Press Releases

    GA/AB/3750
    10 July 2006

    Fifth Committee Concludes Resumed Session, Recommending Approval of Reform Measures, Including Discretionary Spending for Secretary-General

    Draft Resolution on also Cover Oversight, Information Technology, Accountability, Financial Management, Improving Reporting Mechanisms, Procurement

    NEW YORK, 7 July (UN Headquarters) -- The Fifth Committee (Administrative and Budgetary) concluded its second resumed session this afternoon, recommending adoption by the General Assembly of a draft resolution containing detailed measures for reform of the Organization, including discretionary spending authorization for the Secretary-General of $20 million per biennium, on an experimental basis.

    Without a vote, the Committee approved an eight-part draft resolution entitled "Investing in the United Nations: for a stronger organization worldwide: detailed report", which addresses issues of oversight and accountability; information and communication technology; limited budgetary discretion; financial management practices; improving reporting mechanisms; public access to United Nations documentation; procurement; and future consideration of management reform.  The Assembly would approve an additional appropriation under the regular budget in the amount of $4.43 million.

    Regarding discretionary spending, the Secretary-General would be authorized limited discretion for the biennium 2006-2007 and 2008-2009, to enter into commitments up to $20 million in each biennium.  Such spending should occur according to nine principles set out in the draft, including the stipulation that spending over $6 million per biennium should have prior concurrence of the Advisory Committee on Administrative and Budgetary Questions (ACABQ).  The Assembly would further decide not to extend the experiment regarding redeployment of 50 posts, as approved in resolution 58/270. 

    By other terms of the draft, the Assembly would request the Secretary-General to ensure the full operationalization of the Ethics Office.  It would emphasize the need for strengthening oversight and stress the importance of strengthened accountability in the Organization, and of ensuring greater accountability of the Secretary-General to Member States.

    The Assembly would also decide to establish the post of Chief Information Technology Officer, at the level of the Assistant-Secretary-General in the Office of the Secretary-General, and to replace the current "Integrated Management Information System" with a next-generation enterprise resource planning system or other comparable system.

    By other terms, the Assembly would decide to approve adoption by the Organization of International Public Sector Accounting Standards.  It would resolve that the Working Capital Fund for the biennium 2006-2007 shall be increased to $150 million, effective 1 January 2007.  The Assembly would also authorize the Secretary-General to enter into commitments up to $706,600 to strengthen the procurement system, including by enhancing internal controls and developing business seminar programmes for vendors in developing countries.

    Consideration of proposals for consolidation of peacekeeping accounts, increases in the peacekeeping reserve fund and commitment authority for peacekeeping operations, as well establishment of a reserve fund within the context of the 2008-2009 regular budget would be deferred to the next session.

    Commenting on the draft resolution, several delegates, including the representatives of Australia and Canada, welcomed the text and the consensus, even though everything they had hoped for had not been achieved.

    The Committee also approved, without a vote, a draft decision on questions deferred for future consideration, including a series of reports on the Capital Master Plan, as well as reports of the Office of Internal Oversight Services (OIOS) on, among other things, the comprehensive management audit of the Department of Peacekeeping Operations and the global review of discipline in field missions led by that Department.

    In other business, the Committee elected, by acclamation, Youcef Yousfi (Algeria) as Chairman for the sixty-first session; Alexios Mitsopoulos (Greece) and Ilgar Mammadov (Azerbaijan) as Vice Chairmen; and Diego Simancas (Mexico) as Rapporteur.

    The representatives Australia, Finland (on behalf of the European Union), Japan, Canada, Cuba and Pakistan commented on the draft text on reform.

    The representatives of South Africa (on behalf of the Group of 77 and China), Uganda, Nigeria (on behalf of the African Group), Cuba, Singapore, Armenia (on behalf of the Eastern European Group), Guyana (on behalf of the Rio Group) and Egypt also made short statements.

    Action on Draft Texts

    Without a vote, the Committee approved an eight-part draft resolution entitled "Investing in the United Nations: for a stronger organization worldwide: detailed report" (document A/C.5/60/L.67), which addresses issues of oversight and accountability; information and communication technology; limited budgetary discretion; financial management practices; improving reporting mechanisms; public access to United Nations documentation; procurement; and future consideration of management reform.  The Assembly would approve an additional appropriation under the regular budget, in the amount of $4.43 million.

    By the text's terms on oversight and accountability, the Assembly would request the Secretary-General to ensure the full operationalization of the Ethics Office.  It would emphasize the need for strengthening oversight and stress the importance of strengthened accountability in the Organization and of ensuring greater accountability of the Secretary-General to Member States.  The Assembly would look forward to considering the results of the independent external evaluation of the audit and oversight system of the United Nations, as well as to consideration of the proposed terms of reference for the Independent Audit Advisory Committee.

    Regarding information and communication technology, the Assembly would decide to establish the post of Chief Information Technology Officer, at the level of the Assistant-Secretary-General in the Office of the Secretary-General.  The Assembly would further decide to replace the Integrated Management Information System (IMIS) with a next-generation enterprise resource planning system or other comparable system.  It would revert to its consideration of policies towards the use of open source software in the Secretariat, as contained in the report of the Joint Inspection Unit (JIU), at its resumed sixty-first session.

    The Assembly would authorize the Secretary-General, on an experimental basis, a limited discretion for budgetary implementation for the biennium 2006-2007 and 2008-2009, to enter into commitments up to $20 million in each biennium, in order to meet "the evolving needs" of the Organization in carrying out its mandated programmes and activities.  The Secretary-General would be authorized to utilize the Working Capital Fund to that end.  Nine principles would be mentioned, to which implementation of the authorization should adhere, including that the experiment should not imply any changes in the human resources management policies and that prior concurrence of the Advisory Committee on Administrative and Budgetary Questions (ACABQ) would be necessary when the total amount utilized exceeds $6 million per biennium.

    The Assembly would decide to review the experiment at its sixty-fourth session.  It would further decide not to extend the experiment regarding redeployment of 50 posts, as approved in resolution 58/270.  The Assembly would recall its request to the Secretary-General to specifically define accountability, as well as clear accountability mechanisms, and to propose clear parameters for its application and the instruments for its rigorous enforcement, without exception, at all levels.

    By the terms on financial management practices, the Assembly would decide to approve adoption by the Organization of International Public Sector Accounting Standards.  It would resolve that the Working Capital Fund for the biennium 2006-2007 shall be increased to $150 million, effective 1 January 2007.

    Under the section "improving reporting mechanisms; public access to United Nations documentation", the Assembly would take note of the Secretary-General's intention to prepare a single comprehensive annual report, containing both financial and programme information, "aiming at enhancing transparency of the organization and accountability of the Secretariat to Member States", but would emphasize that the report is complementary in nature, and reaffirm that all reports pertaining to administrative and budgetary matters are subject to the consideration of the Fifth Committee.  The Assembly would also note the Secretary-General's proposal on the policy for access to United Nations documentation by Member States and the public, and would request a comprehensive report thereon.

    As for procurement, the Assembly would authorize the Secretary-General to enter into commitments up to $706,600 to strengthen the procurement system, including by enhancing internal controls and developing business seminar programmes for vendors in developing countries.

    The Assembly would defer its consideration of a proposal for consolidation of peacekeeping accounts, increases in the peacekeeping reserve fund and commitment authority for peacekeeping operations to its second resumed sixty-first session.  It would defer consideration of establishment of a reserve fund, within the context of the 2008-2009 regular budget.  The Assembly would look forward to considering proposals on governance, oversight and accountability; human resources management; procurement; and administration of justice at its sicty-first session.

    The Assembly would reaffirm its intention to continue consideration of reform, as intended by the Heads of State and Government in the World Summit Outcome Document, and would pledge to provide the United Nations with adequate resources, on a timely basis, to enable the organization to implement its mandates and achieve its objectives, having "regard to the priorities agreed by the General Assembly and the need to respect budget discipline".

    Speaking after approval of the draft resolution, the representative of Australia said the decisions made today, such as those establishing the post of Chief Information Technology Officer and deciding to replace IMIS, were important steps, in order to achieve contemporary standards of management.  The limited budgetary discretion was also a step in the right direction, albeit a small one.  He was also pleased with the decision to adopt International Public Sector Accounting Standards and that concerning an annual comprehensive report. 

    He said that, although those achievements were important, it was also important to acknowledge what had not been achieved.  He was disappointed that there would be no decision on providing independent oversight.  He was also disappointed with measures on procurement practices.  The time was ripe to decide to provide posts with dedicated responsibilities to improve practices.  The need for management reform was ongoing.  Regarding accountability, it was important for Member States to hold the Secretariat accountable for the delivery of services.  It was a responsibility of the Assembly to define, for itself, the level of accountability, rather than request the Secretary-General to do that.

    The representative of Finland, speaking on behalf of the European Union and associated States, said the Union welcomed progress made so far in management reforms.  The initial steps were a useful basis to transform the United Nations into a more efficient and accountable organization.  The Union had always highlighted the importance it attached to the question of limited discretion for the Secretary-General in budgetary implementation.  The new mechanism that had been agreed to was much narrower in scope than the European Union had proposed.  The Union recognized, however, a need for a strong foundation of support for greater discretion.  Therefore, it had agreed to a much more modest proposal.

    She said the adopted mechanism should allow the Secretary-General to plan on the basis of discretion up to a limit of $20 million.  She expected the Secretariat to identify proactively efficiencies and offsets, so as to take full advantage of the enhanced discretion.  The consultation of the ACABQ for use of that discretion over $6 million should not be an onerous burden.  She hoped a swift and efficient practice could be established.  The experiment would in no way be financed through an addition to the budget, either directly or indirectly, beyond what was initially agreed at the outset of a biennium.  She further expected the Secretary-General to continue to use the 50-post redeployment experiment to the fullest for the remainder of the biennium.

    The representative of Japan said his delegation had joined the consensus in adopting the resolution, the results of which were just one point in a continuous endeavour to enhance the Organization's effective management.  Many items, such as procurement and the terms of reference of the Independent Audit Advisory Committee, needed further work in the coming session.  Japan was ready to negotiate in good faith on such issues, in order to strive for a more effective and efficient United Nations.

    Canada's representative said that, while the draft was not perfect, it moved the Organization a step forward in the management reform process.  The fact that all partners had worked together on the text should not be lost.  She was disappointed, however, that the Committee had been unable to agree on the operational independence of OIOS.  Canada had always championed giving the Secretary-General the management discretion the Organization needed to respond to changing needs.  While the limited discretion was much narrower than the Secretary-General's proposal, it did provide a base on which to build further reform.  The Secretariat should use the discretion to the fullest extent.  She looked forward to report on the experiment, especially lessons learned on its implementation.

    The representative of Cuba said that, although a draft resolution on management reform had been approved, it had been done in an unfortunate rush, without time for normal consultations, while being hampered by late issuance of documents.  He hoped that delegations would, in future negotiations, refrain from introducing into drafts, issues on which actions had not been taken.  Efforts to get results in negotiations, while there was no information whatsoever available, should not be repeated.  Also, resolutions on reform should not be used for the purpose of achieving political agendas.  The current draft resolution was not ideal, but it was the fruit of consensus.

    The representative of Pakistan welcomed the spirit of consensus on the draft.  Preconditions only had the potential of undermining an environment of consensus.  Such discord should never happen again.  Although the text was modest, it was the fruit of consensus.  Pakistan would continue to support future reforms.  He hoped the reforms would also facilitate more rapid reimbursement to troop-contributing countries, and that the new tools for the Secretary-General would lead to a more efficient organization with increased accountability.

    The Committee then adopted, without a vote, a draft decision on questions deferred for future consideration (document A/C.5/60/L.64), by which the Assembly would decide to defer to its sixty-first session consideration of a series of reports on the Capital Master Plan, as well as reports of OIOS on, among other things, the comprehensive management audit of the Department of Peacekeeping Operations and the global review of discipline in field missions led by that Department.

    The Assembly would also defer consideration of several other reports under different agenda items, including several reports of the Secretary-General under the heading "Investing in the United Nations: for a stronger Organization worldwide", including reports on financial management practices, procurement reform and updated terms of reference for the Independent Audit Advisory Committee.

    The representative of South Africa, speaking on behalf of the "Group of 77" developing countries and China, thanked all who had made the session a success.  The Committee could be proud of its accomplishments, as it had had to consider more reports than ever, and had been expected to act under tremendous time restraints.  The Committee had adopted decisions on many important aspects by consensus, such as lifting the spending cap, deciding on a strategy for the capital master plan, approving budgets for peacekeeping operations and approving a text on reform.

    The representative of Uganda made a farewell statement to the Committee.

    The representative of Nigeria said a very important draft had been adopted, which represented the collective resolve to strengthen the Organization, so that it could continue to play its incredible role.  On behalf of the African Group, she thanked the Bureau and the Secretariat for all their efforts during a challenging session, and bid farewell to several colleagues.

    Cuba's representative thanked the Chairman, the Bureau and the Secretariat for their work.  He also bid farewell to departing Committee members.

    Singapore's representative, addressing the issue of reports to be taken up in September, in particular document A/60/846/Add.5 on procurement reform, recalled his request for a formal briefing on the Deloitte and Touche report, preferably by Christopher Burnham, the Under-Secretary-General for Management.  In that regard, he wanted an indication of the status of his request.

    The representative of Armenia, on behalf of the Eastern European Group, also thanked the Chairman, the Bureau and the Secretariat for their assistance to delegates during the session.

    Guyana's representative, on behalf of the Rio Group, said the Committee could celebrate the important gains made today.  Those gains had been due, in no small measure, to the guidance provided by the Chairman.

    Fifth Committee Chairman JOHN ASHE (Antigua and Barbuda) thanked the members of ACABQ, his Secretariat colleagues and the coordinators of the various issues during the session.  He had worked with many Committee Secretaries and he could assure the Fifth Committee that none worked harder than its Secretary.

    Responding to a question from Singapore, WARREN SACH, Controller, said there would indeed be a briefing on the Deloitte and Touche report during the sixty-first session. 

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