Preventing Sexual Abuse, Protecting Civilians Key to Making United Nations More Accountable, Effective, Budget Committee Hears

Delegates Approve Draft Resolution Retaining General Assembly Voting Rights for Four Countries in Arrears

The Fifth Committee (Administrative and Budgetary) today explored ways to make the United Nations more accountable, transparent and effective through better oversight, with delegates stressing the need to prevent sexual exploitation and abuse and to protect civilians.

The Committee also approved a recommendation that four Member States in arrears on dues payment be allowed to vote in the General Assembly.

Delegates discussed the work over the past year of two of the Organization's oversight bodies: the Office of Internal Oversight Services (OIOS), whose annual report was presented by Heidi Mendoza, Under-Secretary-General of the Office of Internal Oversight Services, and the Independent Audit Advisory Committee, whose annual report was presented by its Chair, J. Christopher Mihm.

The United States' representative encouraged OIOS to take further steps to prevent and investigate fraud, welcoming efforts to train national investigative officers to look into allegations of sexual exploitation and abuse. While she recognized that difficult field conditions had contributed to the unsatisfactory reports on peacekeeping operations, she urged management to address the Office's recommendations. The Office, she said, would be more effective if it were given greater authority over its budget.

The representative of Thailand, on behalf of the "Group of 77" developing countries and China, reaffirmed support for the Office's operational independence, confident that the new Under-Secretary-General was taking extra steps to implement its mandate. He looked forward to updates on steps taken to restore the Office's credibility. He also expressed concern about the vacancy rate, particularly in the field, and requested updates on recruitment, retention and human resources development.

"It is crucial that the OIOS have real and perceived independence from management", stressed Switzerland's delegate in that context. Speaking also on behalf of Liechtenstein, she said OIOS must do more to prevent sexual exploitation and abuse and to protect civilians. Further, enterprise risk management had to become an integral part of the Organization.

On that point, the representative of the European Union welcomed efforts to establish systematic risk management as a way to promote operational effectiveness. She underscored her delegation's longstanding support for OIOS, welcoming the clear and detailed reporting and efforts to improve its performance.

Singapore's delegate commended the Under-Secretary-General and her Office for instilling the highest ethical and professional standards throughout the Secretariat. She encouraged continued efforts to address the Office's vacancy rate, stressing that the General Assembly should send a strong signal to the next Secretary-General that the Office's work was integral to the United Nations.

Also today, delegates tackled the issue of programme planning - a critical process in the United Nations regular budget formulation - outlining their views on several reports of the Secretary-General introduced by top United Nations officials.

Thailand's representative, on behalf of the Group of 77, stressed the importance of the Proposed Strategic Framework for the biennium 2018-2019. She looked forward to seeing how changes relating to the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and Addis Ababa Action Agenda would be reflected in the budget outline proposal. She also requested clarity on the mobility framework, the International Public Sector Accounting Standards and Umoja, noting that the Committee for Programme and Coordination's recommendations on evaluation should be fully implemented by Secretariat managers.

Japan's representative said her country had participated in the Committee for Programme and Coordination's negotiations in June and was ready to engage in discussions towards a positive outcome. She reiterated that Committee's important role in making the United Nations regular budget more cost-effective, including by examining legislative mandates and proposed programmes, and identifying areas of overlap throughout the system.

Johannes Huisman, Director of the Programme Planning and Budget Division of the Office of Programme Planning, Budget and Accounts of the Department of Management, introduced the proposed strategic framework for the biennium 2018-2019, and the Secretary-General's report on the consolidated changes to the biennial programme plan as reflected in the proposed programme budget for the biennium 2016-2017.

Mario Baez, Chief of the Policy and Oversight Coordination Service in the Office of the Under-Secretary-General for Management, introduced the Secretary-General's Programme performance report of the United Nations for the biennium 2014-2015 report. Delegates also considered the report of the Committee for Programme and Coordination at its fifty-sixth session.

At the meeting's outset, delegates unanimously endorsed draft resolution A/C.5/71/L.2, by which the Assembly would permit four countries in arrears - the Comoros, Guinea-Bissau, Sao Tome and Principe, Somalia - to vote in the 193-nation body until the end of its seventy-first session, recognizing that their failures to pay the minimum amount were "due to conditions beyond their control".

Also speaking today was the representative of the United Republic of Tanzania.

The Fifth Committee will reconvene at 10 a.m. Wednesday, 5 October, to discuss improving the United Nations financial situation.

Programme Planning

JOHANNES HUISMAN, Director of the Programme Planning and Budget Division of the Office of Programme Planning, Budget and Accounts of the Department of Management, presented the Proposed Strategic Framework for the period 2018?2019, and consolidated changes to the biennial programme plan, as reflected in the proposed programme budget for the biennium 2016?2017. Introducing the report of the Secretary-General on the consolidated changes to the biennial programme plan as reflected in the proposed programme budget for the biennium 2016?2017 (document A/71/85), he said those changes stemmed from new and expanded mandates in the Addis Ababa Action Agenda of the Third International Conference on Financing for Development and the outcome document of the United Nations summit for the adoption of the post-2015 development agenda, titled "Transforming our world: the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development". The changes applied to many departments and offices, he said, 17 programmes in total, and had been included in the 2018-2019 Framework.

The 2018?2019 Framework comprised two parts - the Plan Outline, and the Biennial Programme Plan, which covered 28 programmes, he said. Part I, the Plan Outline, had been prepared under the Secretary-General's leadership and focused on eight priority areas identified by General Assembly resolution 69/17, the longer-term objectives and strategy, and trends resulting from mandates that reflected priorities set by intergovernmental organs. The document had been subjected to an intergovernmental review prior to finalization of the Framework, and the outcomes had been incorporated into the proposals. Those proposals would be updated as appropriate to reflect the impact of intergovernmental decisions subsequent to the preparation of the Framework.

He said the Secretariat had worked in a coordinated manner to improve the formulation of frameworks to more clearly indicate the impact of activities implemented. The effort involved 50 working sessions with more than 200 programme managers. As a result, 97 per cent of the proposed objectives, 92 per cent of the expected accomplishments and 83 per cent of the indicators of achievement were impact-oriented.

MARIO BAEZ, Chief of the Policy and Oversight Coordination Service of the Department of Management, introduced the report of the Secretary-General on the programme performance of the United Nations for the biennium 2014-2015 (document A/71/75). The General Assembly had previously decided that the preparation of programme performance reports should be transferred from the Office of Internal Oversight Services (OIOS) to the Department of Management. The report discussed the implementation of 34,150 outputs, he said, and provided results achieved for 808 expected accomplishments under the 36 sections of the programme budget. The overall output implementation had increased from 92 per cent during 2012?2013 to 94 per cent in 2014?2015. However, under two budget sections, the rate of implementation had been lower than 90 per cent. Disarmament had achieved a rate of 89 per cent, which was attributed to "the lack of agreement on substantive work", he said. The low rate of 68 per cent achieved by the budget section Safety and Security could be explained by a reduction in compliance missions, as relevant departments had taken on those tasks themselves.

SIRITHON WAIRATPANIJ (Thailand), speaking on behalf of the "Group of 77" developing countries and China, acknowledged the valuable inputs and comments by the Committee for Programme and Coordination during its fifty-sixth session, fully endorsed the recommendations and conclusions of its report and expected that its recommendations and conclusions on evaluation were fully implemented by Secretariat managers. The programme performance report was an important management tool to ensure accountability. The Group was satisfied with its content and format to date; any proposals to change the format must be discussed and approved by the Assembly. Stressing the importance of the 2018-2019 programme plan, she said the objectives, expected accomplishments, and outcome and achievement indicators would need to evolve along the line of the discussions and decisions by Member States at intergovernmental meetings. The Group waited with interest to see how the changes relating to the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and Addis Ababa Action Agenda would be reflected in the budget outline proposal to be submitted during the current session and the subsequent submission for the 2018?2019 budget.

The Group supported improvements in the reporting of management initiatives, she noted, and asked for more clarity on the mobility framework, the International Public Sector Accounting Standards (IPSAS) and Umoja in order to facilitate planning. Furthermore, she stressed the key role of the Chief Executives Board in strengthening programme effectiveness and in avoiding duplication. The Board also had to ensure that only mandated activities are carried out. The New Partnership for Africa's Development (NEPAD) was a priority for the Group, she said, expressing its support for the Office of the Special Adviser on Africa and its concern about the lack of resources for the Office.

NOBUKO IWATANI (Japan) commended Member States for the work they carried out in the preparation of the proposed strategic framework for 2018-2019. Japan had participated in the negotiations in June of the Committee for Programme and Coordination, supported its reports and was ready to engage constructively in discussions on the agenda item in order to reach a positive outcome, as well as in discussions on the 2018?2019 programme budget. She reiterated the Programme and Coordination Committee's important role in working to make the Organization's regular budget more efficient and cost-effective, including by carefully examining the legislative mandates and proposed programmes as well as identifying areas of overlap or duplication throughout the system. Japan would continue to actively participate in the deliberations of the Programme and Coordination Committee in the coming years.

Office of Internal Oversight Services

HEIDI MENDOZA, Under-Secretary-General of the Office of Internal Oversight Services, introduced the first report on her Office's non-peacekeeping activities for the year ending 30 June 2016 and its Addendum (documents A/71/337 (Part I), A/71/337 (Part I)/Add.1/Rev.1). During the reporting period, her Office had issued 362 oversight reports, including seven to the General Assembly. Those reports included 1,068 recommendations to improve internal controls, accountability mechanisms and organizational efficiency and effectiveness, of which 75 had been classified as critical. Audit recommendations had been categorized into five integrated components of internal control: control environment, risk assessment, control activities, information and communication, and monitoring. Figure 1 in the report offered an overview of trends in those categories over a three-year period. In each of those years, the bulk of the recommendations related to the control activities component.

Her Office also had implemented improvements to improve accountability for its own resources, she said. In Internal Audit, her Office had updated the organizational structure and reporting lines and established a working group to upgrade audit capacity in the Umoja environment. It also had initiated a review of ratings assigned to audits, and as of 1 October, its internal audit reports would have a conclusion that would reflect the essence of the concerned audit results, rather than a rating. She expected that that would improve how her Office communicated the results of internal audits of the Organization's governance, risk management and control processes.

In the Investigations Division, she said a new investigations case management system - goCASE - had been deployed, which provided integrated intake and information-processing capabilities, as well as advanced analytical tools. The Division also had reduced the number of long outstanding cases and planned to further reduce the backlog in the coming year. In its work, her Office was guided by its mandate to support the Secretary-General in his oversight responsibilities, and by its own vision of a strong, accountable United Nations fortified by world-class internal oversight.

J. CHRISTOPHER MIHM, Chairman of the Independent Audit Advisory Committee, introduced that body's ninth annual report, on its activities from 1 August 2015 to 31 July 2016 (document A/71/295), saying it continued to believe that if weaknesses identified by internal control systems were properly dealt with by management, "one should expect to see a more accountable, effective and responsive Organization". The implementation rate of the Board of Auditors' recommendations on peacekeeping operations continued to show improvements, rising from 32 per cent in 2006?2007 to 52 per cent in 2013?2014. The number of outstanding critical recommendations by OIOS had declined from 59 at the end of the fourth quarter of 2015 to 56 at the end of the first quarter of 2016. Concerning peacekeeping operations, however, the number of unsatisfactory reports had continued to increase. To mitigate this, OIOS should reach out to stakeholders to ensure all parties understood how reports were rated and recommendations developed. Joint Inspection Unit recommendations were being increasingly implemented.

His Committee had also assessed what was being done and could be done to better manage risk and it would continue to follow up on enterprise risk management issues as a matter of priority, he said. Zooming in specifically on extrabudgetary funding, they had investigated three elements: the inability to obtain extrabudgetary funding; how reliance on such funding may appear to impact the independence of the United Nations; and the inability to establish and maintain the optimal structure for trust funds. His Committee recommended creation of a Secretariat-wide resource mobilization strategy, drawing up lessons learned and good practices such as maintaining relationships with donors and demonstrating good performance and efficiency. The Secretariat should carefully monitor the effects, if any, of donor influence on framing the Organization's programme priorities. "Given the reality of the need to rely on extrabudgetary funding", the Organization must fully assess the risks associated with that practice, he said. In reviewing work of OIOS, his Committee strongly regretted that its recommendation to implement a central intake mechanism had not been addressed.

Turning to allegations of sexual exploitation and abuse in the Central African Republic, his Committee recommended OIOS identify the "specific set of management controls" that needed to be established at the outset of a peacekeeping operation and then audit the strength of those controls as new operations were formed. That would put the Organization in a better position to stop abuses before they occurred and reduce the need to investigate cases. A comprehensive review of OIOS would help ensure that widespread, significant concerns about the operations and internal working relationships of the Investigation Division were resolved. His Committee was encouraged by OIOS initiatives to demonstrate the link between organizational enterprise risk management and its work programme and to develop a detailed oversight strategy to implement the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. He also welcomed progress in IPSAS implementation by the Secretariat and improvements in the Organization's internal control system and anti-fraud policy.

DHISADEE CHAMLONGRASDR (Thailand), speaking on behalf of the Group of 77, reaffirmed support for OIOS operational independence, expressed confidence that the new Under-Secretary-General was taking extra steps to fully implement the Office's mandate and looked forward to updates on steps taken to restore the Office's credibility. The Group noted the number of OIOS oversight activities and recommendations during the reporting period and noted that 75 of the 1,068 recommendations were classified as critical. The Group was pleased that the financial implications of prior-period recommendations that were satisfactorily implemented totalled $2.1 million, and encouraged continued efforts by all stakeholders to ensure all issued recommendations were implemented and risk mitigated across the Organization. The Group would examine several issues outlined in the report, including the rationale for the changes from the previous period, and seek specific clarification during the informal consultations.

He expressed his concern about the vacancy rate in the OIOS, particularly in the field, and requested updates on recruitment, retention and human resources development during the upcoming informal consultations. He took note of the highlights in the oversight coverage of the Capital Master Plan, the United Nations Compensation Commission and construction at the International Residual Mechanism for Criminal Tribunals in Arusha and looked forward to discussing those detailed findings. He noted that the findings on the construction of additional office facilities at the Economic Commission for Africa (ECA) were finalized in July, but not included in the current report. Reports on non-peacekeeping matters must be presented to the General Assembly in a timely matter. With regard to the Independent Audit Advisory Committee, the Group had carefully examined several of that body's comments, observations and recommendations, including specific requests on the re-examination of OIOS operational independence. The Group expected to devote a fair amount of time to discussions on those matters during informal consultations.

ALEXANDRA BAUMANN (Switzerland), also speaking on behalf of Liechtenstein, emphasized the importance of strengthening the oversight capacity of the OIOS so that the United Nations could be made more accountable, transparent and effective. She stressed three points. Firstly, it was crucial that the OIOS had real and perceived independence from management. Secondly, enterprise risk management needed to become an integral part of the Organization. Top management needed to actively lead enterprise risk management efforts to ensure that systematically identifying and managing risks became a standard business procedure. Thirdly, OIOS needed to do more to prevent sexual exploitation and abuse and to protect civilians. She supported the Independent Audit Advisory Committee's recommendation to identify a specific set of management controls that would better enable the Organization to stop sexual abuse before it occurred. The Office needed to be given the resources and capabilities to investigate cases rapidly and to hold perpetrators accountable.

SIMONA PILLERI, of the European Union Delegation, underscored her delegation's longstanding support for the work of OIOS, welcoming the clear and detailed reporting of its annual activities and efforts to improve its own performance. She commended the Office's cooperation and coordination with other United Nations oversight entities, and encouraged it to intensify those activities in order to both share experiences and avoid potential duplication and overlap in work.

Further, she welcomed continued efforts to establish systematic risk management, in order to promote operational effectiveness and efficiency. Stressing the importance of implementing the Office's "critical" recommendations, she reiterated the need for more efficient monitoring processes for implementation, and in that regard, called on programme managers to set and adhere to realistic target dates for such. She also strongly welcomed the recommendations and conclusions of the Independent Audit Advisory Committee.

CHERITH A. NORMAN CHALET (United States) noted that the Independent Audit Advisory Committee, Joint Inspection Unit and OIOS had all raised concerns about the underreporting of fraud. Her Delegation encouraged the OIOS to take further steps to prevent and investigate fraud. The United States also welcomed efforts by the Office to train national investigative officers to investigate allegations of sexual exploitation and abuse. Her country recognized that difficult conditions in the field contributed to the rate of unsatisfactory reports on peacekeeping operations. However, as the United Nations was an organization focused on field missions, she urged management to address recommendations made by OIOS. The Office, she said, would become more effective if it were given greater authority over its budget.

CHAY YUEN TING (Singapore), aligning herself with the statement made by the Group of 77, strongly supported a robust and independent Oversight Office. The Office of Internal Oversight Services should be a champion of accountability for the Organization. In recent years, OIOS has faced its share of challenges. She commended the efforts of Under-Secretary-General Mendoza and OIOS to continue to uphold and instil the highest ethical and professional standards throughout the Secretariat. She praised OIOS efforts to help the Organization achieve cost savings and efficiency gains and to manage risk systematically. She noted, however, that vacancy rates, especially in the field, had continued to be an issue, which could affect the achievements of OIOS. She encouraged continued efforts to address that issue, in order for the Office to be able to fully implement its mandate. The General Assembly should send a strong, clear signal to the next Secretary-General that the work of OIOS was important and integral to the United Nations.

Ms. MENDOZA then responded to a question by the representative of the United Republic of Tanzania, who referred to paragraph 70 of report A/71/337, on the International Residual Mechanism for Criminal Tribunals in Arusha. Ms. Mendoza said restoring the credibility of her Office was as critical a task as that of ensuring its operational independence. She would respond to the query in the following informal session.

Mr. MIHM, thanking delegations for their comments, said the Fifth Committee's perspective was vital to the work of his Office.

Scale of Assessments - Requests under Article 19 of the Charter

The Fifth Committee approved without a vote draft resolution A/C.5/71/L.2, by which the General Assembly would decide to permit the Comoros, Guinea-Bissau, Sao Tome and Principe, and Somalia to vote in the 193-nation body until the end of its seventy-first session by acknowledging that their failures to pay the full minimum amount required to avoid the application of Article 19 of the United Nations Charter were "due to conditions beyond their control".

Source: United Nations.