Background

This item was taken up as a follow-up to the HLCM spring session and the subsequent videoconference of 26 July. Organizations had expressed great interest in information-sharing and exchange of experiences on the subject. Following up on a suggestion by WIPO, the CEB Secretariat had opened a section of the HLCM website specifically dedicated to information sharing on management reform by UN organizations. Such virtual sharing had just been launched and not many organizations had contributed to it yet.

Discussion

The United Nations USG for Management provided a briefing on Management Reform at the Secretariat. Recent progress in this area included:

  • The establishment  and staffing of an Ethics Office and the launch of a Global Ethics Day;
  • The finalization of a new, strong financial disclosure policy. Received disclosure forms were currently under review by outside experts;
  • The launch of a cutting-edge whistleblower protection policy;
  • The issuing of a prototype for a new, consolidated UN Annual Performance Report (copies were distributed to all  participants);
  • The finalization and approval of a Capital Master Plan: a USD 1.9 Billion project whose completion was expected for 2014;
  • The approval and funding by the General Assembly of the plan to adopt IPSAS by 1 January 2010;
  • The approval by the General Assembly of a new Chief Information Technology Officer post at the ASG level, which underscored the emphasis on technology and the importance of coordination with the UN’s sister agencies.
  • The plan, already endorsed but yet to be funded by the GA, to implement a new ERP. In this respect, the UN informed that a working group had been established to analyze the needs of the organizations and evaluate alternative options available. A consultant was being hired to help in this evaluation, which would start with an appropriate consideration of the already concluded contracts of UNICEF with SAP and of UNDP with PeopleSoft/Oracle. Given the fact that 14 organizations had not chosen a new ERP system yet, this area represented a great opportunity for system-wide cooperation.

The UN also re-iterated the need for the procurement reform to go forward, and for HLCM to have a role in providing system-wide guidance in this area. It was noted that the final customers of procurement activities were increasingly not at the Headquarters, and that adjustments to meet the new needs were required.

A sub-committee headed by the USG on Management was being established to follow-up on audit recommendations.

The Assistant Secretary-General for Human Resources, United Nations, briefed the Committee on the status of reform in the human resource area, which was seen as critical to the success of the overall reform effort. The reform proposals were based on the recognition that existing systems were not aligned with current realities. Unlike in the past, when operations had been headquarters-focused and generally stable, the United Nations of today employed a large number of staff in the field. Specific proposals included:

  • The simplification and streamlining of the Organization’s recruitment systems, which were currently not seen as sufficiently accountable;
  • Harmonization of conditions of service, both within the Secretariat and with other UN organizations. This was particularly important with regard to field conditions where the United Nations had a vacancy rate of 30 per cent and a high turnover rate;
  • One United Nations contract, with one set of staff rules, would replace the current 100, 200 and 300 series contracts. The new one-contract modality would include short-term, fixed-term and continuing appointments;
  • A doubling of the training budget and a focus on systematic and rigorous staff development, including leadership development;
  • The introduction of a career path for staff on peace-keeping missions;
  • A limited staff buy-out programme which was currently under negotiation with Member States. A targeted buy-out, based on a review of mandates, was no longer under consideration.

The ASG for Human Resources also noted the good collaboration with the staff representatives on the reform proposals which had been discussed at the meeting of the Staff Management Coordination Committee (SMCC) in June. The Under-Secretary-General for Management highlighted the important leadership role the ASG had played in the SMCC context.

With respect to the recent completion of the independent evaluation of Governance and Oversight systems, carried out by PricewaterhouseCoopers under the guidance of a Steering Committee of six independent experts, the UN informed that the results of the study were published in a Secretary-General’s report (A/60/883 and addenda 1 and 2) of 10 July 2006.

The United Nations briefed the Committee on the structure and the main recommendations of the Steering Committee report, which the ACABQ would examine in October and which would be considered by the General Assembly at its Fall session (whether in the Fifth Committee or in the Plenary was yet to be determined), with an expectation to complete the discussion in March next year.

With regard to the review of the Office of Internal Oversight Services, the Under-Secretary-General for Internal Oversight Services had provided separately her comments in a report entitled “Proposals for strengthening the Office of Internal Oversight Services” (A/60/901).

On the specific subject of OIOS, the UN Under-Secretary-General for Management noted that the study’s recommendations had faced strong criticism, both by Member States and by the OIOS itself, as they were generally considered to be incompatible with the UN governance and oversight structure, but rather mirroring internal audit frameworks for the private sector.

Numerous organizations judged the conclusions and recommendations of the study to be superficial, poorly supported, and lacking an appropriate consideration of the specificities and requirements of the organizations of the UN system. There was also consensus on the fact that the study had been carried out in an unrealistic time-frame, far inadequate to the stated objectives.

This, along with the considerable investment of senior staff time and other resources in the process, had generated strong frustration among organizations, both with the process through which the study had been carried out, and with its results.

Action

The Committee:

  • Invited organizations to provide the CEB Secretariat with information and documentation on their management reforms, for posting on the HLCM website.
  • Invited organizations to nominate representatives in the working group for the evaluation of a new ERP system.
  • Asked the UN to provide an update on the General Assembly’s discussion of the study on Governance and Oversight at the next HLCM session.