Statement by United States Senior Advisor Joseph Melrose, on Agenda Item 140 "Annual Report of the Office of Internal Oversight Services", and Agenda Item 130 "Annual Report of the Independent Audit Committee", and Agenda Item 141 "Review of Implementation of General Assembly Resolutions 48/218B, 54/244, 59/272", in the Fifth Committee of the United Nations General Assembly

Joseph Melrose, United States Senior Advisor
New York, NY
October 7, 2009




AS DELIVERED

Thank you, Mr. Chairman.

The United States would like to thank Under Secretary-General Inga-Britt Ahlenius for her presentation of the annual report on the work of the Office of Internal Oversight Services (OIOS). We also thank the Chairman of the Independent Audit Advisory Committee, Mr. David Walker, for introducing his Committee’s second annual report to the Fifth Committee.

The United States Government considers the work of the Office of Internal Oversight Services to be of key importance to the ongoing viability and effectiveness of the United Nations. The Office has played and will continue to play an important role in enhancing the accountability and effectiveness of the United Nations by exercising appropriate internal oversight, by promoting responsible use of resources and by identifying and reporting instances of waste, fraud and mismanagement. Indeed, we continue to believe that the creation of the Office of Internal Oversight Services in 1994 was one of the most important UN management reform measures in the last 25 years.

We, therefore, welcome this latest five-year review as an opportunity to join our colleagues in discussing measures we can take to strengthen OIOS in order to maintain and improve its effectiveness. For this latest five-year review, we are pleased to have the views of the Internal Audit Advisory Committee which in 2005 Member States decided to create to help us grapple with technical, management, and often difficult policy issues associated with internal oversight.

Let me turn now to specific aspects of the items before us.

OIOS Annual Report and related comments of the Secretary-General (A/64/326)

The latest OIOS annual report underscores why the work of OIOS remains so crucial to the ongoing effective and accountable functioning of the UN. The United States commends OIOS for identifying $49 million in recommended savings, recoveries, efficiency gains, and other improvements in UN operations during the past year and for actually recovering $32 million from implementation of previous recommendations. We urge the Secretary General to take the appropriate action to realize the savings recommended by OIOS but not yet recovered.

The United States believes the operational independence of OIOS is crucial to its effective functioning, and we want OIOS to have sufficient resources to perform its core functions, free from any real or perceived influence by the very bodies or officials it is intended to oversee. In this regard, we strongly agree with the preface to the OIOS statement that “a well-performing organization rests upon two main pillars:

(a) strong management, with responsibilities outlined in an accountability framework, and
(b) operationally independent oversight.”

The resolution that created OIOS, Resolution 48/218B, stipulated this operational independence and provided that the Secretary General shall ensure that reports of the OIOS are made available to the General Assembly as submitted by OIOS. Subsequently, questions arose as to whether and to what extent Member States should receive such reports. These questions were definitively resolved with the adoption of Resolution 59/272. That resolution clarifies that Member States shall have access to all OIOS reports. We believe that this measure strengthened OIOS and reinforced the principles of independent and transparent internal oversight by allowing Member States to more fully and effectively exercise their fiduciary responsibility to oversee the activities and operations of the Organization.

Let me now take a moment to highlight a few other areas in the annual report that caught our attention:

· It is clear from its annual report that OIOS activities in the areas of internal audit, monitoring, inspection, evaluation and investigation have been extensive. OIOS’ production during the period from July 1, 2008 through June 30, 2009 of 390 oversight reports to program managers, 12 reports to the General Assembly, and 59 closure reports, containing 1,871 separate recommendations represents a significant output designed to improve the work of the Organization.

· While we were pleased to learn that OIOS has worked hard to conduct risk assessments in collaboration with program managers as a basis for developing its audit plans, we have frankly been disappointed to see frequent references in Board of Auditors and other reports that OIOS has consistently not been able to complete its audit plans on time. One of the reasons, it appears, is that a large number of authorized audit posts have been vacant for long periods. We are concerned about this and would like to get an update on OIOS efforts to reverse these problems.

· The Secretary-General’s comments on the OIOS annual report seem both comprehensive and thoughtful, intended to provide updated information or to clarify differences the Secretary General has with the findings and recommendations of OIOS. At the same time, we are concerned with what we perceive to be the defensive, if not at times adversarial, tone of some of the comments. While we would look forward to hearing from both sides on these specific matters, in the meantime, we strongly encourage both parties to seek to develop more cooperative and effective relationships.

IAAC Annual Report (A/64/288)

I would now like to turn briefly to the second annual report of the Independent Audit Advisory Committee.

Overall, the report provides Member States with much food for thought about the practice of internal oversight in the UN. We look forward to discussing elements of the report in depth during our session. At his time, my delegation would comment on just a few of the items raised by the Committee.

  • As we mentioned earlier, operational independence is of paramount importance to effective and credible internal oversight. We were thus pleased to see the IAAC provide very specific recommendations for ensuring this independence for OIOS and look forward to discussing them with our colleagues.
  • We note with concern the Committee’s comments on the subject of OIOS’ treatment of management’s comments in audit reports and their possible impact on the legitimacy of critical findings and recommendations. We believe there is merit to those recommendations and look forward to discussing them with all of the concerned parties.
  • As previously mentioned, confirming Member States’ access to OIOS reports five years ago was a significant step in making the United Nations a more transparent and accountable institution. We and other countries have regularly used this access to be better informed and therefore better equipped to exercise our fiduciary responsibilities in overseeing the activities and operations of the Organization in order to ensure that the resources we provide are used effectively. We appreciate the issues raised by IAAC about this and we look forward to discussing how to maintain and enhance the transparency that has been achieved.
  • Finally, we are dismayed by the continuing vacancies in OIOS – particularly at the D2 level. Unfortunately, the situation continues. We urge the Secretary General to work with OIOS to find a way to move forward in an expeditious manner on the D2 and other vacancies, consistent with the operational independence of OIOS, as endorsed by the General Assembly.


In conclusion, the United States would like to thank both OIOS and the IAAC for their exemplary service to the cause of improved transparency, accountability, and effectiveness in the United Nations.

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PRN: 2009/207