Debate Focuses on 2019 Work Programme, Joint Inspection Unit Reports, Information Technology Strategy, as Fifth Committee Resumes Seventy-Third Session

The Fifth Committee (Administrative and Budgetary) today opened the first part of its resumed seventy-third session, adopting its work programme, reviewing the Joint Inspection Unit’s annual report and considering progress in implementing the United Nations information and communications technology (ICT) strategy.

The United States representative said the session gives Member States the opportunity to ensure that critical reform initiatives continue to develop and thrive. We cannot lose sight of the overarching goal of ensuring that the United Nations delivers better on its mandates, she said, noting that many of the agenda items on the proposed work programme concern reforms governing information and communications technology, service delivery, procurement, accountability and standards of accommodation for air travel.

In opening remarks, Committee Chair Gillian Bird (Australia) noted that 15 items are on the agenda during this session, recommending that most of the meeting time should be spent on items that require a decision or action by the Committee.

Nigeria’s delegate, speaking on behalf of the African Group, emphasized that the global service delivery model � intended to boost the Organization’s efficiency by delivering shared administrative services through fewer locations � is likely to be one of the most contentious items. He said the Group will carefully examine all of the Secretary-General’s proposals with a view to resolving the matter in a way that would strengthen Africa’s role in the global shared services structure.

The Republic of Korea’s delegate said that the global service delivery model needs to be discussed in a manner that aims to provide qualified services at minimum cost, stressing the importance of transparency in deciding the locations of service centres.

Mexico’s delegate said that it would be useful to have cogent arguments for the selection of regional hubs, expressing Mexico’s surprise at its elimination from the list of potential hub locations and asking to know why.

On procurement, China’s delegate argued that the Secretariat should increase direct sourcing from developing countries.

The Permanent Observer for the State of Palestine, speaking on behalf of the Group of 77 developing countries and China, noted that Staff Regulations and Rules should be deferred to the next main session in the fall and should be discussed as a package alongside the Human Resources Management item that had already been deferred until then � a sentiment echoed by the speaker for the Russian Federation.

Many delegations requested the timely issuance of all relevant documents.

Turning to the work of the Joint Inspection Unit, delegates acknowledged the important role of the oversight body, with Sukai Prom-Jackson, its Inspector and Chair, reporting that the Unit completed six system-wide reports and one single organization report in 2018 and this year’s work contains eight new projects � six systemwide and two single organization reviews, including reviews of outsourcing, inter-agency staff mobility, learning policies and strategies, common premises, enterprise risk management and multilingualism.

Federica Pietracci, a Senior Programme Management Officer of the Secretariat of the United Nations System Chief Executives Board for Coordination, introduced the Secretary-General’s related document.

On the status of implementation of the ICT strategy, Atefeh Riazi, Assistant Secretary-General and Chief Information Technology Officer of the Office of Information and Communications Technology, said that, since the Assembly endorsed the strategy in early 2015, the Office has made solid progress, including critical support for the deployment of the Umoja enterprise resource software, the consolidation of legacy applications, the harmonization of ICT services by Regional Technology Centres, the establishment of Enterprise Data Centres and the implementation of a One United Nations network connecting 594 of the Organization’s locations.

The consolidation of the Information and Communication Technology Division of the former Department of Field Support into the Office puts the Office in a better position to leverage field technology, geographic information capacity, information security, innovation and frontier technologies, and the management of information, she said. Efforts are ongoing to strengthen information security in the face of growing risks, she added.

The observer for the State of Palestine, speaking on behalf of the Group of 77, however, noted that, of the 35 pending recommendations made by the Board of Auditors, only 23 per cent have been fully implemented, while others are at various stages of the implementation process. She pointing out that weaknesses and delays were identified in the areas of governance, performance management, policy gaps, global sourcing, technology innovation labs and Umoja mainstreaming.

Peter Korn, Director of External Audit of Germany and Chair of the Audit Operations Committee, introduced the Board of Auditors’ second annual progress report of the Board of Auditors on implementing the ICT strategy. Cihan Terzi, Chair of the Advisory Committee on Administrative and Budgetary Questions, introduced its related report.

The Committee also reviewed the costs associated with the establishment of the Panel of Experts on Somalia, which would require $1.867 million for 2019, including salaries for Panel members, as well as staff and operational costs.

In other business, the Committee recommended to the General Assembly the appointment of Vadim Laputin (Russian Federation) as a member of the Committee on Contributions for a term of office beginning on the date of adoption by the Assembly and ending on 31 December 2020.

Also speaking today were the representatives of Uganda (on behalf of the African Group) and the European Union.

The Fifth Committee will reconvene at 10 a.m. on Tuesday, 12 March, to consider financing of the Arusha branch of the International Residual Mechanism for Criminal Tribunals, the organizational resilience management system and standards of air travel.

Organization of Work

RIYAD MANSOUR, Permanent Observer for the State of Palestine, speaking on behalf of the Group of 77 developing countries and China, noted that Staff Regulations and Rules appears on the provisional programme of work. The Group’s position is that human resources items should be addressed holistically, not in a piecemeal manner, with a view to reaching concrete outcomes on issues, including gender parity, equitable geographical representation at all levels, refining performance management, and addressing deficiencies in the staff selection process. Since the Human Resources Management item has been deferred to the next main session of the Fifth Committee (Administrative and Budgetary), so should the item on Staff Regulations and Rules.

The Group attaches great importance to the global service delivery model and will carefully examine both the proposal of the Secretary-General and the related report of the Advisory Committee on Administrative and Budgetary Questions (ACABQ). Procurement is another key priority for the Group, he said. It is important to increase efficiency, transparency and cost effectiveness to achieve cross-cutting results in the procurement system. The Group will actively participate in the Committee’s deliberations on other agenda items, including the construction of the new facility for the Arusha branch of the International Residual Mechanism for Criminal Tribunals, standards of accommodation of air travel and the report of the Joint Inspection Unit. The Group looks forward to timely issuances of reports by the Secretariat and ACABQ.

TIJJANI MUHAMMAD BANDE (Nigeria), speaking on behalf of the African Group, said it places high priority on agenda items dealing with special political missions, procurement, Arusha construction, the global service delivery model and the work of the Joint Inspection Unit. Noting that the global service delivery model is likely to be one of the most contentious items, he said the Group will carefully examine all of the Secretary-General’s proposals with a view to resolving the matter in a way that would strengthen Africa’s role in the global shared services structure. With the Committee scheduled to discuss the Secretary-General’s report on Staff Regulations and Rules, he said human resources management items should be considered as a package, since the policies are interrelated, and it is hard to streamline gender parity without addressing geographical representation.

He said the Group looks forward to considering measures to be undertaken by the Secretary-General to increase procurement from developing countries and to use more local materials in the construction of Secretariat facilities. It encourages the Secretary-General to strengthen measures to provide outreach and affirmative action for vendors from developing countries. The Group hopes to see more transparency in the Organization’s procurement system and greater guidance on how delegated authority and accountability will be exercised under the procurement reforms. On the reports of the Joint Inspection Unit, he said the Group looks forward to considering whistle-blower policies and practices, which need to be strengthened in an era of delegated authority.

JAN DE PRETER, European Union, said the concept of the global service delivery model is an important component for better service delivery. Resources for official travel should be used more carefully, he noted, observing that accountability of staff and managers is a cornerstone of the Secretary-General’s reform process. He also encouraged the Secretariat in its efforts to deliver procurement services across the Organization in a more efficient, cost-effective and transparent manner. United Nations procurement activities should reflect a global sustainable development policy, compatible with and supportive of achieving the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. Moreover, the Fifth Committee should be able to reach decisions by consensus during normal working hours, with proper conference facilities. We should all resist the temptation to micromanage and instead work in the shared interest of the Organization, he emphasized.

CAROLYN STRAINIC (United States) said the Fifth Committee’s current session gives Member States the opportunity to ensure that critical reform initiatives � which they have endorsed and which the Organization is committed to � continue to develop and thrive. We cannot lose sight of the overarching goal of ensuring that the United Nations delivers better on its mandates, she said. Many of the agenda items up for consideration will advance reforms, including the global service delivery model, procurement, accountability, the information and communications technology strategy, and standards of accommodation for air travel. She said the United States will look to ensure that the resources for the Somalia Panel of Experts and the United Nations Mission to Support the Hodeidah Agreement match their respective mandates. She added that her delegation will also ensure that any amendments to the Financial and Staff Regulations and Rules make sense and respond to the Organization’s evolving needs.

JUAN SANDOVAL MENDIOLEA (Mexico), stressing the need for strong and decisive progress on management reform, said that the Committee should debate the global service delivery model in a way that leaves no doubt about its pertinence. It would be useful to have cogent arguments for the selection of regional hubs, he said, expressing Mexico’s surprise at its elimination from the list of potential hub locations and asking to know why. On staff regulations and rules, he said Mexico wants to see measures to promote gender parity. Turning to standards of accommodation for air travel, he called for recommendations to improve ticket purchasing. There must be greater accountability to taxpayers, he said, emphasizing that first-class air travel should never be an option.

NA SANG DEOK (Republic of Korea) said that the Secretary-General’s briefing on the Organization’s financial situation early this month reminded us of the guiding importance of efficient budget management. His delegation is of the view that enhancing the efficiency of budget management must be a top priority. The global service delivery model needs to be discussed in a manner that aims to provide qualified services at minimum cost, he said, stressing the importance of transparency in deciding the locations of the global service delivery centres. He expressed hope that the Committee would reach consensus on measures to reduce unnecessary spending on air travel and that it will make meaningful progress on the issue of the contingency fund prior to the beginning of the temporary annual budget cycle next year.

FU DAOPENG (China), expressing support for the statement made by the State of Palestine, warned that the United Nations’ financial situation leaves no room for optimism. Global governance is the foundation of everything, and therefore the Committee should play a more positive role. All States must exhibit a spirit of cooperation. The global service delivery model is important to achieve greater cost efficiencies. China expects to receive more information on air travel. Regarding procurement, the Secretariat should increase direct sourcing from developing countries. The timely provision of documents is vital, he said, adding that it is regrettable that reports continue to be issued late.

EVGENY V. KALUGIN (Russian Federation) said the Committee should consider Staff Regulations and Rules at the same time as other reports under the agenda item on Human Resources Management. The topic should, therefore, be addressed during the Assembly’s seventy-fourth session, he added.

Appointment of Members to Committee on Contributions

The Committee, by acclamation, recommended to the General Assembly the appointment of Vadim Laputin (Russian Federation), from the Group of Eastern European States, as a member of the Committee on Contributions for a term of office beginning on the date of adoption by the Assembly and ending on 31 December 2020.

His appointment would fill a vacancy created by the resignation of Mr. Kalugin (Russian Federation) effective 7 February 2019, as notified to the Secretary-General (document A/73/102/Add.2).

Reports on Joint Inspection Unit

SUKAI PROM-JACKSON, Inspector and Chair of the Joint Inspection Unit, introducing its 2018 annual report and 2019 programme of work (document A/73/34), said that the Unit completed six system-wide reports and one single organization report. The Unit’s 2019 work programme comprises eight new projects � six systemwide and two single organization reviews. The portfolio not only responds to the longstanding expectation that the Unit contributes to the efficient use of resources and effective management practices but reflects the link between improved management practices and efficiency and the realization of substantive objectives. Reviews of outsourcing, inter-agency staff mobility, learning policies and strategies, and of common premises illustrate different facets of this point. Its planned review of enterprise risk management in the United Nations system builds on the Unit’s longstanding contribution to this issue at the nexus of management and accountability. A review of multilingualism reflects that it is a core value and will examine progress in mainstreaming multilingualism in the United Nations system. At different stages during this year, the Unit will initiate two individual organization reviews. The Unit is preparing its strategic framework for 2020-2029 and a midterm plan for 2020-2024. The Unit, he stressed, fills a unique niche in the oversight arrangements of the United Nations system.

FEDERICA PIETRACCI, Senior Programme Management Officer, Secretariat of the United Nations System Chief Executives Board for Coordination, introduced the Secretary-General’s note on the report of the Joint Inspection Unit for 2018 (document A/73/727). She noted that throughout 2018, the secretariats of the Chief Executives Board and the Unit worked collaboratively to ensure the timely preparation of notes by the Secretary-General responding to reports addressing system-wide concerns. They also continued a dialogue to ensure a smooth report preparation process. She added that during the reporting year, the Secretary-General, in consultation with members of the Chief Executives Board and in line with the procedures set out in the Unit’s statute, reviewed the qualifications of an inspector proposed for reappointment expiring this year.

FEDA ABDELHADY-NASSER, observer for State of Palestine, speaking on behalf of the Group of 77 and China, the it greatly values the seven projects finalized in 2018 by the Unit, particularly the progress report on the recommendations in the review of South-South and triangular cooperation in the United Nations system and the report on strengthening the policy research uptake in service of the 2030 Agenda. The Group is encouraged that of the seven reports concluded by the Joint Inspection Unit in 2018, six were of a system-wide nature, promoting greater coordination. Reiterating the importance of coordination between system oversight bodies, she also noted that despite apparent overlaps, the Unit should continue to work according to its mandate. The Group will seek information on the frequency of systematic reviews as it is useful to provide a minimum standard duration to ensure appropriate coverage of all participating organizations.

Acknowledging the call by the Unit regarding the potential for having Junior Professional Officers from countries of the South, she said it is important for enhancing diversity and knowledge exchange. Expressing interest in examining the review of the acceptance and implementation of the Unit’s recommendations, she noted that the legislative organs of participating organizations should fully consider and discuss its reports, and Secretariat entities should fully implement the accepted recommendations. Turning to the Unit’s 2019 programme of work, she expressed appreciation for the diversity of projects to be undertaken, also acknowledging the work to develop a successor strategic framework for the period 2020-2029.

SHAWN H. DUNCAN (United States) said her delegation continues to advocate for effective policies and processes seeking to protect United Nations staff members, interns, volunteers and individual contractors or consultants against retaliation when they report misconduct. She also looked forward to reviewing reports listed in the 2019 programme of work, including the review of enterprise risk management, service outsourcing and inter-agency mobility measures. She expressed pleasure about the increase in the implementation rate of Unit recommendations since 2018, encouraging the Organization to continue making best use of those recommendations.

VICTOR MORARU (Republic of Moldova), expressing support for the work of the Joint Inspection Unit and its unique role as an independent external oversight body mandated to conduct system-wide evaluations, welcomed the fact that all authorized posts in the Unit’s secretariat are finally filled. Voicing support for the General Assembly’s request to all participating organizations to increase the use of the Unit’s reports, he added that the development of a successor strategic framework for the next 10 years will be a significant activity for the Unit in 2019. The framework should reflect the new challenges faced by the United Nations system, he stressed, encouraging the Unit to remain fully responsive to the needs of Member States.

MARIA V. FROLOVA (Russian Federation) said the Unit is vital to the monitoring and oversight work of the United Nations, given its independent work. Her delegation supports the Unit’s work to prepare its strategic framework for 2020-2029 and a midterm plan for 2020-2024. The Unit can contribute to increased transparency and accountability, in cooperation with other oversight bodies.

Information and Communications Technology Strategy

ATEFEH RIAZI, Assistant Secretary-General, Chief Information Technology Officer, Office of Information and Communications Technology, introduced the Secretary-General’s report on the status of implementation of the information and communications technology strategy for the United Nations (document A/73/384). She said that since the Assembly endorsed the strategy in early 2015, the Office has made solid progress in modernizing and transforming the information and communications technology landscape throughout the Secretariat. She listed several achievements during the first four years of implementation, including critical support for the deployment of the Umoja enterprise resource software, the consolidation of legacy applications, the harmonization of information and communications technology services by Regional Technology Centres, the establishment of Enterprise Data Centres, and the implementation of a One United Nations network connecting 594 of the Organization’s locations. Enterprise systems and applications in the Secretariat are more secure, she added.

The consolidation of the Information and Communication Technology Division of the former Department of Field Support into the Office puts the Office in a better position to leverage field technology, geographic information capacity, information security, innovation and frontier technologies, and the management of information, she said. Efforts are ongoing to strengthen information security in the face of growing risks, she added. Whereas in 2017 the Office blocked just under 1 million emails containing malicious code, in 2018 it stopped more than twice that volume. Similarly, the number of incidents grew by 10 per cent between 2017 and 2018, even while information security resources remained largely static. The Organization’s main concern has been, and continues to be, protecting itself from information security threats, she said, citing the impact of such threats to the Organization’s ability to implement its mandates and the impact that information security has on the world. In that regard, the creation of Digital Blue Helmets � a team of highly training and specialized analysts � has been critical in addressing threats having a significant impact on mandate fulfilment and Member States.

PETER KORN, Director of External Audit of Germany and Chair of the Audit Operations Committee, introduced the second annual progress report of the Board of Auditors on the implementation of the information and communications technology strategy (document A/73/160). On governance, he said current practices fail to align the prescribed framework, with the ICT Executive Committee holding no meetings in 2017 and the ICT Board convening once. While 29 performance management metrics have been drawn up, the corresponding framework has not been implemented due to a lack of resources. Policy gaps in areas of emerging concern were not identified and addressed. On modernization, he said fragmented security incident tracking made it hard to identify common issues and apply global solutions. On the consolidation of duplicate applications, he said there is consolidation for further rationalization below the target of 1,000 applications by 2020. He noted that no budget was committed for three of the five technology innovation laboratories that were due to start by the end of 2018. The timeline for the global sourcing strategy project, which initially ran up to March 2017, was meanwhile extended to February 2019. He went on to say that, of the 35 recommendations contained in the Board’s previous reports, eight have been fully implemented, 25 are under implementation, one has not been implemented and one has been overtaken by events.

CIHAN TERZI, Chair of the Advisory Committee on Administrative and Budgetary Questions, introduced its report (document A/73/759), noting that the Secretary-General’s next progress report will mark the end of the five-year implementation period of the information and communications technology strategy. The Advisory Committee recommends that the Secretary-General provide a detailed update on the status of all 20 strategy projects and also conduct an inventory of capacities and expenditures of each Secretariat entity to provide a baseline. ACABQ also recommends that the Secretary-General provide a preliminary analysis of the new structures and the dual reporting system.

The Advisory Committee is concerned by the gaps that remain in the design and implementation of the governance framework, trusting that the Secretary-General will update his bulletin on the organization of the ICT Office to reflect the changes made under the management reform. For Umoja, the Advisory Committee stresses the need to ensure that mainstreaming activities are completed on time. Regarding information security, the Advisory Committee continues to be concerned by the slow progress in reducing the level of fragmentation, which impedes progress in addressing information security issues comprehensively. ACABQ reiterates its observations and recommendations on the need for Secretariat-wide central control over information security. As for global sourcing and asset management, the Advisory Committee reiterates its recommendations on the need to further analyse and compare the cost savings and economies of scale achieved for the equipment and services procured.

Ms. ABDELHADY-NASSER, observer for the State of Palestine, speaking on behalf of the Group of 77 and China, welcoming improvements made to the information and communications technology landscape in the first four years of implementation of the strategy, noted a lack of complementarity between the recommendations made by the Board of Auditors and their implementation by the Secretariat. Of the 35 pending recommendations, only 23 per cent have been fully implemented while others are at various stages of the implementation process, she said, pointing out that weaknesses and delays were identified in the areas of governance, performance management, policy gaps, global sourcing, technology innovation labs and Umoja mainstreaming.

Turning to the lack of progress in reducing fragmentation in the information and communications technology environment, she recalled specific requests made by the membership, including for information on specified objectives, benchmarks and indicators to assess progress and qualitative and quantitative benefits for each project. Expressing disappointment at the failure to provide information, she said that detailed information on these requests should be provided in the context of the Secretary-General’s fifth annual progress report, particularly given that the fifth report will mark the end of the five-year implementation period of the strategy.

Ms. STRAINIC (United States), welcoming the improved centralized monitoring and other signs of progress, expressed concern regarding the remaining obstacles to full implementation of the information and communications technology strategy, particularly the continued fragmentation of information security, data centres, and application management. This prevents mainstreaming of innovative practices and heightens the risk of cyberattacks, she said, encouraging the Secretary-General to include in his final progress report planned milestones, as well as recommendations on outstanding issues. Looking forward to constructive dialogue on the proposal to establish a single Office of Information and Communications Technology, she expressed support for the Secretary-General’s efforts to achieve a cultural shift within the United Nations system.

Programme Budget 2018-2019: Panel of Experts on Somalia

CHANDRU RAMANATHAN, Controller and Assistant Secretary-General for Programme Planning, Finance and Budget in the Department of Management Strategy, Policy and Compliance, noted that the Security Council in November decided to establish the Panel of Experts on Somalia, based in Nairobi and comprising six members. This will require $1.867 million for 2019, including salaries for Panel members, as well as staff and operational costs. The costs from 14 November to 31 December 2018 were covered by a fund authorized by the Secretary-General under unforeseen and extraordinary expenses.

Mr. TERZI, presenting the Advisory Committee’s related report (document A/73/498/Add.7), noted that the Monitoring Group’s compliance rate with the Organization’s 16-day advance book policy for air travel was only 20 per cent. Going forward, the Panel is expected to make every effort to improve its compliance rate. Overall, he added, the ACABQ considers that the Panel’s travel requirements are not always fully justified, and therefore recommended a 5 per cent reduction to the proposed requirements for 2019. Turning to ground transportation, he said the Advisory Committee recommends a $3,000 reduction to the proposed requirements, considering that the number of drivers has been reduced from three to two and the number of experts from eight to six. He added that, subject to its observations and recommendations, the ACABQ recommends approval of the Secretary-General’s proposals for the period from 14 November 2018 to 31 December 2019.

CAROLINE NALWANGA MAGAMBO (Uganda), speaking on behalf of the African Group, said it will seek to remedy staffing practices that are not in line with established United Nations policies. It will also seek additional efficiency measures for official travel in 2019. The Group is seriously concerned that the compliance rate of the advance travel booking policy was only 20 per cent, as the Panel’s work is not urgent and can be planned. The Group will seek more efficiency measures for Panel experts’ travel in 2019. Since 2016, African Union peacekeeping troops in Somalia have received monthly allowances of $800 versus the $1,420 paid to their United Nations counterparts. Emphasizing that the situation in Somalia remains hostile and could easily be reversed, she said the Organization must give high priority to the question of financing the African Union Mission in Somalia (AMISOM) and supporting the Somali National Army. The United Nations should also reconsider its multi-pronged approach in Somalia and work towards consolidating its efforts under AMISOM.

Source: United Nations

https://www.un.org/press/en/2019/gaab4313.doc.htm