13 October 2004
Budget Committee Begins Review of Internal Oversight Office
NEW YORK, 12 October (UN Headquarters) -- The Fifth Committee (Administrative and Budgetary) this morning began its review of the function and reporting procedures of the principal oversight body of the United Nations -- the Office of Internal Oversight Services -- as it took up the implementation of two Assembly resolutions concerning the Office.
The Office of Internal Oversight Services (OIOS) was established by the General Assembly in its resolution 48/218 B of 29 July 1994. Following a five-year review of the Office during its fifty-fourth session, the Assembly decided, by the terms of resolution 54/244, to evaluate and review the function and reporting procedures of the OIOS and any other matter which it deems appropriate at its fifty-ninth session, and to that end to include in the provisional agenda of that session an item entitled Review of the implementation of General Assembly resolutions 48/218B and 54/249.
Speakers stressed the great importance of the OIOS as an independent office, under the authority of the Secretary-General, with a unique mandate combining monitoring, inspection, evaluation, internal audit, investigation and management consulting. At the same time, however, they also commented on an unusual situation where Member States had to address an agenda without any documents before the Committee or a formal introduction by a representative of the Secretary-General. Most delegates today limited themselves to general remarks on the issue, as later in the session the Committee was expected to take up the annual report of the OIOS containing a self-assessment carried out by the Office.
The United States representative said he was greatly satisfied with the progress the OIOS had made since it was created in 1994. It had nurtured a culture of accountability within the Organization, identified millions of dollars in savings, investigated and brought to justice a number of individuals who had stolen from the Organization. It had helped bring about a sea change in the way the Organization dealt with management and irregularities in management.
Speaking on behalf of the European Union and associated States, the representative of the Netherlands highlighted three broad themes to be considered by the Committee: the degree of independence to be granted to the OIOS, the timely availability and dissemination of OIOS reports, and implementation and follow-up of OIOS recommendations and findings.
Regarding the Offices reports, he noted that the frequency with which the Office is tasked by the General Assembly to conduct evaluations was one measure of its success. The European Union did not, however, wish to see a proliferation of such reports coming to the Assembly for formal consideration, especially considering that the Office was an internal oversight body. They would prefer a
mechanism whereby interested delegates could have access to a wider range of OIOS reports on their own initiative. Finally, he called attention to the absence in the Secretariat of a high-level mechanism for ensuring coordination and follow-up to oversight recommendations, particularly where the findings of the OIOS were not agreed upon between the Office and the Department concerned.
Switzerlands representative stressed that the Office could only accomplish its task if it was independent and could manage its own resources. That question was linked to the independence of the head of the Office, whose current term of five years should be increased to seven or eight. She also commented that the implementation rate of the recommendations was still too low and there seemed to be no coordination mechanism in place to systematically review and use the information gathered by the Office.
The representative of the Russian Federation also supported broader delegation of authority to the OIOS over the management of resources to ensure its independence. It would also increase the effectiveness of the OIOS and improve the quality of its interventions and reports. Member States should have access to all reports of the Office, including management recommendations to the Secretary-General, and, if needed, be able to influence implementation of those recommendations through intergovernmental bodies.
He also reiterated that no scope of oversight would lead to any significant results unless the recommendations of the Office were scrupulously implemented. It was important to further fine-tune the OIOS as a unique oversight body and extend its practice and experience to other organizations within the United Nations system. He also welcomed further development of coordination with other oversight bodies, including the Board of Auditors and the Joint Inspection Unit, which should be of mutually complementary nature.
The Committee will continue its work at 10 a.m. Wednesday, 13 October, when it is scheduled to take up the pattern of conferences and financing of the United Nations Operation in Burundi.
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