Delegates Question Resource Reductions, Staffing Changes as Fifth Committee Considers 2018 Budget Proposals for Assistance Mission in Afghanistan, Expert Panel on Mali

Further clarification was needed on resource cuts and staffing changes proposed for special political missions, the Fifth Committee (Administrative and Budgetary) heard today, as it took up the 2018 budget proposals for the United Nations Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA) and the Panel of Experts on Mali.

With increasingly complex directives and operations in unstable environments driven by transnational organized crime, drug trafficking and extremist activity, the missions, particularly those in Africa, required sufficient funding to effectively and efficiently carry out their mandates, stressed Márcio Burity (Angola), speaking on behalf of the African Group. 

The Group was interested in learning the rationale for some changes in the staffing of several of the missions, as well as the justification for moving staff from one location to another, he said, underscoring that quality and timely delivery of mandated activities must always be the overriding factor in determining the missions’ resource requirements and overall staffing structure.  The Group would also examine in detail issues related to vacancy management, procurement costs, information and communications technology, repairs and maintenance. 

Noting with concern the exponential increase over the past decade in the financial requirements of the special political missions — which now exceed $1 billion annually — the Group strongly supported the proposal to create a special and separate account for funding the missions that would operate on a 1 July to 30 June cycle.

The proposed resource requirements for UNAMA for 2018 were set at $140.4 million, a net decrease of $23.7 million from the previous year, said Bettina Tucci Bartsiotas, Assistant Secretary‑General and Controller of the United Nations, who introduced the Secretary‑General’s report on the matter (document A/72/371/Add 4). 

She said the overall reduction was due mainly to decreased requirements for military and police personnel, reflecting the disengagement of military and police advisers in the context of the Secretary‑General’s 2017 strategic review on UNAMA; the proposed net decrease of 291 positions; and lower operational costs, reflecting mainly the proposed reconfiguration of the Mission’s air fleet and decreased requirements for fuel consumption and for alteration and renovation projects.

Turning to the Secretary‑General’s report on the Panel of Experts on Mali (document A/72/371/Add 6), Ms. Bartsiotas noted that in September 2017 the Security Council established the Panel as part of a sanctions regime targeting actors derailing the peace process in that country.  The Panel’s estimated requirements for 2018 would total $1.3 million to pay for salaries and common staff costs for three positions — one P‑5, one P‑3 and one General Service (Other level) — as well as operational costs.  Its initial requirements for the 1 October to 31 December 2017 period were being funded under the authority granted to the Secretary‑General under paragraph 1(1) of General Assembly resolution 70/250 related to unforeseen and extraordinary expenses for the biennium 2016‑2017, she said.

Carlos Ruiz Massieu, Chair of the Advisory Committee on Administrative and Budgetary Questions, introduced that body’s corresponding reports (document A/72/Add.14 and A/72/Add.16).  He said the Advisory Committee recommended approval of the staffing resources requested for UNAMA for 2018, although it was not convinced that three additional posts were required for the Donor Coordination Section, given the existing resources to be deployed to that Section.  Regarding operational costs, the Advisory Committee recommended reductions in ground transportation, he said, adding that the Mission should build on its in‑house capacity and rely less on external consultations.  Turning to the Kuwait Joint Support Office, he said the Advisory Committee still questioned the validity of maintaining separate structures in Kuwait with distinct reporting lines and accountabilities.

On the Panel of Experts on Mali, the Advisory Committee recommended approval of the P‑3 and General Service (Other level) positions proposed to support the Panel, although it recommended against the P‑5 position, as no such positions were currently funded under special political missions to support home‑based missions under cluster II.  The Advisory Committee also recommended that vacancy rates of 50 per cent and 35 per cent be applied to the cost estimates for the P‑3 and General Service (Other Level) positions respectively.

The Fifth Committee will meet again at a date and time to be announced in the Journal.