08.02.11 Accountability in the United Nations
NUPI-notat 785 | 46 sider.
Som den viktigste internasjonale organisasjonen, er det avgjørende at FN er effektiv som organisasjon og at medlemsstatene kan være sikre på at ressursene de bidrar med blir brukt som intendert. FNs forvaltningsansvar, eller ”accountability”, står derfor sentralt i pågående debatter om reform av FN-systemet. Denne studien analyserer rollen og effektiviteten til de av FNs organer som eksplisitt har som mandat å sikre slik ”accountability” i FN-systemet.
Studien er finansiert av Utenriksdepartementet.
This report presents the key findings from a study of the role and functioning of the Board of Auditors (BoA), the Office of Internal Oversight Services (OIOS) and the Joint Inspection Unit (JIU). It is based on assessment of central policy documents and research papers as well as in-depth interviews with key representatives from these organizations and other stakeholders. The report analyses the functioning, mandate and perceived effectiveness of each of these three core organizations.
The findings can be summarized as follows:
The Board of Auditors is mandated to exercise an auditing function of all accounts in the UN system, and to report to the General Assembly through the ACABQ. The Board is an external oversight body, and selects which cases or financial records to examine, independently of the Secretary-General. It is generally seen as functioning well, although questions are raised about whether its mandate is adequately adjusted to the challenges of the UN organization. Respondents indicated that the Board focuses more on process accountability than on performance accountability, and that evolving efforts to introduce performance accountability within the Secretariat could be better supported if the BoA could develop and use common standards.
The Office of Internal Oversight Services (OIOS) is an internal oversight body, ‘operationally independent’ under the authority of the SG. It is mandated to perform monitoring, internal audits, inspections, investigations and evaluations, and can initiate, carry out and report incidents that it considers to fall within its purview. It exists to enhance monitoring and evaluation within the Secretariat and to support the SG as Chief Administrative Officer for internal oversight of the Secretariat and the UN regular budget. The Office is generally viewed as delivering high-quality reports, but, owing to strained relations with the Secretariat, there is a lack of follow-up and sustained attention to its recommendations. For example, OIOS work on techniques for risk assessment, to form part of more comprehensive management reform, has not been fully implemented. The tensions displayed between the SG and USG Ahlenius over the proper role of the Office indicate an unresolved issue over the degree of its operational independence from the SG.
The Joint Inspection Unit (JIU) is an external oversight body that answers to the General Assembly. It is made up of eleven inspectors who serve in personal capacities and who are expected to have special experience in administrative and financial matters. The JIU is mandated to perform inspections and evaluations, and is charged with helping to improve management and coordination of those UN organizations that have accepted its purview. The Unit is seen by many Western countries as a tool for the G 77. Whether a result of this interpretation or not, reports from the JIU are typically presented as ‘for information’, instead of receiving proper treatment and follow-up in relevant UN bodies. The Unit is poorly resourced, without the capacity to fill its mandate effectively. Not adhering to criteria like merits and qualifications in appointing JIU inspectors is also seen as problematic.
Overall, the report finds that the UN Secretariat is currently subject to two forms of accountability. First, there is process accountability, or ‘compliance’, which focuses on how an organization or a bureaucracy achieves something rather than on what is actually accomplished. Process accountability involves such traditional conceptions of accountability as adhering to rules and regulations, including principles of due process. Second, there is performance accountability, which is of more recent vintage and focuses not on the ‘how’ but on the ‘what’: results, outputs and outcomes. While some progress has been made in introducing performance accountability within the UN Secretariat, serious administrative and political impediments remain. For performance accountability to work, there must be delegation of authority, adequate measures of outputs, and tools in place to deal with managers and organizational units that are performing below agreed targets. Today, such a system is not in place, and measures of performance accountability have been added onto, rather than replacing, more traditional measures of process accountability. This creates an exceedingly complex web of rules and regulations for doing things, all the while efforts are being undertaken – somewhat half-heartedly – to establish new mechanisms for performance accountability. This is further exacerbated by a pervasive tendency toward politicization, among member states and by UN management alike.
An effective system for accountability depends on mutual trust, effective cooperation, common objectives, reliable measurements, and associated sanctions and rewards. Lack of trust between member states, between member states and the Secretariat, and also as regards public perceptions within the Secretariat itself, results in a system that may look good on paper, but does not work well in practice. Excessive control and micromanagement and political games do not sit well with delegation of authority and greater powers for the SG and the Secretariat – which are required for the implementation of performance accountability.
It was beyond the Terms of Reference of this study to undertake a comprehensive review of the technical aspects of the UN’s accountability mechanisms. The report focuses on institutional aspects – mandates, resources, coordination issues, etc.
Summary of main recommendations:
- Make the effective implementation of results-based management, including the development of performance indicators, a central concern for ongoing reform efforts.
- Consider establishing an independent ad-hoc commission of experts on accountability and on the UN system, to review mandates and current practice, and to suggest practical reform measures.
- In order to improve overall effectiveness as an operational actor as well as strengthening overall accountability, call for synchronizing the UN’s programme cycle with its budget cycle.
- Consider allying with like-minded countries with a strong interest in accountability, such as the UK, in initiating a review of accountability mechanisms of and inside peacekeeping missions.
- Assess the possibility of making the status and functioning of the OIOS a more central area for UN reform, especially as regards performance issues, possibly in collaboration with the IAAC.
- Support the ongoing work of the BoA to establish a common UN standard for audits.
- Take small steps with and through like-minded states to reduce the burden on reporting and coordination, and to increase the effectiveness of more genuine accountability measures in terms of being held responsible for results, rather than acting in conformity with a myriad of rules and regulations.
- Consider calling for increased funding for the JIU if a more robust mechanism can be established to ensure high-quality reports, and to hold the JIU accountable for the quality of its work, through, inter alia, requiring inter-governmental bodies of the UN to review and discuss JIU reports.
- Consider calling for the mandate of the BoA to include suggested sanctions in its reporting procedures and recommendations.