UN - United Nations

11/19/2019 | Press release | Distributed by Public on 11/19/2019 12:53

Unprecedented Number of Budget-Related Questions to Secretariat Causing Harmful Delays to Fifth Committee’s Work, Chairman Warns

With less than 16 working days until the scheduled 13 December close of the main part of its seventy-fourth session, the Chairman of the Fifth Committee (Administrative and Budget) today warned Member States that the skyrocketing number of budget questions directed towards Secretariat officials is dangerously delaying the Committee's work.

Chairman Andreas Mavroyiannis (Cyprus) said that more than 1,000 questions on the upcoming 2020 budget, the Organization's first annual budget since 1973, had been lodged with Secretariat officials by 15 November. In addition, over 200 additional questions on non-budget items have been filed.

'We should be aware that we are contributing to a detrimental vicious circle, whereby the increasing number of questions causes inevitable delays in the response from the Secretariat,' Mr. Mayroyiannis said. The Secretariat is then unable to make timely replies to pending questions of the Advisory Committee on Administrative and Budgetary Questions (ACABQ), which then faces delays in giving Fifth Committee delegates the crucial Advisory Committee reports they need for timely decisions, he said. 'I believe this is reason enough for the Committee to reflect on and identify viable approaches to its working methods,' he added.

Though Secretariat officials expected more questions with the Organization's shift to an annual budget in 2020, Mr. Mavroyiannis said twice the number of budget questions have been submitted in 2019, compared to the previous preparation period for the 2018-2019 biennial budget. The 1,000-plus questions submitted this year exclude special political missions and special subjects, he said. Member States have the sovereign right to request written responses and it is a long-established Fifth Committee practice. Yet, he noted: '… we should all be alarmed by the unprecedented high number of questions submitted during the current session.'

Also today, the observer for the State of Palestine, speaking on behalf of the 'Group of 77' developing countries and China, welcomed the Qatar Government's decision to carry the extra costs needed to prepare for the upcoming Fifth United Nations Conference on the Least Developed Countries in 2021.

Secretariat officials laid out the details of Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC) resolution 2019/3 titled 'Programme of Action for the Least Developed Countries for the Decade 2011-2020,' which indicates no additional costs are necessary to stage the conference as Qatar, the host country, will defray the expenses.

In December 2018, the General Assembly adopted resolution 73/242 on the 'Follow-up to the Fourth United Nations Conference on the Least Developed Countries'. The resolution calls for additional action to financially support the development of least developed countries so they can meet persistent challenges, such as infrastructure gaps, debt, climate change and disaster risks.

Chandramouli Ramanathan, United Nations Controller and Assistant Secretary-General for Programme Planning, Finance and Budget in the Department of Management Strategy, Policy and Compliance, introduced the Secretary-General's report titled 'Revised estimates resulting from resolutions and decisions adopted by Economic and Social Council at its 2019 session' (document A/74/347). The report details information about Council resolution 2019/3 on the Programme of Action for the Least Developed Countries for the Decade 2011-2020 as well as resolution 2019/32 on the Ad Hoc Advisory Group on Haiti. This latter resolution indicates the $44,900 impact on the budget would be borne by overall resources available under section 9, Economic and social affairs, of the proposed programme budget for 2020, Mr. Ramanathan said.

The Group of 77 also welcomes the Council resolution extending the mandate of the Ad Hoc Advisory Group on Haiti until the end of the 2020 session and providing the necessary $44,900, he said. Through decision 2004/322 of 11 November 2004, the Council reactivated the Ad Hoc Advisory Group on Haiti, which aims to provide advice on the country's long-term development strategy.

Julia Maciel, Vice-Chair of the Advisory Committee on Administrative and Budgetary Questions (ACABQ), introduced that body's related report (document A/74/7/Add.12) on the two Council resolutions.

In other business, the Fifth Committee recommended to the Assembly the appointment of Mohamed Mahmoud Ould El Ghaouth (Mauritania) as a member of the Committee on Contributions, for a three-year term beginning 1 January 2020.

The Fifth Committee also wrapped its consideration of its agenda item titled 'Administration of justice at the United Nations,' as no Member State commented today on a 12 November 2019 Assembly President letter (document A/C.5/74/10) sent to the Fifth Committee Chair.

The Fifth Committee will meet again at 10 a.m. Monday, 25 November, to discuss several issues, including financial implications related to the United Nations Joint Staff Pension Board; the strategic heritage plan of the United Nations Office at Geneva; and ongoing construction projects at the Nairobi office.