Statement by Mrs. Eileen Merritt, United States Advisor to the 64th General Assembly, on Agenda Item 129: Reports of the UN Board of Auditors, Before the Fifth Committee of the United Nations General Assembly

Mrs. Eileen Merritt, United States Advisor to the 64th General Assembly
New York, NY
October 7, 2009


Thank you, Mr. Chairman.

The United States thanks the Chairman of the Board of Auditors, Mr. Imram Vankar, and his colleagues from France and China for preparing these reports and presenting them to this Committee. I would also like to extend thanks to all of the auditors who worked long and hard doing the audits that are so important for this Organization; their efforts are greatly appreciated. Lastly, I thank the Chairman of the ACABQ for introducing her Committee’s report on the Board’s work and the representatives of the Secretariat for presenting other relevant documents.

Based on our initial reading of the reports on UNHCR and the Implementation of Recommendations, we generally support the conclusions made by the auditors as well as the ACABQ and believe this Committee should approve the reports.
Let me now turn to specifics on the individual reports.
Mr. Chairman on the Report on UN High Commissioner for Refugees (A/64/5/Add.5)

  • We were pleased overall, to see that the strong donor support for UNHCR and higher contribution levels in 2008 resulted in a funding level of 101 percent of the Annual Program Fund. This is a significant improvement from just two years ago, when the funding level was only 84 percent. 
  • On the other hand, we note with disappointment that the Board of Auditors has issued a qualified opinion for UNHCR’s financial statements for 2008, resulting primarily from the unacceptably low receipts of audit certificates from implementing partners. Because these certificates were not available, the auditors were not able to validate a significant portion of UNHCR expenditures. This is a significant deficiency. The ACABQ urges UNHCR to take “practical measures” to address the issue, and we would like to know what measures are being taken.
  • We also note with concern the Board’s conclusion that UNHCR has made only “limited progress” in implementing International Public Sector Accounting Standards, apparently because the agency has not devoted the required resources to this important project. Consequently, we would like to receive an update from UNHCR on efforts to correct this and get IPSAS on track.
  • Other findings that concerned us were that OIOS had not completed all of its planned assignments in 2008, nor did it have a full complement of auditors in UNHCR for much of the year. As we have seen similar deficiencies in other areas audited by OIOS, we would like to know specifically what has been done to reverse this.

Mr. Chairman on the Report on Implementation of Recommendations (A/64/98)

  • This report provides information to Member States about the status of audit recommendations approved previously by the General Assembly. With it, we can see how much has been done and how much remains; it also provides clues about when organizations may not view implementation as seriously as they should.
  • We note from the report that even though the number of recommendations made by the Board of Auditors declined by 22 percent from the previous biennium, the implementation rate for this reduced number of recommendations also fell, from 52 percent to 47 percent. In looking at the report’s details, we did not notice any egregious examples of recommendations that were not implemented. Still, we would appreciate hearing from the Board of Auditors if there is anything that Member States could do to encourage better implementation.

In conclusion, we would like to reiterate that effective oversight such as that performed by the Board of Auditors can only make UN activities stronger: recovered resources reused; inefficient practices terminated; and culpable officials held accountable. For these reasons, we appreciate the efforts of the Board of Auditors and we call on UN managers to implement the Board’s recommendations expeditiously.
On these and other issues, we look forward to a frank exchange of views and we pledge our cooperation for an efficient yet careful consideration of the auditors’ findings and recommendations.
Thank you, Mr. Chairman.


PRN: 2009/202