ILO is a specialized agency of the United Nations

268th Session
Geneva, March 1997
Programme, Financial and Administrative Committee PFA


Other financial and general questions

Report of the Joint Inspection Unit on
"Accountability, management improvement and oversight in
the United Nations system"

1. In accordance with established procedures, reports of the Joint Inspection Unit (JIU) of the United Nations are submitted to the Governing Body when the comments of the Administrative Committee on Coordination (ACC) on the reports are available. The Office has contributed to the preparation of this JIU report. It reflects adequately the situation in the ILO as it was when the report was issued some two years ago.

2. The report provides a comprehensive review of accountability, management improvement and oversight activities within the United Nations system. It draws on the practices and experience of the individual agencies, and offers comparative data on the mosaic of their accountability, management improvements and oversight efforts.

3. Although the report recommends some key principles to be followed, it recognizes that there is no uniform model and that each organization must develop its own processes and perspectives to meet its own needs and circumstances. Most of the ideas put forward by the report are not new, but their thrust is certainly valid, for example, in relation to management development and training, career development programmes and performance management, etc. The majority of the suggestions and recommendations reflect current practices or are in line with the ongoing process of managing change in the ILO. The ACC comments on the JIU report, by and large, reflect the ILO's position on the subject-matter. Below are a few additional comments which further set out the Office's views on the individual recommendations or highlight more recent developments.

Recommendation 1: Establish a single focal point unit devoted to
strategic planning, performance management and accountability
and management improvement

4. This recommendation argues for a new central planning unit which would assume Office-wide oversight functions. In the ILO the major oversight functions, including strategic planning, management advisory services and evaluation, are centralized in the Bureau of Programming and Management. The Internal Audit Unit, although independent with direct access to the Director-General, is also operating within this Bureau. The financial, personnel and administrative controls are assumed by the Financial Services and Personnel Departments, and secured by regulations, rules and instructions which are subject to change when needs arise. The ILO's efforts in this field focus on devolving responsibility to line management, with standards for transparency and accountability.

5. The Monitoring, Evaluation and Reporting System (MERS) of ILO activities is being introduced Office-wide. It provides a uniform and effective framework for the planning of ILO programmes and projects, the monitoring of their implementation and the evaluation and reporting of their results.

Recommendation 2: Consider the balance and capacities of
internal audit, evaluation, management services, inspection
and investigation units and assess and improve their effectiveness

6. There are no observations made in the relevant section of the JIU report (paragraphs 14-52) of which the ILO management is not generally conscious, or which have not been addressed. For example, the Internal Audit Unit has independent appraisal capacity, direct access to the Director-General, full access to all data, and freedom of action. Management audits are receiving emphasis, but without eroding the importance of financial and compliance audits.

7. The question of the visibility of the work of internal audit services, raised in paragraphs 27 and 28 of the JIU report, and commented on by the ACC in paragraph 7 of its comments, was addressed by the Governing Body at its 267th Session (November 1996).(2) As a result of that discussion, consultations between the Director-General and the Officers of the Governing Body will take place prior to the appointment or the termination of the appointment of the Chief Internal Auditor. It was also decided that a report of the Chief Internal Auditor on significant findings, resulting from internal audit and investigation assignments undertaken, will be submitted each year to the Governing Body.

Recommendation 3: Integrated internal control systems, personal
accountability, financial liability and standards of staff conduct

8. In the field of financial management, a priority programme is the development of PC-based support systems to facilitate the delegation of financial authority to external offices and other departments at headquarters. In developing these systems and related procedures, emphasis is given to the assurance of internal controls while promoting effective and efficient operation. At its 267th Session (November 1996) the Governing Body approved amendments to the Financial Rules,(3) which harmonized procedures for the decentralization of financial authority to headquarters departments and external offices and clarified the responsibilities of officers to whom financial authority has been delegated and their relationship with the Treasurer and Financial Comptroller.

9. As regards the "standards of staff conduct", the ACC has recommended that the International Civil Service Commission (ICSC) should be responsible for drafting the standards, after consulting all concerned. In the Office's view the existing standards, as introduced in 1954 and re-issued in 1982, are still highly relevant for the most part. First it should be determined what aspects of the current standards are not deemed to be adequate before time and effort are devoted to changing them. If the standards are to be changed, the ILO would welcome a common-system discussion, rather than separate standards for each agency. In the meantime the Office intends to reissue the existing standards in the form of an ILO circular.

Recommendation 4: Establishment of a comprehensive
information system strategy

10. The ILO has an information systems strategy covering the period 1992-96. This strategy is being updated.

Recommendation 5: Strengthen management development
and training programmes

11. The Office recognizes the importance of human resources development. The continuous and vigorous initiatives to improve the level of management, as well as the technical, linguistic, information technology and personal skills of the staff, have been integrated into ILO reform efforts. External expertise has been brought into the ILO to develop a management development programme. Extensive consultations with line managers in 1995 formed the basis of the programme. Workshops for line managers were held throughout 1996 and new modules are currently being developed in collaboration with the Turin Centre. The programme is being designed so as to permit long-term and ongoing training and learning processes.

Recommendation 6: Encourage management, accountability and
oversight improvement efforts in the inter-agency bodies

12. This recommendation is fully supported. The Office will continue to participate in the work of such inter-agency bodies as the Inter-Agency Group of Representatives of Internal Audit Services and the Inter-Agency Working Group on Evaluation.

Recommendation 7: Improve sharing of information by external
oversight bodies on work programmes, findings and recommendations

13. This recommendation is fully supported.

Recommendation 8: Oversight governing bodies of the organizations
need to firmly and consistently assert their leadership role and insist
on accountability, performance, oversight and sound management systems
and provide clearer guidance to secretariats

14. Both the Governing Body and the International Labour Conference have prompted many such initiatives aimed at improving the relevance and effectiveness, and increasing the transparency and accountability, of the ILO's work. The Office recognizes and draws on the leadership and guidance of its executive bodies.

Recommendation 9: Annual report to the primary oversight body
on the issues discussed in the JIU report, utilizing the strategic
planning unit proposed in Recommendation 1

15. The current reporting arrangements on the implementation of the ILO's programme and budget require the preparation of a biennial report on ILO activities. This report is prepared under the responsibility of the Bureau of Programming and Management. In order to ensure that this report contains relevant and substantive information regarding the effects, impact, sustainability and efficiency of the ILO's work, every effort will be made to strengthen its evaluative character. Furthermore, the Governing Body receives regular reports evaluating selected programmes and activities, such as its technical cooperation activities. Following a request made recently in the Governing Body, a new review paper on the biennial programme implementation, assessing the current programme delivery, will be submitted to it in the last quarter of each biennium. The Governing Body has emphasized the need to include evaluative information in such a report.

16. Copies of the JIU report and the ACC comments are available for consultation.

Geneva, 12 February 1997.

1 JIU/REP/95/2. Part I: Overview and analysis; Part II: Comparative tables (A/51/522, 18 October 1996).

2 GB.267/PFA/9/1.

3 GB.267/PFA/10.

Updated by VC. Approved by NdW. Last update: 26 January 2000.