Press Releases

    GA/AB/3644
    4 November 2004

    Budget Committee Debates Secretary-General’s Plan for Strengthened, Unified UN Security

    NEW YORK, 3 November (UN Headquarters) -- While strongly supporting the urgent need to strengthen the United Nations security management system, delegates speaking before the Administrative and Budgetary Committee (Fifth) today debated various aspects of the $97 million proposal made by Secretary-General Kofi Annan on Monday. The envisioned unified security management system would provide for an additional 778 posts, unifying multiple security structures through a new Directorate of Security.

    The importance of the subject was underscored by the abduction last week of several United Nations staff members in Afghanistan. The representative of Canada, also speaking on behalf of Australia and New Zealand, said the kidnapping reminded Member States that the Organization’s work today on the safety and security of United Nations workers was not an abstract exercise. Delegations had a heavy responsibility to ensure that their deliberations led to effective action soon. Security could no longer be treated as incidental, or addressed through a patchwork of ad hoc responses.

    The Secretary-General had proposed changes in the way the Organization met its security responsibility to its staff, he continued, but had done so without proposing a top-heavy structure for the new security directorate. The fact that only seven posts at the D and higher level had been proposed in an overall complement of over 1,500 staff was modest, particularly given the managerial challenges that lay ahead.

    While fully supporting the establishment of a new Directorate of Security, the representative of Norway also agreed on the necessity of phasing out the present cost-sharing arrangement between United Nations funds, programmes, and other entities. All new posts should be funded by the regular budget, as security arrangements should not depend on voluntary contributions.  Security personnel should not spend their valuable time and resources on fund-raising, he said.

    The representative of Japan, however, was among the speakers who wanted to maintain the principle of cost-sharing as that was accompanied by the principle of shared responsibilities. He generally supported the views expressed in the report of the Advisory Committee on Administrative and Budgetary Questions (ACABQ) and hoped that report would provide the basis for consensus among the Member States.

    The representative of Switzerland cautioned his colleagues against “nit-picking” at specific aspects of the proposed security package.  At the end of the day, without adequate safety and security of staff and premises, the United Nations could no longer carry out its mandate -- and nothing less than the future of the Organization was at stake.

    Also this morning, as the Committee continued its consideration of the Office of Internal Oversight Services, several speakers focused on particular findings of that body, noting the wide-ranging nature of its investigative function.

    The representative of the Netherlands (on behalf of the European Union and associated States) said that the Office had reported on many alleged incidents that were truly shocking and which went against everything that the United Nations stood for. But investigations alone would not suffice. The Organization must have the capability and willingness to take swift action against those found to have stolen from it or worse. Both the Oversight Office and the Board of Auditors in their respective reports had commented on cases where, although offences took place some time ago, action against the individuals responsible seemed to be pending and they continued in their employment.

    Statements were also made by representatives of Japan, Russian Federation, Zambia, Turkey and Syria.

    The Committee will continue its debate at 9.30 a.m. Thursday, 4 November.

    Background

    The Fifth Committee (Administrative and Budgetary) this morning was expected to continue its consideration of the Secretary-General’s proposals for strengthening the safety and security system of the United Nations and the activities of the Office of Internal Oversight Services.

    Statements

    ALLAN ROCK (Canada), also speaking on behalf of Australia and New Zealand, said that his thoughts and hopes today were with the young members of the United Nations team held hostage in Afghanistan.  Their abduction reminded Member States that the Organization’s work today on the safety and security of United Nations workers was not an abstract exercise. Delegations had a heavy responsibility to ensure that their deliberations led to effective action soon. Security could no longer be treated as incidental, or addressed through a patchwork of ad hoc responses.

    With a physical presence in over 140 countries and responsibility for 100,000 staff and 300,000 dependants, the United Nations family had for some time needed a more systematic and professional approach to staff safety and security, he continued. Multiple expert reviews over the last few years had converged in identifying the same weaknesses: fractured structures, unclear lines of responsibility and accountability, non-compliance with security rules, lack of risk assessment capability, insufficient resources and expertise.  There was an essential need for unified and determined management, commonly shared good standards and a compliance regime linked to accountability. And yet, even now compliance with security standards and procedures might be insufficient in the field. The recent Office of Internal Oversight Services audit in a number of missions would no doubt shed light on that.

    If implemented effectively, the proposals of the Secretary-General would address the obvious weaknesses in the current system, he said.  The starting point was that the purpose of improved security was to enable the United Nations to implement its mandates throughout the world, which it could not do if it adopted a bunker mentality. United Nations staff and vulnerable populations must have access to each other. Risk could not always be avoided, but it could be better assessed and managed, thus, enabling risk to be properly balanced against the need for ongoing operations.

    Among the “elements of fundamental merit” in the Secretary-General’s proposals, he mentioned the unification of multiple security structures through a new Directorate of Security, which would integrate the three existing structures. Also important were unified structures at the country level, led by the senior United Nations official, who would report to the new head of security; and effective decentralization of security work, which required a robust central capacity. Effective field operations required a critical mass of support at Headquarters. He also pointed out the need to ensure significant strengthening of security staff, including field presence. It was necessary to make sure that the new structure met the needs of various parts of the United Nations system.

    The Secretary-General proposed changes in the way the Organization met its security responsibility to its staff, but had done so without proposing a top-heavy structure for the new security Directorate. The fact that only seven posts at the D and higher level had been proposed in an overall complement of over 1,500 staff was modest, particularly given the managerial challenges that lay ahead.

    Some issues required clarification, however. For example, the report mentioned the need to professionalize security staff, but did not explain what that meant in practical terms. He also wanted to understand more about the global security access system. He agreed with the Advisory Committee on Administrative and Budgetary Questions (ACABQ) that accountability arrangements for field security presented to the Assembly two years ago should be updated and broadened, so that the role of each responsible official was made clear. Like the Advisory Committee, the delegations he represented preferred to use existing units for administrative functions, rather than create new ones. The ACABQ suggested a different way of handling administration than did the Secretary-General.  He was confident that, through informal consultations, it would be possible to clarify the best way to provide the new Directorate with the administrative support it needed.

    On cost-sharing, he said that any functional security regime required clear, predictable and secure funding arrangements. He would like to see further analysis of the functional and operational implications of shifting from cost-sharing to absorbing those costs in the regular budget. In pursuing those and related questions, it was important not to lose sight of the primary objective: the establishment of a single security architecture that was robust, responsive and efficient. Leadership, standards, compliance and accountability were the keys to success.

    TOSHIRO OZAWA (Japan) welcomed the Secretary-General’s very important proposal to strengthen and unify the United Nations security management system, while finding the views and recommendations of the ACABQ to be quite appropriate. His delegation hoped a consensus would emerge among Member States on the basis of the ACABQ report.

    As pointed out by the ACABQ, the new United Nations system needed to be truly integrated, covering all the various actors in the field -- including peacekeeping operations, funds and programmes engaged in humanitarian assistance and economic development activities, and specialized agencies --as well as their headquarters. The proposed Directorate of Security at Headquarters should have a streamlined central capacity, with the focus of increased staffing in the field. His delegation supported the ACABQ’s recommendation against establishing separate units in the proposed Directorate to handle human resources management, programme planning and budget, procurement, and information technology services.

    When one looked at the organization of foreign ministries around the world, it could be seen that normally the office responsible for safety and security was placed directly under the under-secretary responsible for administration. That was not the case with the proposal before the Committee. His delegation respected the recommendation of the ACABQ to establish an under-secretary-general post for the head of the proposed Directorate, and agreed that there did not appear to be a need to maintain an assistant secretary-general post. Japan would continue to pay close attention to the issue of redressing the top-heavy structure of the United Nations Secretariat.

    Japan also believed that the cost-sharing arrangements for United Nations agencies, funds, and programmes -- which the Secretary-General proposed to phase out -- should be maintained, as the cost-sharing principle was accompanied by the principle of shared responsibilities.

    Finally, his delegation supported the proposed global access control system, while recognizing that its total cost could become quite large.  He requested that the Secretariat submit to the General Assembly detailed plans and relevant information on the related costs and supported the recommendation of the ACABQ to approve commitment authority of up to $11.2 million, without appropriating that amount now.

    JOHAN L. LØVALD (Norway) welcomed the comprehensive reports on a strengthened and unified security management system. Norway was deeply concerned about the security threats facing United Nations staff and supported the proposal put forward by the Secretary-General on the establishment of a Directorate of Security. His delegation agreed that the objective of that new security structure should be to enable the effective and efficient conduct of United Nations programmes and activities, while ensuring the safety and security of the staff.

    The United Nations needed a security management system that was capable of implementing security measures and making day-to-day decisions on the ground. Norway appreciated the steps taken towards unification of the security system at the country level and agreed with the Secretary-General that the designated official should be fully responsible and accountable for the safety of all United Nations personnel at his or her duty station. A significant increase in the number of security officers was called for.

    An important task for the new Directorate of Security would be to develop system-wide policies, standards, and procedures to coordinate system-wide implementation. A strong headquarters component was needed to provide necessary field support, and Norway agreed with the proposal that the post of the head of the Directorate should be at the level of under-secretary-general.

    The currently more complex and dangerous security environment meant that capacity for threat assessment and risk analysis at the United Nations should be strengthened. To that end, Norway fully supported the establishment of regional desks and a 24-hour operation centre at Headquarters. As the Secretary-General explained in his report, the shift to heightened security alertness had underscored the need for specific security training of security personnel and of non-security staff.

    Peacekeeping operations mandated by the Security Council were increasingly being designed as integrated missions -- encompassing military, civilian police, humanitarian, and development activities.  Close coordination between the new Directorate of Security, the Department of Peacekeeping Operations, and other United Nations departments and agencies was required to ensure consistency and efficiency in the field. Norway encouraged continued close consultation with United Nations entities such as the World Food Programme (WFP), the United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF), and the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) to ensure that they are involved in efforts to develop system-wide policies and in decisions related to field support.

    He noted that air safety was not specifically addressed in the reports before the Committee, despite the fact that air accidents due to technical problems were a significant cause of death and injury to United Nations staff. Norway had repeatedly called for improvements in air safety, which should be given the highest priority.

    Norway believed that security should be regarded as a core function and condition for programme delivery and, thus, a responsibility that was shared by all Member States. He fully supported the Secretary-General’s proposal to phase out the present cost-sharing arrangement between United Nations funds, programmes, and other entities. All new posts should be funded by the regular budget, as security arrangements should not depend on voluntary contributions. Security personnel should not spend their valuable time and resources on fund-raising. Further, the Secretary-General should be given authority to enter into commitments to meet unforeseen and extraordinary expenses, as proposed in his report.

    His delegation was surprised to see the Advisory Committee’s apparent dismissal of important elements of the Secretary-General’s proposal, such as establishing regional desks and administrative support units. They did not agree with the cuts proposed by the ACABQ, which they found worrisome, and called on the Fifth Committee to take an independent look at what was a crucial issue.

    ALEXANDER V. KONUZIN (Russian Federation) said that his country viewed the question of ensuring security to the Organization and its staff from a broader perspective, including in the context of countering international terrorism. Brutal terrorist attacks in New York and Washington, Baghdad, Grozny and Beslan, as well as recent kidnapping of United Nations staff members in Afghanistan, were the links of the same chain. Under the circumstances, when the Organization was targeted by international terrorism, nobody should have any doubts regarding the need to take urgent and decisive measures.  Projects in the area of safety and security should be implemented without delays, and decisions on funding such activities should be given top priority.

    The main elements of a unified, all-system strategy for United Nations security had been outlined in the Secretary-General’s report, he continued, but much remained to be done to finalize and implement the concepts outlined in the proposal and identify the specific amount of funding required. On the whole, his delegation supported the Secretary-General’s proposals on setting up a unified security management system for the United Nations. He hoped that bringing together several security units in the Secretariat, the newly established security department at Headquarters would make it possible to work out a common policy and standards in security area and ensure centralized assessment of threats and risks, coordination of action and operational and technical support of local security services.

    One of the most important functions of the new department should be to raise efficiency and eliminate the drawbacks of the existing cost-sharing mechanism that had been pointed out by the Secretary-General, he said. In his view, that mechanism should be maintained within the new strategy.  Cost-sharing could be made more efficient through a larger involvement of the agencies, funds and programmes in the decision-making process.  Moreover, since eliminating drawbacks, raising efficiency and mobilizing resources within the cost-sharing mechanism would require close attention on the part of the security department from the outset of its activities, it would be expedient to invest the respective functions to the deputy chief of the department at the assistant secretary-general level and approve that post at the current session of the Assembly.

    Turning to the role of host countries, he expressed concern over the delays mentioned in the ACABQ report, in bringing existing agreements with the host countries in line with the requirements of the currently prevailing security situation, taking into account the relevant potential those countries had. He also noted that, while a centralized approach to ensuring security was important, it was necessary to avoid excessive concentration of financial and human resources at Headquarters, focusing on the needs of offices, agencies, funds, programmes and missions outside New York, especially in the countries with limited capacity to ensure the Organization’s security.

    PETER MAURER (Switzerland) said that he fully supported the Secretary-General’s efforts to improve and strengthen security measures, rethink the entire security system and make it more effective.  As a host country, Switzerland fully assumed its obligations, which, as the report pointed out, consisted of ensuring security outside the perimeter of buildings occupied by international organizations. The Swiss authorities were in close and regular contact on that issue with the United Nations Office at Geneva.  In that context, he underlined that considerable progress had been achieved in the past months, particularly with regard to the security of the headquarters of the Offices of the High Commissioner for Human Rights and the High Commissioner for Refugees in Geneva. Specific measures had been identified to strengthen security at the outside perimeter of those two buildings. All related costs would be borne by the Swiss authorities.

    As outlined by the Secretary-General, what the Organization needed was a coordinated and comprehensive system-wide approach to security with a clear division of labour and definition of responsibilities of various existing and newly created organizational units, he said.  The challenge lay in close cooperation between security components of the system, supervised by the Directorate of Security, to ensure uniformity of security standards and meet the requirements of timely information gathering and evaluation, for example. It was particularly important to improve coordination between Headquarters and units in the field, Directorate of Security and Department of Peacekeeping Operations, core United Nations and funds and programmes, and United Nations and host countries.

    Continuing, he mentioned insufficient training as one of the shortcomings of the current security system.  In order to properly manage the changing security environment, proposed training activities were of critical importance. Investments in human resources and training should not be considered short-term measures, but should focus on long-term goals in order to respond to the changing security requirements.

    Cautioning against a “bunker mentality”, he said that new security challenges could not be met by a strictly technical response. As a matter of fact, security at the United Nations had so far represented a technical field, rather than a strategic and policy area of the Organization as a whole. The focus should not be placed exclusively on threats and protection measures, but also on the sources or motives of threats.  A clear and proper understanding of the types or sources of threats was absolutely essential.  It would enable the Organization to develop a preventive and proactive response, instead of a merely reactive one. Timely and up-to-date risk and threat assessments remained of paramount importance, and analytical capabilities in that field needed to be strengthened.

    Turning to the recommendations of the ACABQ, he said that he was perplexed by them.  Regarding the recommendation against the elimination of cost-sharing, for example, he said that the current arrangement was not only burdensome to administer, but had also resulted in the unacceptable reliance on voluntary funding for the assessed security share of participating agencies. He was also disappointed by the recommendation not to approve the post of deputy to the head of the new Directorate.  That post was essential.

    In summary, he cautioned against nit-picking at specific aspects of the proposed security package.  At the end of the day, without adequate safety and security of staff and premises, the United Nations could no longer carry out its mandate and nothing less than the future of the Organization was at stake.

    MWELWA C. MUSAMBACHIME (Zambia) welcomed the proposed additional measures to protect and reinforce security of United Nations personnel worldwide. He noted that Zambia contributed troops to and participated in various peacekeeping missions. There was a need to take urgent steps to implement the recommendations in the Secretary-General’s report in order to enhance the security of United Nations personnel in what were often dangerous and hostile environments.

    In order to achieve the goal of effective peacekeeping operations, it was vital for Member States to contribute required resources. His delegation appealed to all Member States to pay their assessed contributions to the Organization. While the security of United Nations personnel and assets at every duty station was the primary responsibility of the host nation, his delegation called on the Organization and on the international community to assist those countries that were unable to do so.

    His delegation commended the Secretary-General for improvements in reimbursing troop-contributing countries and urged him to continue those efforts.  He noted that many Member States were developing countries and their continued efforts in support of peacekeeping operations would be greatly enhanced if the United Nations met its obligations to reimburse them in a timely manner.

    Statements on Activities of OIOS

    MARK ZELLENRATH (Netherlands), speaking on behalf of the European Union and associated States, noted that the Office of Internal Oversight Services (OIOS) figures on the impact of their audit and investigation recommendations were striking. The average annual total of $16 million actually saved and recovered resulting from those was significant -- and the amount recommended for recovery per year averaged almost that. The Office’s critical recommendations should be fully implemented or sound reasons given for why that was not possible. It was a matter of great concern that many critical recommendations from prior years had not been acted upon at all.  Engagement and accountability of senior management in the process was vital, and a stronger follow-up mechanism within the Secretariat was essential.  Greater access to a wider range of OIOS reports also would assist in identifying areas where progress must be sought.

    The Union welcomed the steadily increasing focus of the Office on evaluation of activities. With the establishment of results-based budgeting in the Secretariat, it was vital that the work on defining measurable indicators was complemented by an effective way of judging those results at the end of the period. The Committee for Programme and Coordination (CPC) rightly commended the OIOS for the improved format of the programme performance report for 2002-2003, but further improvements could be made in terms of streamlining the report and shifting the emphasis towards programmatic achievements.

    The OIOS conveyed the wide-ranging nature of its investigative function, reporting on many alleged incidents that were truly shocking and which went against everything that the United Nations stood for.  But, investigations alone would not suffice. The Organization must have the capability and willingness to take swift action against those found to have stolen from it, or worse. Both the OIOS and the Board of Auditors in their respective reports had commented on cases where, although offences took place some time ago, action against the individuals responsible seemed to be pending and they continued in their employment. That state of affairs was damaging to the credibility of the Organization both externally and among its own staff.

    The Union found the OIOS self-assessment useful in identifying key areas where the operational independence from the Secretariat could be strengthened. Central to that was the question of budgetary independence for the Office. The Union was attracted to the argument that the OIOS should have the independence to submit, through the Secretary-General, its proposals directly to the ACABQ and the Fifth Committee -- which would, of course, continue to exercise full scrutiny and budgetary discipline.

    The increase in specific requests from Member States for OIOS studies was evidence that they found the information useful for the decision-making. The Union would support direct access by Member States to a broader range of OIOS reports, while ensuring proper safeguards in cases where the Office felt that confidentiality was required. The Union was prepared to take decisions at this session on those issues of budgetary independence and transparency in reporting.

    They did not find the Secretary-General’s suggestion for a comprehensive external review of the Office particularly timely, as General Assembly resolution 54/244 expected the Committee to take decisions on the issue in the current session. They might consider such a review, but one that had clear terms of reference and was conducted by external experts with experience in assessing inspection bodies.  The ensuing report could be made available in its entirety to the General Assembly.

    Regarding the OIOS audit of the regional commissions, the Union found many of the recommendations constructive and concurred with the need to harmonize the regional commissions’ annual and biennial sessions with the submissions of the biennial programme plan.  They noted that, while the regional commissions accepted and were implementing most of the suggestions, the Economic and Social Commission for Western Asia (ESCWA) had not accepted the recommendation to review the need for a separate statistics division. They asked what next steps would be taken to resolve that difference of view. Finally, the Union paid tribute to Dileep Nair for his outstanding leadership of the Office.  He would be missed.

    CIHAN TERZI (Turkey) congratulated the Oversight Office for its remarkable achievements made in the 10 years of its existence and aligned himself with the position of the European Union. Contemporary oversight function was an independent, objective assurance and consulting activity designed to add value and improve the Organization’s operations. Over the years, a fundamental change had taken place in the nature of auditing, and emphasis had shifted from compliance with rules and regulations to the measures to add value to the Organization. Auditing now not only identified problems, but also found the root causes and suggested potential solutions. It was obvious that the OIOS was on its way to taking and implementing all elements of a modern oversight approach. The introduction of a risk-management framework, formation of a separate internal management consulting section, organization of an integrity initiative, strengthening the role of evaluation, self-assessment, programme performance reports, and promotion of results-based budgeting were some of the commendable developments over the years.

    Continuing, he noted with appreciation that, in the past year, the OIOS had issued 1,515 recommendations and some 52.5 per cent had already been implemented. About 36 per cent of those recommendations were classified as critical to the United Nations and 44 per cent of them had been implemented. A total of $26.6 million had been saved as a result of the Office’s recommendations. However, it was not right to judge success based only on savings and figures. It was also necessary to consider oversight techniques, coverage, quality of audits, feedback from organizations, effect on the degree of compliance and overall impact on the working procedures and organizational structures. The Oversight Office, in its young age, had demonstrated with remarkable success an ability to adopt contemporary techniques and effectively carry out its functions. Nevertheless, there was room for further improvement.

    One of the critical issues was operational independence of an oversight body, he said. In that respect, there was merit to considering the proposal on the delegation to the Office authority to propose and manage its financial and human resources, in a way similar to funds and programmes. He noted with concern that, at the end of June, the OIOS had had 180 posts, 89 of them funded from extrabudgetary resources. Out of the Office’s $23.5 million, $11.8 million was funded from extrabudgetary resources. The inability to predict the required reimbursement for investigative services created budget problems. The inadequacy of resources available for monitoring and evaluation had a negative impact on the ability of the Office to provide monitoring and evaluation. Stable and predictable financial resources were of great importance.

    Looking at the organizational structure of the Oversight Office, he said that the investigation function was under the OIOS and had parallel status with other functions. Considering that the investigation function had to cover all parts of the Organization, including other functions and staff of the Office itself, its current organizational status could pose risks of a conflict of interest and lack of independence. Of course, such a matter needed to be assessed carefully, in the light of experience.  It was necessary to create a system, based on best practices, that should depend not on individual attitudes, but on a sound, clear-cut organizational structure, indicating responsibilities, authority, reporting procedures and hierarchy reflecting the characteristics of a modern oversight body. Clear rules and regulations, transparency and accountability provided a positive environment for effective oversight.

    In the report before the Committee, there was an unsystematic approach and lack of implementation power, particularly in investigation and enforcement of investigation reports that could lead to loss of credibility and deterrence of power. Only one case had resulted in clear punishment and, in serious cases, a mere reprimand was considered appropriate. There was also no standardized procedure to follow up on the recommendations. In some cases of fraud, the person responsible continued to work.  Follow-up was part of making sure that reports worked.

    Cooperation among oversight bodies was important to avoid duplication and waste of resources, he said.  In that respect, he welcomed collaboration between the Board of Auditors, the Joint Inspection Unit (JIU) and the OIOS to adopt a common risk-assessment approach for the identification of cross-cutting issues and review potential areas for coordinated projects. The Office was developing, enhancing and expanding its evaluating, monitoring and management consultancy functions, in addition to audit, inspection and investigation functions. That was a positive development, but such expansion should not compromise the core auditing, inspection and investigation functions. The OIOS should not lose sight of compliance with rules and regulations and effective investigation of inappropriate actions, so as to make sure accountability worked and was enforced.

    TOM REPASCH (United States) said that great strides had been taken by the Organization to improve its efficiency, effectiveness and accountability. The United Nations had widely benefited from the implementation of a risk management framework, and he fully supported the risk-based planning process used by the OIOS to prioritize and rationalize allocation of resources. He was also pleased that the OIOS had launched a number of personnel management initiatives and introduced an electronic working paper system for the auditors.

    Regarding the implementation of the recommendations, he was disappointed to observe a relative decline in the amount of recommendations implemented, he said. That was of special concern, since, as a result of the risk-management initiative, the number of recommendations had been significantly reduced to include only the most pertinent and specific ones. While critical recommendations were usually the most difficult to implement, they were also the most important. The ability of the OIOS to enhance oversight functions throughout the United Nations system relied heavily on the implementation of recommendations. He, therefore, urged the organizations to comply. He would like the OIOS to expand its annual report to address unimplemented recommendations and create an automated system for keeping track of them. As for the issue of savings identified and realized, he questioned the appropriateness of comparing the recommended amount of recoveries for the current period to the total actual amount recovered for current and prior periods. That seemed “a little like comparing apples to oranges”.

    Turning to specific findings of the report, he said that he had been dismayed to learn that staff safety and security were not adequately addressed at the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), which lacked basic equipment and procedures. He wanted to know how much had been done to fix the deficiencies. The lack of proper controls continued to cause waste within the United Nations.  Regarding the United Nations Organization Mission in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (MONUC), he had learned from the report that it had not implemented controls to ensure that its rations contractor delivered the full amount contracted. In some instances, only half of the items ordered had been received. Had the United Nations been fully reimbursed for that poor performance?  Had the Mission’s own controls been improved?  From paragraph 96, it was clear that an investigator had set up his own company, which was then contracted by the Rwanda Tribunal. In effect, he was making extra money for a job that he was already supposed to be doing.  Since his case came on top of several other highly visible cases of irregularities in the Rwanda Tribunal, he needed to know about progress being made in preventing future incidents. 

    On the Integrity Initiative, he said that many staff believed there was not enough accountability for unethical behaviour and there was insufficient protection against reprisals for staff reporting violations.  Staff also said that accountability was more likely to be applied at lower levels than at the higher ones.  He wanted to know what would be done to address those issues. Also on accountability, he noted the fact that the OIOS had submitted a report to the Secretary-General supporting the allegations of sexual harassment against the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees and another senior manager in the UNHCR and recommended that appropriate actions be taken accordingly.  Yet, the Secretary-General, upon reviewing the report and the responses of the High Commissioner and the senior manager, had “decided that the complaints could not be substantiated by the evidence and, therefore, closed the matter”. The United States would appreciate an explanation on that apparent contradiction. He also addressed the allegations of mismanagement and conflict of interest by staff of the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime.

    Looking to the future, he said that providing the Assembly access to OIOS reports would strengthen transparency, and providing the OIOS with budgetary independence from the offices that it audited would bolster its independence. Extending the term of the Under-Secretary-General for Internal Oversight from the current five to perhaps seven years would further strengthen the effectiveness of oversight at the United Nations. He also found the self-evaluation of the OIOS to be very helpful.  The proposals appeared sound, for the most part.  The proposal for budgetary independence was consistent with his own thinking.  As for the proposal related to an external review of the Office, while appreciating the spirit of that suggestion, he was disappointed that such a review had not been proposed last year, so that the Fifth Committee could have something concrete to consider now. He also took issue with the suggestion that the Oversight Office had not been subjected to any external review. In fact, the Board of Auditors had evaluated the Office regularly, as part of its audit of the Organization’s financial statements. The United States General Accounting Office had released a comprehensive review of the OIOS in 1998.  In any event, before making a decision on the matter, it was important to learn additional details about the proposal, including the composition of the panel of experts, the length of the review and the terms of reference.

    NAJIB ELJI (Syria) said that many of the OIOS reports deserved serious discussion, as they raised controversial issues. Some reports went beyond their mandate, such as the report on the regional commissions. The OIOS recommendations went beyond the administrative framework and needed to be discussed by the Member States in the regional commissions. Finally, he thanked Under-Secretary-General Nair for his excellent work as head of the OIOS.

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