UNITED NATIONS. REPORT BY SECRETARY GENERAL BAN WAS NOT ACTUALLY HIS. AN OPEN REBUKE BY ASSEMBLY BUDGETARY COMMITTEE TO SECRETARY GENERAL. OUTSIDE CONSULTANTS CHARGED $1.8 MILLION ON REJECTED REPORT.

 

15 MAY 2009

REPORT BY SECRETARY GENERAL BAN WAS NOT ACTUALLY HIS. AN OPEN REBUKE BY ASSEMBLY BUDGETARY COMMITTEE TO SECRETARY GENERAL. OUTSIDE CONSULTANTS CHARGED $1.8 MILLION ON REJECTED REPORT.

Since taking over in 2007, Secretary General Ban Ki-moon has been seeking to announce a series of "First" accomplishments. The problem was that they were not really "firsts;" only he believed what he had been told by those around him who were themselves new to the system or "polishers" seeking to please.

Now there IS a real first. The usually bland language of the General Assembly Budgetary and Finance (Fifth) Committee bluntly turned down a report by the Secretary General. His proposed plans for efficiency and accountability were not good enough; indeed they were counterproductive and would result in the opposite, the Committee declared. Furthermore, the Secretary General was unduly exceeding his authority, trying to seize what is beyond his scope while being unable to cope with his own responsibilities. He was explicitly notified to "REFRAIN" from meddling with the roles and responsibilities of U.N. bodies that are supposed to scrutinize the Secretariat's performance. It requested him to submit "clear and specific" measures, including "timely and reliable information on results achieved and measures used" -- including those aiming to improve performance.

The expert Advisory Committee on Administrative and Budgetary Questions, whose members are voted by the Assembly, ironically noted that the report of the Secretary General was not actually his; it was outsourced to a private firm that charged $1.8 million. The Advisory Committee therefore expressed "concern that the expertise available within the U.N. Secretariat was not solicited."

Except for the repetition of trendy technical language, the report was considered very inadequate. The only new suggestion was a rehash of old ones like forming a "Working Group" (what a novel idea!) on Results (a Ban Ki-moon overused word with no visible action to back it up). It also suggested a "pilot project" (again, very novel indeed!) to establish and communicate standards and guidelines for risk management (for that you pay $1.8 million?!). Despite linguistic acrobatics, the Advisory Committee noted "lack of clarity in the definition of accountability." As to proposed structural changes, they should be "discussed further" as the efforts displayed by Mr. Ban were too weak to be satisfactory. It sought "better presentation."

There was a general feeling that the current Secretary General was not paying adequate attention to his major task of administering the Secretariat while he was attempting to bypass the supervisory role of member states. The reports (produced in full in the next headline) reflect loss of patience, if not loss of confidence. They should be a wake-up call, if anybody is indeed on the switch.