Ambassador Chris Lu
U.S. Representative for UN Management and Reform
New York, New York
August 29, 2022
Thank you, Madame President, for your tireless leadership on this important issue.
I have the honor of delivering this statement on behalf of the following countries, Australia, Austria, Belgium, Bulgaria, Canada, Czech Republic, Denmark, EU as a donor, Finland, France, Germany, Hungary, Iceland, Ireland, Israel, Japan, Republic of Moldova, Kingdom of the Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway, Republic of Korea, Sweden, Switzerland, Türkiye, Ukraine, United Kingdom, and my own country, the United States of America.
There has never been a more critical moment to ensure that the UN system’s governance and oversight functions are strong, transparent, effective, and based on the most robust international best practices. In a world struggling to manage multiple crises with ever limited resources, we cannot afford to waste a single dollar or Euro committed to delivering results for the most vulnerable and to leave no one behind.
Among the central roles of a governing body is to help ensure effective oversight of an organization and its performance.
Strong oversight directly supports trust and partnership and can provide the right incentives for increased support, as appropriate. However, increased funding requests demand ever stronger oversight mechanisms and the will to administer them responsibly to maintain that trust and partnership.
Considering what has recently transpired within UNOPS, we believe this is an opportune moment to discuss and critically examine whether we are sufficiently executing our oversight responsibilities and functions.
We believe oversight must be an ongoing two-way conversation – one between organizations, such as UNDP, UNFPA, and UNOPS, and their respective governing bodies. We commit to strengthening this conversation in the following ways:
- By engaging with agency management and internal oversight functions on what more can be done to strengthen oversight, accountability, and transparency at every level of the organization and throughout the chain of program delivery;
- By examining whether our joint efforts to strengthen governance are based on international best practices and standards to support the UN’s integrity as a development and humanitarian assistance partner;
- By creating and maintaining, as appropriate, a sustainable channel of independent communication
- between UN system and agency specific oversight offices and stakeholders in addition to traditional Executive Board engagement with management on these issues;
- By executing our oversight function in a more proactive and thorough manner, to ensure agencies find a reliable and diligent partner in their Executive Board in helping to mitigate against risks;
- By taking steps to assure that the Executive Board serves the best interests and expectations of program beneficiaries, agency staff, and taxpayers.
Oversight is a continuous and ongoing process, and it demands dynamic discussion and continuous improvement to ensure responsiveness and adaptation to emerging and real-time circumstances.
We appreciate management efforts to facilitate direct channels of communication between the audit and investigation offices and the Executive Board. We look to your support for similar future engagements. We also express our sincere gratitude to the agencies for a quick response to the Executive Board’s Annual Session decision, requesting a self-assessment of your internal audit and investigation functions.
Reading these assessments, a few common trends emerge:
- First, some of the audit and investigation services of the NY-based funds and programs are structurally underfunded and overworked, forcing the services to fulfil their roles in a reactive, rather than a proactive manner. This is a serious concern.
- Second, regarding access to documentation and information needed for audits and investigations, we are pleased to know that these offices have full access to the documents and individuals required to conduct their work. At the same time, there are certain instances where access has been limited. This can seriously hamper the effectiveness of the services and restricts their independence. We call on Executive Directors to provide access as requested by the respective audit offices.
- Finally, we are deeply concerned by the reported interference by UNOPS management in the audit and investigation activities of IAIG. Management interference in the work of IAIG and restrictions and conditions on funding are completely unacceptable. It goes straight to the core of IAIG’s independence. It confirms that serious reforms and a chance in organizational culture are needed, urgently.
There is a clear need for continued discussions with and within the Executive Board on how we can keep strengthening our oversight over the coming year. In this regard we call on UNDP, UNFPA, and UNOPS and the Executive Board to:
- Establish a sustainable and independent channel of communication between the Executive Board and key oversight stakeholders and entities to supplement management engagement; and
- Ensure that the annual calendar regularly includes robust and appropriate discussion on oversight matters.
To close, we look forward to thinking more creatively, proactively, and systematically about what we can do together to strengthen internal controls and oversight. We expect agencies to support the Executive Board in making any further adjustments deemed appropriate and welcome updates from agency leadership in this regard. Together, we hope our work will help ensure that agency partnerships, including with the Executive Board, are grounded in the trust and transparency required to deliver timely, effective, credible, and sustainable results at all levels.