mission, once initial resources had been sought, that was highly unlikely, because the letter from the President of the Council would not be written without approval of the Council members. If such a situation arose, however, a request would be made to the Assembly to pro-rate the expenditure.

    Turning to other comments, he said that the issue of a peacekeeping reserve fund was being considered, as well as the questions of streamlined procedures and the volume and length of reports. As for the desirability of providing estimates beyond the subsequent fiscal year, not enough information was available to make them accurate.

    Regarding reports, he said that, at the end of the main part of the session, the Secretariat had had to present five peacekeeping budgets, which, had it not been due to developments, were to be prepared for the May session. For that reason, the Secretariat had fallen behind on some other reports. Several of the late reports were in production, but not for the current session.

    MICHAEL SHEEHAN, Assistant Secretary-General for Mission Support of the Department of Peacekeeping Operations, said that he appreciated the input from delegations. Many of the issues raised could not be resolved by the Secretariat alone, and further discussion was needed, particularly with troop contributors.

    Over the years, peacekeeping operations had expanded, both in scope and mandate, he continued, with a shrinking pool of contributions. From the support side, there were numerous gaps, and the Secretariat was increasingly involved in filling them, for example, in air operations. Many of the comments involved development of procedures and streamlining preparation of reports, but that was difficult to carry out, for he was sending experts to the field to fill gaps in what traditionally had been done by Member States bringing complete packages of support.

    Regarding SDS, he said that it was obviously an issue close to many. It was important to ensure proper accountability and staffing to carry out the proposals. As for staffing levels, the Secretariat could deal with the ACABQ recommendations in terms of international Professional staff. Most cuts were in local staff, and for surge periods contractual services might be needed to cover the gap and ensure that minimal requirements were met.

    Turning to new budgeting procedures and the call for streamlining, he said that work would continue to improve the processing of budgets and their timely preparation. Operational clarity was needed for that. Currently, it was understood that assumptions were being made with regard to future needs, and that it would be possible to come back to them if there were dramatic changes on the ground. Another point was to have appropriate staff deployed to get the work done. That also related to the issue of commitment authority, which was needed prior to the mission to put in place the services and planning "to get the operation up and running".

    Mr. HERRERA (Mexico), in answer to the Controller's response, said there was a tendency to believe that the Security Council was infallible. However, just some weeks ago, the Assembly had adopted a resolution because the Council had been unable to do so. That was proof that the Council sometimes could not react to changing situations. His question was more one of legality. Did a letter of the Council President have the same validity as a Council resolution? His doubt was valid. He wondered if there was any legal foundation for using other missions' budgets for a new hypothetical mission on the basis of a President's letter, and asked for a further elaboration in writing during the informal consultations.

    Mr. HALBWACHS promised to provide the answer to Mr. Herrera's question in writing, but noted that most of the special missions were already approved through the regular budget via letters from the President. It was not a new concept, he said.

    Ms. WANG (China) said that, in the future, the Secretariat should provide clearer explanations to Member States in order to avoid confusion.

    AHMED FARID (Saudi Arabia) commended the Peacekeeping Department's efforts to present the support account in a results-based budgeting format. The Board of Auditors had mentioned that the value of assets assessment had not been applied in several missions. In some missions, the Board had found non-expendable equipment in neglected conditions, while in other missions physical checks had not been performed. A comprehensive record of inventory did not seem to be kept. He observed that there was a lot of movement of equipment between missions, and that the chance of loss was great. He asked the Secretariat to shed some light on the matter.

    Mr. SHEEHAN answered that the Peacekeeping Department had made enormous progress in inventory control, but that there was still need for improvement. The information technology systems used were good at maintaining inventory control, but had difficulty in providing balanced figures at the end of the year. He was committed to fixing that. The information technology system dealing with expendable items must be implemented more evenly among missions. Accountability regarding inventory at Brindisi would be improved, but information technology was a key in that regard. The Peacekeeping Department information technology systems were massive and extensive, but were managed by a P-5. Requests for upgrade of that post to a D-1 position had been rejected. He underlined that he was losing information technology people to other departments and the private sector because they were underpaid. Appropriate post levels and resources for the maintenance of information technology systems were important.

    OIOS Reports

    AHMED K. AHMED (Iraq) said that he valued the document, which noted the need to continue to address some of the issues on auditing of the Office of the Iraq Programme. His delegation did not believe that the shortcomings identified by the OIOS resulted from understaffing, for the Office had sufficient staff to oversee the management of the programme. In his previous statement on the issue, he had called for the involvement of Iraqi auditors, because it was not fair for Iraq to absorb the loss of millions of its own money because of abuses and violations committed by the United Nations staff. He hoped the OIOS would increase its activities with regard to the Programme and the United Nations Compensation Commission. Serious follow-up was needed, as well as enhanced coordination and monitoring, in line with the current trends within the Organization. He requested a serious investigation of financial mismanagement within the Office and requested to be kept abreast of all reports on the Programme.

    ESTHER STERN, Director of the Audit and Management Consulting Division of the OIOS, said that the Office had tried to address Iraq's queries in its report. She would also gladly entertain further specific questions within the context of bilateral meetings with the delegations and open meetings of the Fifth Committee.

    The OIOS had been unable to identify what the Iraqi representative had called "violations by the OIP staff", as well as gross misconduct and misappropriations. The Office had found some weaknesses, which had been summarized in the OIOS reports. If the alleged mismanagement violations had been found, they would have been immediately transmitted to the relevant authorities.

    As for the call for Iraqi auditors, she said that the issue had been dealt with at the level of the Office of the Iraq Programme Executive Director, and further clarification could be sought there. According to the audit standards, nothing was impossible. One of the possibilities was to carry out concurrent audits by several audit offices on the same topic, with each reporting to their own authorities. Further discussions would be welcome, but it was a policy matter to be discussed at the relevant level. As for the follow-up, the OIOS took that issue very seriously. Only two outstanding recommendations from the previous report were still pending, which did not mean that there were no problems. The OIOS continued to monitor all the agencies implementing projects in the country, particularly in the North, calling for enhanced coordination with other agencies in that regard. In June, there would be a meeting with heads of United Nations agencies, and a joint horizontal audit of the procurement function was being planned.

    In conclusion, she noted the wish of the delegation to be kept abreast of all OIOS reports and said that if Iraq knew of any specific instances of violations, the OIOS would be happy to look into them.

    Mr. AHMED (Iraq) said that the violations to which he had referred were based on the reports of the Secretary-General, who had indicated in his notes A/55/436 and A/56/381 that such violations had taken place. In its letter to the Security Council, his delegation had also stated that the guard dogs within the Programme cost a significant amount of money. Could it not be regarded as an irregularity? Such violations had apparently not been passed on to the OIOS.

    Ms. STERN said that she was not aware of the letter to the Council and would pass it on to the Office. As for the violations spelled out in two previous reports, according to the Office terminology, they were audit irregularities addressed through recommendations followed up in further audits.

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