The Joint Inspection Unit at the opening of the Vienna workshop on knowledge management
On 21 March 2018, Inspector Petru Dumitriu, coordinator of the JIU report on Knowledge Management in the United Nations system (JIU/REP/2016/10) made a key-note intervention, by skype, at the opening of the workshop organized by the Knowledge for Development Partnership in Vienna. The workshop focussed on knowledge management (KM) in international organisations, with the participation of Vienna-based international organisations and representatives of the diplomatic corps. Inspector Petru Dumitriu presented the main conclusions that resulted from the JIU report, the lesson learned and the importance of knowledge as an asset of the United Nations in the context of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. Knowledge for Development Partnership is a public-private initiative that was launched on the occasion of the Knowledge for Development: Global Partnership Conference co-hosted by JIU in Geneva (3-4 April 2017).
Inspector Prom Jackson at Workshop for Member States on the Revised UNICEF Evaluation Policy
Inspector Sukai Prom-Jackson was invited by the UNICEF Evaluation Office (NY) to a Workshop for Member States on the Revised UNICEF Evaluation Policy. As a member of an expert panel including Susanne Frueh, Chair of UNEG and Director of UNECSO Internal Oversight Service and Deborah Rugg, Executive Director of Claremont Evaluation Center New York. Inspector Prom Jackson presented on Creating a dynamic, responsive and responsible evaluation system through a forward looking evaluation policy. Her presentation drew on JIU studies and reports of the past 5 years including the analysis of the evaluation function in the UN system, lessons from the implementation of the GA policy on Independent System-wide evaluation of operational activities for development, results-based management in the UN system. The findings from these reports highlight current changes and challenges and implications for transformations needed in the evaluation function of the UN System to enhance its relevance, efficiency, effectiveness, impact and sustainability and its value for the 2030 Agenda.
The 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development provides unique momentum for a renewed engagement of the private sector. The report identified several ways of improving the existing arrangements for cooperation with the private sector as to reflect the holistic, integrative and universal approach of the 2030 Agenda. The report looks into the supporting framework provided by the United Nations system to facilitate the contribution of the private sector with regard to several aspects: legal, financial, administrative, operational and motivational. The report favours system-wide solutions that will fuel permanent and reliable forms of inter-agency interaction, resource pooling and knowledge sharing.
The report addresses 12 recommendations. The General Assembly was recommended to consider an update of the “Guidelines on a Principle-based Approach to the Cooperation between the United Nations and the Business Sector” and a revision of the current mandate of the Global Compact. The Economic and Social Council should invite the Executive Secretaries of the regional economic commissions to initiate and institutionalize a systematic and regular consultative dialogue with the private sector.
One recommendation is addressed to the Secretary-General is his capacity as head of the United Nations Secretariat, within his current reform initiatives: to streamline and clarify the division of labour and the specific lines of responsibility and accountability within various departments of the Secretariat, as to provide advice on, guide and facilitate partnerships.
Other recommendations fall also within the prerogatives of the Secretary-General, but their implementation will have system-wide implications and all the United Nations organisations should be consulted: i) elaboration of a set of rules and operational guidelines designed to match the specific needs of the partnerships with private sector entities, allowing for greater flexibility, simplification of procedures and speed in reaction; ii) coordination of a unique, system-wide package of information about the opportunities for partnerships offered to the private sector by the Sustainable Development Goals; iii) a multi-stakeholder mechanism of consultations and solution-seeking at the country level, steered by the Resident Coordinator, in which the businesses are involved from the beginning in the design of partnerships in support of the 2030 Agenda; iv) coordination of the existing innovation initiatives building on existing and ongoing efforts by the United Nations Innovation Network; v) enhancing the role and responsibilities of the Private Sector Focal Points Network with regard to sharing knowledge and promoting good practices.
One of the most reformative recommendations concerns the setting of a system-wide vetting system based on a common database on the profiles and performance of the businesses that are involved in partnerships with the United Nations and a minimum set of common standard procedures and safeguards for an efficient and flexible due diligence process.
The United Nations System Staff College Knowledge Centre for Sustainable Development, in cooperation with the International Trade Centre, is expected to host a system-wide online platform to facilitate communication with micro, small and medium-sized enterprises.
The rise in voluntary contributions, most of which is specified (or earmarked), over the past two decades has been dramatic. In the United Nations system, it amounted to about 70 per cent of total revenue in 2015. Most donors demand detailed individual reports, financial and programmatic, on the activities undertaken utilizing their earmarked contributions. This reporting is in addition to the organization’s corporate reporting to its governing bodies. Donors stipulate specific requirements that vary significantly in terms of format, detail and periodicity, resulting in a significant rise in individual donor reports. The number of reports on an annual basis often runs into hundreds and even thousands for many organizations. In addition, there has been an increase of informal or ‘soft’ reporting since many donors request additional information, supporting documentation, briefings, email updates or field visits. Providing a multitude of individual reports and maintaining all the underlying systems necessary for producing these reports come with additional transaction costs.
The JIU report identifies ways to improve donor reporting, better address donor needs and requirements, and enhance the standing of the United Nations system as a responsive and valuable partner. It explores possibilities for standardization and streamlining, including developing a common reporting template. The report contains seven formal recommendations, two of which are addressed to the governing bodies and five to the executive heads. It also includes 15 informal or “soft” recommendations as additional suggestions to both the organizations and the donors for effecting improvements.
The report recommends, inter alia, that organizations should engage with donors in a dialogue at the strategic level in line with Secretary-General’s proposal for a “Funding Compact”. In the spirit of partnership, views of both organizations and donors should be taken into account, notably donors’ expectations for greater effectiveness, transparency and accountability on system-wide results. One of the critical elements of the dialogue should be the adoption of donor reporting templates and accommodating the common information needs, demands and requirements of donors and the regulatory frameworks and capacities of the organizations. During the negotiation for individual contributions, organizations and donors should agree in the outset on the needs and demands, their feasibility and the attendant resource implications, including for ad hoc information and reporting requests. All relevant offices, notably finance and legal, should be consulted in a timely manner to ensure compliance with rules, regulations and policies. Appropriate guidance and training on donor reporting, periodically updated in line with changing donor needs, will foster compliance with the organization’s rules and provisions, and assure uniformity of reporting conditions accepted across the organization and hence coherence of reporting. Executive heads should encourage better access to, and dissemination of, information concerning donor reporting and maintain a corporate repository for all contribution agreements and donor reports. Defining a minimum threshold for contributions below which only standard reporting would be provided, together with methodologies for calculating reporting costs, is suggested. Organizations should ensure that their policies for the management of voluntary contributions are adequate, that they possess robust project management systems, and that their ERP and other management information systems possess the necessary functionalities for such work. The risks related to donor reporting need to be mitigated, and quality assurance processes for donor reports should be strengthened.
Organizations should treat reporting to donors as an effective tool for resource mobilization and put in place measures for strengthening partnerships so that reporting is perceived as a continuous process of building lasting relationships with partners. Robust and adequate oversight functions and reports have the potential to enhance donor confidence and reduce assurance needs that donors seek from organizations through project-specific, detailed and comprehensive reports.
Welcome to the new JIU website
Welcome to the revamped website of the Joint Inspection Unit of the United Nations system, launched in February 2018. The site provides our visitors with information about the Unit and its contribution to the United Nations system and keeps them informed about the release of the reports and notes published by the Inspectors. This website also includes more examples of the work conducted by the JIU, clustered by themes such as management and administration, human resources, procurement, RBM, oversight etc. The website is released in English and French, with other official languages being shortly added to maintain access to all JIU products in the six official languages of the United Nations. Your feedback is welcomed at email@example.com.
The Joint Inspection Unit (JIU) has recently issued a report on air travel policies in the United Nations System that reviewed and assessed relevant air travel regulations, policies and practices and examined their implementation across the United Nations system organizations. The report was undertaken following calls from the General Assembly to improve the management of air travel and the effective and efficient use of air travel resources, as a matter of urgency. The report aims to enhance the efficiency and effectiveness of travel management among JIU participating organizations, increase accountability and transparency for managers who approve travel, increase coordination and cooperation among United Nations system organizations and promote harmonization of procedures and processes, where appropriate, by identifying good practices and lessons learned. The United Nations system is one of the largest consumers of air travel services among international organizations, due to the global presence of its offices and programmes. Travel expenditure is, not unexpectedly, one of the largest budget components, after staff costs and has increased over the past decade, despite efforts to reduce costs and make more use of technology tools such as video conferencing. On the basis of data provided by 24 United Nations system organizations, the overall expenditure on air travel and travel-related expenses totaled approximately $4 billion for the four-year period from 2012 to 2015. This figure does not include travel expenditure incurred by peacekeeping operations, political missions and the organizations that did not respond to the JIU’s request for information. In a period of increasing austerity, there is a clear justification for carefully assessing air travel regulations, rules and policies. Reviewing the standards of accommodation that each entity is currently applying for air travel, for example, provides a basis for determining whether and how greater cost effectiveness and efficiency can be achieved through changes in policy and practices that are being successfully applied in some other organizations. The report contains nine formal recommendations. Three of which are addressed to the executive heads and six to the legislative body of the participating organization, including the General Assembly. These recommendations include elimination of first-class travel, increasing the investment in communications technology as an alternative to travel, enhancing accountability in the management of air travel, strengthening the planning, monitoring and budget oversight for air travel and other practical measures to reduce the expenditure on air travel.
Review of Management and Administration in the Universal Postal Union (UPU) (JIU/REP/2017/4)
The Joint Inspection Unit recently issued a report reviewing the management and administration of the Universal Postal Union (UPU). It articulates the highly complex environment in which the organization operates and the multiple challenges that it faces, mainly generated by economic and technological developments, fundamental market changes and an erosion of its financial base. During the past years the organization has undergone several reforms to secure its operational capacity and relevance in the postal market. The JIU review aims to support the UPU in adjusting to this evolving environment and in achieving its goals. The Inspector made 10 formal recommendations (six are addressed to member countries through the Council of Administration and four are addressed to the Director General of the International Bureau, the secretariat of the organization). These recommendations, complemented by a series of other suggestions (informal recommendations), are primarily intended to promote good governance, oversight and accountability and reinforce the management framework of the UPU, as well as to contribute to enhancing the financial sustainability of the organization. UPU has operated under a zero nominal growth budget for two decades with adverse effects on the organization’s operability. Specific areas, such as the ethics function or internal oversight, but also training of staff, have suffered from this situation. The review of the organization’s financial development over recent years confirmed these challenges. In this respect, the high volume of liabilities, mainly due to the organization’s Provident Scheme and after-service health insurance, is of particular concern. The review identifies several shortcomings in the internal management of the organization and calls for reviewing the frameworks of the management, institutional, and other committees and boards, including their working procedures, to ensure synergy and complementarity. Attention should also be given to the management of human resources, notably by finalizing a corporate HR strategy and by improving the reporting modalities on HR matters to member countries. The review makes a number of suggestions to improve the oversight framework of the organization, including a formal recommendation to study the feasibility of establishing an independent audit committee by drawing on similar structures in place in other United Nations specialized agencies. The Inspector will introduce the report at the next session of the Council of Administration which will take place in Bern during the week of October 23, 2017.
Donor-led Assessments of the United Nations System Organizations (JIU/REP/2017/2)
As extrabudgetary or voluntary contributions have become essential for most United Nations system organizations to pursue their mandates, donors are increasingly undertaking their own assessments of these entities and their programmes to ensure that their funds have been used efficiently, and for intended purposes and with the expected levels of accountability. These bilateral assessments have been proliferating in recent years, giving rise to expressions of concern from the management and oversight bodies. Many organizations view them as a challenge requiring them to devote resources and staff time; they also lead at times to duplication and overlap, despite the value perceived as inspiring introspection and reform. The report reviews the various approaches, arrangements and practices in place regarding donor-led assessments in the United Nations system, identifies areas of common challenges and concerns, and makes recommendations as appropriate. Ways should be explored to enhance donor confidence and their reliance on the oversight reports by further strengthening of the organizations’ oversight and evaluation functions and bridging the assurance needs of donors with the work performed by the existing oversight bodies. Equally, organizations should work closely with donors to increase the understanding of donors’ requirements, expectations and needs. This should include an effort to apply better reporting on results, and participation in initiatives such as the International Aid Transparency Initiative (IATI). The report calls for better sharing of donor assessments that would help to reduce the risk of overlap and duplication among them. It would also provide to the stakeholders concerned a broader evidence base for their assessments. The Multilateral Organization Performance Assessment Network (MOPAN) should evaluate its methodology to assess its rigour and utility in providing the expected levels of information and determine its effectiveness, in view of further reducing the degree of duplication and level of transaction costs. The report recommends establishing a central function for coordinating the multiplicity of assessments, including for managing the information provided to donors, ensuring consistency and tracking the follow-up action on assessment findings and recommendations. Such a measure will also allow for organizational learning and improvement. The report advocates initiating and sustaining a high-level dialogue with donors to determine shared priorities and define a multi-stakeholder assessment platform with a robust framework and methodology to reduce the need for additional bilateral assessments. The report contains six formal recommendations, three of them addressed to the legislative organs/governing bodies and three to the Executive Heads of the United Nations system organizations.