Press Releases

    GA/AB/3642
    2 November 2004

    Secretary-General Presents Plan for Unified UN Security to Budget Committee, Saying New Security Environment Demands “New Way of Doing Business”

    (Issued on 2 November 2004.)

    NEW YORK, 1 November (UN Headquarters) -- The United Nations could no longer rely on fragmented security structures, or on a small group of over-extended security advisers who tried valiantly to cope with the dangers, Secretary-General Kofi Annan told the Administrative and Budgetary Committee this afternoon. “In a new security environment, we need a new way of doing business”, he said.

    Introducing what he called one of the most important proposals -- if not the most important one -- of his term, he stressed that additional resources were urgently needed to cope with new security threats around the world. After last year’s disaster in Baghdad, as well as many other tragic incidents, it was clear that the United Nations had become a target of political violence.  Since 1992, 218 civilians and several hundred peacekeepers had lost their lives to malicious acts in the line of duty; many others were grievously wounded, detained, or went missing. Currently, the United Nations was actively seeking the immediate and unconditional release of three international staff who were taken hostage last Thursday in Kabul.

    Without adequate security, the United Nations could not be effective in its development and humanitarian work in much of the world.  Compared to the amount spent by the United Nations on its programmes, the $97 million he requested was “relatively modest”. Security should not be considered separate from programmes, but “as an essential condition for them”.

    According to the reports before the Committee, some $71.5 million of the $97 million proposal would go towards a strengthened and unified security management structure; $10.4 million would be used to implement a number of infrastructure projects and improve security standards; $11.2 million for a global access control system; and $4 million for training. The Secretary-General’s proposals provide for an additional 778 posts, of which 195 would be at the Professional or higher level and the remaining 583 in the General Service and related categories.

    Explaining his initiative, the Secretary-General said that his proposal aimed to create a single, integrated security management system with clear procedures and lines of accountability. It would help provide the staffing to carry out reliable risk analysis, which was fundamental to guaranteeing security, especially in volatile circumstances. An essential feature of his proposal would be to do away with the current arrangements, under which field security costs are shared among organizations of the system.  Security of all staff was an essential component of any work done by the United Nations, and should be part of the Organization’s core budget.

    Introducing the recommendations of the Advisory Committee on Administrative and Budgetary Questions (ACABQ), the Chairman of that body, Vladimir Kuznetsov, said that the Advisory Committee’s aim was to make recommendations towards further refining the proposed concepts, rather than achieving savings and economies in that area of vital concern. The new system needed to be field-oriented, with a streamlined central capacity at Headquarters. Therefore, the Advisory Committee called for shifts of assets in some areas. If its recommendations were accepted by the Assembly, there would be much work to be done in achieving full integration and bringing arrangements with host governments up to date. A number of specific recommendations called for measures that could be reconsidered, adjusted, or have their progress checked in the context of a report to be presented at the sixtieth session.

    On the cost-sharing for field security, the Advisory Committee had consistently maintained its view that all those concerned must share a common ownership in the system, with the right to participate in decision-making. For that reason, it believed that the cost-sharing principle must be maintained. Otherwise, there might be a tendency to use the money saved to continue or expand separate systems.

    Also this afternoon, following the introduction of an annual report of the Office of Internal Oversight Services (OIOS), a representative of the Republic of Korea, urged more attention from oversight bodies to peacekeeping operations, which, due to their temporary nature, were more vulnerable to mismanagement, inefficiency, waste and fraud. The OIOS reports on United Nations Interim Administration Mission in Kosovo’s (UNMIK) embezzlement and fraud, the United Nations Organization Mission in the Democratic Republic of the Congo’s (MONUC) rations contract and fraud and the United Nations Mission in Ethiopia and Eritrea’s (UNMEE) telephone abuse were examples that highlighted his concerns. It could have an important role to play in auditing, monitoring, inspecting and evaluating the Department of Peacekeeping Operations and field missions. He also stressed the importance of ensuring the Office’s independence, stating that only an independent and professional oversight body could provide credible, objective and reliable oversight of United Nations activities.

    The reports of the OIOS were introduced by Under-Secretary-General for Internal Oversight Services, Dileep Nair, who said that over 52 per cent of the Office’s 1,515 recommendations had already been implemented by the management. Based on those suggestions, savings totalling $26.6 million had been achieved this year. Some 36 per cent of all recommendations were classified as critical to the Organization, calling for more far-reaching improvements to productivity, savings and recoveries and accountability for fraud, waste and abuse.

    The Committee will hold its next formal meeting at 9:30 a.m. Wednesday, 3 November.

    Background

    The Fifth Committee (Administrative and Budgetary) this afternoon was expected to hear an introduction of the Secretary-General’s proposals to further improve safety and security at the United Nations, and begin its consideration of the activities of the Office of Internal Oversight Services.

    On safety and security, the Committee had before it a report of the Secretary-General on a strengthened and unified security management system for the United Nations (document A/59/365 and Corr.1), which examines the current state of the Organization’s security and contains proposals for a second phase of longer-term measures, as envisaged in the phase I report of the Secretary-General on strengthening the security and safety of United Nations operations, staff and premises (A/58/756).  Related budget requirements of some $71.88 million largely covered security infrastructure enhancements, as well as a number of new security posts.

    The Assembly, by its resolution 58/295, approved an amount of $56.37 million for the phase I measures and the establishment of 58 field security posts for the Office of the United Nations Security Coordinator. It decided to revert to the question of the possible conversion of the 58 extrabudgetary field security posts of the Security Coordinator Office at the fifty-ninth session. Also approved were additional posts to be financed from general temporary assistance during the six-month period from 1 July to 31 December 2004.

    Highlighting the 19 August 2003 bombing of the United Nations headquarters in Baghdad as the first terrorist attack in which the Organization was targeted as an institution, the Secretary-General makes a number of recommendations aimed at meeting the evolving security threat against the United Nations and its staff around the world.  He recommends unifying the four separate security structures of the United Nations under a new directorate of security, to be headed by an Under-Secretary-General reporting directly to the Secretary-General; to develop high-quality, best-practice security policies and standards across the United Nations system, including the appropriate degree of standardization; to significantly increase the number of security personnel, particularly in the field; and to phase out the current cost-sharing arrangements for field security in favour of central funding from the regular budget.

    The addendum to the phase II report (A/59/365/Add.1 and Add.1/Corr.1) contains revised estimates under various sections of the programme budget for the biennium 2004-2005 resulting from the proposed phase II measures for strengthening the security and safety of the United Nations. The Secretary-General estimates the total costs of the proposed measures at $97.1 million (gross) for 2004-2005, including one-time requirements of $29.6 million.  That amount would provide for the following:

    (a) Strengthened and unified security management structure: $71.5 million, including $14.2 million for a directorate of security; $35.7 million for field security locations; $17.5 million for the reinforcement of the security services at Headquarters and in the seven main offices of the Organization; $4.1 million for other locations;

    (b) Implementation of a number of projects to bring infrastructure and procedures up to a satisfactory standard of compliance with headquarters minimum operating security standards: $10.4 million;

    (c) Global access control system: $11.2 million; and

    (d) Training: $4 million.

    The Secretary-General’s proposals provide for an additional 778 posts, of which 195 would be at the Professional or higher level and the remaining 583 in the General Service and related categories.  The additional posts include 34 conversions from existing General Service temporary assistance and extrabudgetary posts.

    No new resources are proposed for peacekeeping operations and tribunals, since their main requirements have been substantially addressed in the phase I report. The Secretary-General indicates that requirements of special political missions will be addressed in the context of the review, during the fifty-ninth session, of the report entitled “Special political missions: estimates in respect of matters of which the Security Council is seized”.

    The Advisory Committee on Administrative and Budgetary Questions (ACABQ), in a related report (document A/59/539) states that it looks forward to further refinement of the Secretary-General’s plan, which, once adopted, should evolve into an effective mechanism for addressing the security needs of the United Nations system. The Advisory Committee is also mindful of the need to enhance the image of neutrality referred to in the Secretary-General’s report. The ACABQ looks forward to the implementation report, which it has requested, and will revert to the matter of achieving economies in the utilization of resources. The present request of the Secretary-General for appropriation would be adjusted to take into account the financial consequences of those recommendations of the Committee that the Assembly may wish to adopt.

    Although the proposed security structure represents progress, it appears to be far from unified, despite its title, the ACABQ states. Much remains to be done to achieve genuine integration, rather than merely enhanced coordination. As the plan stands now, separate security structures will continue to exist, with a continuing potential for duplication and potentially dangerous confusion. Accordingly, at each and every duty station there should be an integrated team that has been organized to fully respond to the requirements of the security profile at that duty station. From the outset, the efforts of the head of the proposed directorate should focus on achieving such integration.

    The Advisory Committee notes that estimated requirements of $97.1 million proposed at phase II are separate from provisions that have been or will be proposed by the individual United Nations funds, programmes and specialized agencies through their executive boards relating to their security structures at headquarters and in the field. The ACABQ takes the view that the new system should be primarily focused on the field, with a streamlined central capacity at Headquarters, and that the new system should be fully integrated. Accordingly, the recommendations of the Advisory Committee call for shifts of assets and economies of resources in some areas. Much work is to be done in achieving full integration and bringing arrangements with host governments up to date. Genuine integration also needs to be reflected in the accountability and responsibility framework.

    Elaborate structures which replicate existing arrangements are often proposed for new and strengthened activities of the Organization, and the ACABQ insists that this tendency must be stopped.  It is not necessary for the new security entity to have an autonomous administrative and support capacity at Headquarters. The Headquarters operation should focus on setting policy, general direction, strategic and forward planning, coordination and monitoring functions. In addition, Headquarters should continue to liaise with the host-country security authorities in New York. The Advisory Committee is also of the opinion that the case has not been made to maintain the existing Assistant-Secretary-General post in addition to the new post for Under-Secretary-General. The Under-Secretary-General must be in direct operational charge of the new entity. As such, there does not appear to be a need for an intermediate bureaucratic layer.

    The Advisory Committee recommends that, instead of establishing additional administrative support units, the Secretariat establish an executive office to provide the traditional support to the proposed directorate. The executive office should be patterned on existing executive offices for organizational units of similar size, such as that for the Department of Management, which has a total of 17 posts headed by a D-1. Resource requirements should be met through redeployment, to the maximum extent possible.

    The Committee also had before it an OIOS report on the utilization and management of funds appropriated during the 2002-2003 biennium for strengthening the security and safety of United Nations premises, transmitted through a note by the Secretary-General (document A/59/396). The audit focused on the implementation of proposals presented in the report of the Secretary-General (A/56/848), which entailed estimated expenditures of $57.7 million.

    According to the document, by December 2003, $27.3 million of the $57.7 million had been spent and by 31 May 2004, the expenditure had risen to $48.6 million. The initial low utilization of appropriations was due primarily to the time taken to finalize the main construction contract, which was not signed until 31 March 2004. However, there are indications that some projects at Headquarters may be delayed owing to unforeseen underground conditions at the site.

    Among other issues that OIOS considered to be significant pertaining to projects at Headquarters are cost estimates for security strengthening projects. The OIOS found that projects, which were approved by the Assembly at an estimated cost of $20.7 million, are now expected to cost more than $34.5 million, with considerable reduction in scope. Further cost escalation would occur if the Office of Central Support Services proceeds with the proposed changes in specifications of the access control system. In the opinion of the OIOS, such changes should be justified by a convincing cost-benefit and risk analysis.

    The report also makes proposals regarding the treatment of an unspent balance of $4.8 million pertaining to projects deferred to the capital master plan and addresses the guarantees provided by the contractor for the main construction project, which were significantly lower than the Organization’s requirements and industry standards. That exposed the United Nations to the risk of poor performance and payment defaults by the contractor. The OIOS makes a number of recommendations for protecting the interests of the Organization in future construction contracts more effectively.

    Regarding the United Nations Office at Geneva (UNOG), the underutilization of funds of about $9.6 million (or 62 per cent of the revised appropriation) resulted from redesign of projects owing to the increased level of threat.  Moreover, the construction of the Chemin de fer entrance -- a project that was a prerequisite for the commencement of other projects -- was impeded by the delay in receiving the construction permit from the host country. The entrance is now complete and UNOG expects that the majority of the other projects will be completed by December 2005.

    As projects were modified and the scope of work increased, the cost estimates more than doubled, the OIOS reports. Moreover, the weakening of the United States dollar against the Swiss franc resulted in an estimated increase of about $3.4 million. At the time of the audit, projects were still being modified on the basis of technical feasibility studies in the areas of bomb vulnerability and fire audit, which may lead to further adjustments. Once all the security requirements are finalized, an up-to-date security strategy, a final plan and costing should be developed for each project. The OIOS also points out the need to revitalize the steering committee established to oversee the management of security projects. That measure would ensure a coordinated management decision-making process, provide direction and oversight. In addition, a dedicated project manager should be assigned to enhance United Nations Office at Geneva project management capacity.

    The value of the contract awarded to a consortium of firms, which was responsible for architectural/engineering work and overall supervision of the security projects, increased from $670,000 to $4 million owing to a significant change in the scope of work. Currently, the fees are expected to further increase to $6.4 million. In the opinion of the OIOS, as a minimum, a market survey should be conducted to make certain that the total fees payable are still competitive.

    OIOS

    On this agenda item, the Committee had before it the tenth annual report of the Office of Internal Oversight Services (OIOS), covering activities from 1 July 2003 to 30 June 2004 (document A/59/359).  Established by the General Assembly in July 1994, the Office has been a key component in efforts to make the Organization more efficient and strengthen accountability. The mission of the OIOS is twofold: (1) to provide internal oversight to the United Nations that adds value to the Organization through independent, professional, and timely internal audit, monitoring, inspection, evaluation, management consulting, and investigation activities, and (2) to be an agent of change that promotes responsible administration of resources, a culture of accountability and transparency, and improved programme performance.

    In his note transmitting the report, the Secretary-General suggests that, given the critical nature of the responsibilities of the OIOS and the fact that no independent evaluation of its work had been carried out thus far, it may be timely for the Assembly to consider initiating a comprehensive review of its operations. The review could contain an assessment of the Office’s functions and reporting procedures -- including the roles, capacities, and resource requirements of the audit, investigation, monitoring, evaluation, and management consulting units. Such a review should be aimed at determining how to strengthen the capacity of the Office to deliver the mandates given by the General Assembly, and would provide the Secretary-General -- as the chief administrative officer of the Organization -- as assessment of how well the OIOS can assist in the effective management of the United Nations. Should this proposal be endorsed by the General Assembly, the Secretary-General stands ready to establish a multidisciplinary panel of outside experts to conduct the review.

    In preparation for the Assembly’s anticipated review this year, the OIOS conducted a self-evaluation from November 2003 to June 2004, the results of which are also included in the annual report. This is the last OIOS annual report to be submitted by Under-Secretary-General for Internal Oversight Services Dileep Nair, who will complete his five-year term in April 2005. Among the achievements cited during his term are the introduction of a risk-assessment methodology that forms the basis of the integrated work-planning system in the Office; consolidation of the Office’s resources for monitoring, inspection, evaluation, and management consulting into one division; creation of a new OIOS office in Vienna to improve contacts with entities receiving investigation services; and introduction of an electronic working paper system in the Audit Division. Another major contribution is the formation of a Management Consulting Section within the Office that focuses on providing the Organization with “change management services”, intended to help the United Nations keep up with emerging challenges.  Last year, the OIOS also launched an initiative aimed at promoting integrity and professional ethics within the Organization, in keeping with the Office’s advocacy role in combating corruption and promoting good governance.

    During the current reporting period, the Office has issued some 1,515 recommendations -- more than half of which have been implemented already. A total of $26.6 million was saved as a result of implementation of OIOS recommendations from this and prior periods. The recommendations of the current period are estimated to result in savings of $16.4 million. The OIOS conducted 153 audits, covering issues including peacekeeping operations, activities of the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), and procurement and programme management. The Office also issued the report of the Secretary-General on programme performance of the United Nations for the 2002-2003 biennium, completing the first results-based planning, budgeting, monitoring, and reporting cycle of the Secretariat.

    The OIOS has conducted a number of investigations into allegations of corruption or wrongdoing, and is providing information and administrative support to the independent inquiry headed by Paul Volcker concerning Iraq’s “oil-for-food” programme. The OIOS is leading the Investigation Task Force in Kosovo, established following last year’s investigation into the fraudulent diversion, and subsequent recovery, of $4.3 million by a senior staff member of the United Nations Interim Administration in Kosovo. In May 2004, the Office conducted an investigation into a report received from a female staff member of the UNHCR who alleged that she had been sexually harassed by the High Commissioner and, in two separate but related incidents, had been subsequently harassed by a senior manager at the UNHCR. The OIOS submitted a report to the Secretary-General supporting the allegations and recommended that appropriate actions be taken accordingly. A team of OIOS investigators is currently looking into allegations of sexual exploitation of young girls by military contingent members in Bunia, Democratic Republic of the Congo.

    The “lessons learned” identified by the OIOS include the need for more consultation and interaction with client departments on the planning of oversight assignments; greater collaboration and synergy among the oversight functions of monitoring, inspection evaluation, and management consulting; and more opportunities for staff development, such as interning with other oversight institutions and maintaining specialized knowledge.  Other issues identified in the audits of the OIOS conducted by the Board of Auditors included the need to improve the Office’s systems for planning and training, documenting audit evidence, and its information technology and systems audit capability.

    In conclusion, the report underscores the importance of ensuring its independence and suggests delegating to OIOS the authority to propose and manage its financial and human resources, similar to the delegation of authority extended to funds and programmes. The Office also notes that it should strengthen its internal reporting procedures to the Secretary-General and establish a high-level coordinating mechanism to effectively feed oversight results and other information into the executive management processes. Additionally, the Office should develop an interactive reporting mechanism for clients to update the status of actions taken to implement recommendations, and work with clients to ensure a timelier follow-up.

    And finally, the Committee had before it an OIOS report on its audit of the regional commissions (document A/58/785), which was conducted in 2001-2003. Overall, the OIOS found that, while the regional commissions had established adequate financial and administrative controls, the bodies had not developed consistent and effective methods of self-evaluation needed to improve overall effectiveness. The Executive Secretaries were urged to adopt a common policy for conducting self-evaluations, to include these findings in their regular reporting, and to regularly exchange best practices.

    The Office recommended as a top priority that the New York office of the regional commissions trim and reorganize its annual report to highlight shared concerns and any specific proposals to improve the commissions’ cooperation with related United Nations entities. In a related recommendation, the Office suggested that the Economic and Social Council should move discussions related to the regional commissions to a special segment, setting aside a day dedicated to incorporating regional perspectives. Also highlighted was the need to harmonize the calendars of regional commissions with the budgeting cycle of the Organization.

    With regard to publications produced by the commissions, the report suggested that the Executive Secretaries should establish a mechanism to assess their quality, coordinate their release dates and develop criteria for “flagship” publications. All publications should receive adequate peer review, while also taking into account the composition of the readership. Also advocated by the OIOS was “a wholesale review” of the work of intergovernmental bodies, which should pay particular attention to standardizing rules and procedures, monitoring participation by members of regional commissions and clarifying mandates to avoid overlap.

    To better coordinate fund-raising efforts, the Office suggested that each regional commission include a focal point, which could also provide quarterly reports on the progress of various initiatives for the administration of the commissions. Emphasizing the importance of regional statistics for sound policy-making, the OIOS recommended strengthening the statistics subprogrammes of the Economic Commission for Africa (ECA) and the Economic and Social Commission for Western Asia (ESCWA).

    Statement by Secretary-General

    Secretary-General KOFI ANNAN introduced his report on a strengthened and unified Security Management System for the United Nations (document A/59/366). He emphasized that there was no more important responsibility for him than to ensure the protection of his staff. Those dedicated men and women carrying out vital missions of development and peace throughout the world, in always challenging and sometimes hostile environments, needed and deserved the best possible safety and security.

    After last year’s disaster in Baghdad, as well as many other tragic incidents, it was clear that the United Nations had become a target of political violence. The same phenomenon was having major implications also for the Red Cross, humanitarian non-governmental organizations, and other traditional United Nations partners. That deteriorating environment dated back to the early 1990s.  Since 1992, 218 civilians and several hundred peacekeepers have lost their lives to malicious acts in the line of duty; many other have been grievously wounded, detained, or were missing. Currently, the United Nations was actively seeking the immediate and unconditional release of three international staff who were taken hostage last Thursday in Kabul.

    The new security reality provided a compelling rationale for security reform.  In 2000 and again in 2003, teams of independent experts assessed the existing system, the latter finalizing its evaluation just days before the Baghdad bombing.  The Ahtisaari report on the bombing itself graphically exposed the weaknesses of the United Nations security system. All those studies identified the same shortcomings in the Organization’s security management system -- primarily its fragmentation and severe shortage of resources. All agreed that those and other problems were not specific to any one country, but were systemic, with implications for the global conduct of the work of the United Nations.  The reports made clear that, with or without Baghdad, the Organization’s security system was inadequate to meet the new security threats around the world.

    He asked the Committee to consider the number of people the Organization must protect -- 100,000 international and national staff, plus 300,000 of their family members and dependants, serving the world at more than 140 field locations and Headquarters duty stations.  He noted that security was not a privilege or a luxury, but an essential condition for doing the work of the United Nations.

    His proposal had the support of every organization in the United Nations system, as well as that of the Federation of International Civil Servants’ Associations. As the current system was terribly fragmented, his proposal aims to create a single, integrated security management system with clear procedures and lines of accountability. It would ensure that the Organization was staffed to carry out reliable risk analysis, which was fundamental to security, especially in volatile circumstances.

    The Secretary-General said he was encouraged by the General Assembly’s resolution last June on security needs, which recognized the need to strengthen professional capacity in the Organization. His proposal was designed to ensure that field operations were adequately supported. It was not acceptable to have 33 countries lacking a resident field security officer, and a further 18 countries where the current complement of security officers could not provide the necessary coverage. The proposed plan was designed to develop a strong cadre of professional security experts.

    Such a sizeable package comes with a price, he added. Given the mandates entrusted to the United Nations by its Member States, given the need to improve physical and technical infrastructure, and given the extensive training and career development needed, the Organization remained grossly underfunded. “The inescapable fact is that we need more resources, we need them right now, and we need them to be sustained over time”, he said.

    Compared to the amount spent by the United Nations on its programmes, the $97 million requested was “relatively modest”, he noted.  However, he added that security should not be considered separate from programmes, but “as an essential condition for them”. Without adequate security, the United Nations could not be effective in its development and humanitarian work in much of the world.

    Therefore, an essential feature of his proposal was to do away with the current cost-sharing arrangements that have funded field security operations to date. Cost-sharing was administratively cumbersome and left critical security needs dangerously dependant on voluntary funding -- meaning that funding was not predictable.  Cost-sharing was inappropriate for what was a core responsibility, and even a prerequisite for United Nations operations. Security of all staff was an essential component of any work done by the United Nations, and should be part of the Organization’s core budget.

    The Organization could no longer rely on fragmented security structures, or on a small group of over-extended security advisers who tried valiantly to cope. “In a new security environment, we need a new way of doing business”, he said.

    He concluded by thanking the delegates for backing the initial steps taken in response to the challenges facing the Organization and urging them to support the path of change. “Security for our staff has to be my first priority”, he said. “Therefore, I consider this to be one of the most important proposals -- if not the most important -- that I have put before you during my time as Secretary-General.”

    Introduction of Other Documents

    Chairman of the ACABQ, VLADIMIR KUZNETSOV, introduced that body’s related report.  He said that, building on his previous reports, the Secretary-General’s report before the Committee aimed at creating a comprehensive security system.  The Advisory Committee appreciated those efforts and had conducted extensive hearings on that matter. The Advisory Committee’s aim was to make recommendations towards further refining the proposed concepts, rather than achieving savings and economies in that area of vital concern.

    The ACABQ urged efforts at ensuring that the new system be field-oriented, with a streamlined central capacity at Headquarters, he continued. Therefore, the recommendations of the Advisory Committee called for shifts of assets in some areas. If its recommendations were accepted by the Assembly, there would be much work to be done in achieving full integration and bringing arrangements with host governments up to date. A number of specific recommendations called for measures that could be reconsidered, adjusted, or have their progress checked in the context of a report to be presented at the sixtieth session.

    On host country agreements, the Advisory Committee underlined the need to update them or conclude legally binding documents, he said. At each and every duty station there should be an integrated team organized to fully respond to the requirements of the security profile at that duty station. The creation of coordination and liaison units may not be enough. All concerned must truly work together with one clear line of authority, and that needed to be further clarified and reflected in the accountability and responsibility framework.

    On the cost-sharing arrangements, he said that the Advisory Committee had consistently maintained its view that all those concerned must share a common ownership in the system, with the right to participate in decision-making. The Advisory Committee believed that the cost-sharing principle must be maintained. Otherwise, there might be a tendency to use the money saved to continue or expand separate systems. If all participants felt they had a real voice, most problems associated with the cost-sharing system could be resolved.

    The ACABQ supported the establishment of an Under-Secretary-General post for the head of the proposed directorate. In so doing, it stressed the importance of appointing to that post a security expert with extensive professional experience in the organization and management of a complex international security function.  Aside from the consultative and other duties such a high-level position would entail, that official must be fully capable of providing direct operational leadership. The Advisory Committee did not, however, support maintaining the existing Assistant Secretary-General post in addition to the new Under-Secretary-General position. The ACABQ called for swift appointment of the new Under-Secretary-General. If, on the basis of experience, it was thereafter felt necessary to have a deputy at the Assistant Secretary-General level, such a proposal could be made in the implementation report called for by the Advisory Committee.

    Turning to the proposals for the division of regional operations, which provided for five regional desks at Headquarters, he said that the Advisory Committee called for a re-examination, which would consider the possibility of providing a regional field presence for the desk officer function, while maintaining a lean central capacity at Headquarters, using national experience where relevant. Field-based officers would be able to receive information at or very close to the source and dispense guidance precisely when and where needed. They would also be well placed to respond to emergencies. The central capacity would receive information from the field and coordinate with other central headquarters units. The regional desk system which already existed at the Department of Political Affairs and Department of Peacekeeping Operations could be utilized to liaise with the new security entity.

    As for the global access control system, he said that there was a potential expenditure of approximately $85 million over the next two bienniums for a number of related projects, of which about $70 million would be payable from the regular budget. Given the magnitude of the requirements, the ACABQ had called for a detailed report on that matter and, pending such a report, there would not be an appropriation of any funds. Instead, the Secretary-General could be authorized to enter into commitments in an amount not exceeding $11.2 million for the necessary planning and initial work.

    With regard to the commitment authority, the ACABQ was not convinced that an upward revision of the magnitude now proposed was warranted at this time, he said. Under the circumstances, as an interim measure, the upper limit should be doubled to $1 million. That limit could be reviewed when the Secretary-General submitted his implementation report.

    The OIOS report on the utilization of funds appropriated in 2002-2003 for strengthening the safety and security at the United Nations was introduced by Under-Secretary-General for Internal Oversight Services, DILEEP NAIR. He said that the 10 recommendations issued as a result of the audit had been accepted by the management. The OIOS would continue to monitor the implementation of those recommendations.

    As the Committee turned to the OIOS reports, Mr. NAIR introduced the annual report of the Office.  He said that over 52 per cent of all the recommendations of the OIOS had already been implemented by the management. Some 36 per cent of all recommendations were classified as critical to the Organization, calling for more far-reaching improvements to productivity, savings and recoveries and accountability for fraud, waste and abuse, among other things. Members might also be interested to note critical recommendations issued before July 2003, for which implementation had not been completed as of 30 June this year. The information on those recommendations was provided in Annex II to the report. The factors included delays because of lack of financial or other resource demands; the need to change procedures and work methods; and, in some cases, to fully accept the recommendations.

    The Office would continue to identify key risk areas for its oversight activities, he continued.  Such a “risk identification and mitigation” approach could be used in collaboration with Member States and other oversight bodies, notably the Board of Auditors and the Joint Inspection Unit (JIU), to prioritize the selection of oversight assignments. Among the examples of risk-based initiatives, he mentioned an ongoing simultaneous horizontal assessment of field security procedures in 14 peacekeeping and 6 political and peace-building missions worldwide; and an audit of the utilization and management of the funds appropriated in 2002-2003 for implementing measures to strengthen the security and safety of United Nations premises. The Office was continuously seeking to maximize its impact on the Organization by carrying out balanced and objective oversight activities in partnership with MemberStates and managers at all levels.

    Turning to the Secretary-General’s note asking the General Assembly to consider initiating a comprehensive review of the Office’s operations, he said that it could be a constructive exercise to guide the efforts to strengthen the OIOS and increase its value to the United Nations. The review at the Office’s fifth year had been very helpful. It had provided the OIOS with the opportunity to obtain guidance directly from the Assembly. Thus, he was confident that a review in this, its tenth year, would be even more important. In supporting a review, however, he wanted to emphasize that due care should be taken to ensure the independence of those who conducted and oversaw such a review for the Assembly. That would mean having the review done by an entity that reported directly to an intergovernmental group.  For example, the Assembly could see a role for the Board of Auditors –- an existing external oversight body.

    PARK YOON-JUNE (Republic of Korea) commended the OIOS for making the United Nations more effective and accountable since its establishment 10 years ago. The Office’s reports were not only comprehensive and pertinent, but also impartial and professional. No stakeholder could treat its recommendations lightly. More than 1,500 recommendations had been issued during the current reporting period. He noted with satisfaction that a total of $26.6 million had been saved by implementing just half the recommendations. He was also pleased that over 90 per cent of previous recommendations had been implemented, and he encouraged the Secretariat to continue that pattern.

    The surge of peacekeeping had many implications, including for the OIOS, he continued.  The peacekeeping budget was far larger than the regular budget of the Organization. Due to the ad hoc, temporary nature of peacekeeping operations, they were more vulnerable to mismanagement, inefficiency, waste and fraud. The OIOS reports on UNMIK’s embezzlement and fraud, MONUC’s rations contract and fraud and UNMEE’s telephone abuse were examples that highlighted his concerns.  For that reason, he believed the OIOS should devote more attention to peacekeeping. It could have an important role to play in auditing, monitoring, inspecting and evaluating the Department of Peacekeeping Operations and field missions. He hoped it would focus on enhancing cooperation among missions to harmonize training and developing ways for lessons learned to be transmitted from mission to mission more systematically. He urged the Department of Peacekeeping Operations to do its part by fully implementing the OIOS recommendations, streamlining staff selection processes and attaining equitable geographic distribution.

    Turning to paragraph 91 of the report, which concerns the allegations of corruption at the Office on Drugs and Crime, he would like to know how the OIOS planned to nurture a favourable atmosphere in the Secretariat for whistle-blowing, particularly when high officials were involved, so that whistle blowers did not fear personal reprisals. Were there plans for systematic institutionalization of protection for whistle-blowers?

    The matter of whistle-blowing was just one example of the great importance of preserving the independence of the OIOS, he added. Only an independent and professional oversight body could provide credible, objective and reliable oversight of United Nations activities. He supported the proposals regarding the delegation of authority to the OIOS to propose and manage its own resources in the same manner as United Nations funds and programmes. In informal consultations, he would support any measures to ensure the operational independence of the OIOS.

    Mr. NAIR then introduced the report on the audit of regional commissions, saying that the document brought to focus critical programmatic issues common to regional commissions and their discussions at the Economic and Social Council.

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