Wednesday, September 7, 2011

US Ambassador Joseph M. Torsella tells UNDP to publish all audits "for its own sake" - or US Congress will cut their funding!

Ambassador Joseph M Torsella
U.S. Representative for UN Management and Reform
New York, NY
September 6, 2011

Thank you, Madam President.

I am pleased to be joined by Ambassador Rick Barton and to be delivering this statement on behalf of us and our government. The United States thanks Administrator Helen Clark for her service, and for her opening statement, which provides us with an overview of the challenges facing the international community and UNDP in particular. We look forward to working with her to address those challenges.

Having just returned from Juba, I am especially gratified to represent my government today at this first Board meeting of UNDP at which the Republic of South Sudan is a new UN member state. The United States warmly welcomes the Republic of South Sudan to the United Nations, and appreciates UNDP’s initiative to begin planning for a country program. We especially welcome management’s decision to house its South Sudan office in the Regional Bureau for Africa, and we look forward to working closely with the delegation from the Republic of South Sudan and with the Board on the new country program.

Madam President,

At the June Executive Board, we outlined our priorities in the areas of management reform, transparency and accountability. The United States remains dedicated to seeing the UN Funds and Programs move urgently and immediately toward full disclosure of all audit, oversight and financial information, with appropriate safeguards for individual due process rights.

We acknowledge and support Administrator Clark’s commitment to making UNDP a fully transparent organization. And we greatly appreciate her leadership in partnering with the Board in June to grant the Global Fund access to UNDP’s internal audits. We also welcome the follow-up proposal jointly developed by UNDP, UNFPA, and UNOPS for remote viewing of audits through a secure website. However, there remains much more to be done.

Given the increasing and appropriate demand for information access by both the international community and domestic constituencies, we have reached a juncture where we have to ask the hard question: Will UNDP adopt full public disclosure as its policy, and when? The answer will have a profound impact on the perception of UNDP’s integrity and on the support it receives from donor and program countries in the years ahead.

For the sake of UNDP’s future, that answer must be “yes.” Because full transparency is an obligation we owe not just to UNDP’s donors, but also to the vulnerable population that UNDP serves: they will be the ultimate beneficiaries of the enhanced effectiveness that comes with the sunshine of public scrutiny. Because UNDP should be a leader, not a follower, on issues of public management standards. And because at a time when all of us are demanding transparency and good governance in both developed and developing states, we should ask no less of UNDP.

We therefore once again look to Administrator Clark’s leadership to take the necessary steps to demonstrate the management’s firm commitment to making all of UNDP’s audit, oversight, and financial information public as soon as possible. The United States stands ready to work with her senior management team and the Board to achieve this objective. We are considering additional resources to support UNDP management initiatives to promote transparency, accountability, and other management improvements. We look forward to discussing with management how and where we can make the greatest impact, and to reviewing at the next Executive Board meeting, the detailed steps and the timetable that Administrator Clark will pursue to achieve universal and full disclosure to which she and we aspire.

Madam President, a related and important issue is the reporting of program results. As a public institution that uses taxpayer funding, UNDP has an obligation not only to disclose what it does, but to demonstrate that what it does is working. While we understand and fully appreciate the challenges that the management faces in gathering and reporting results from UNDP’s sprawling programs worldwide, it is imperative that UNDP put in place a system to report meaningful results clearly to the Board and to the public.

It is crucial that UNDP report results at the global level through the strategic plan’s development results matrix, and in this regard we look forward to engaging in discussions of the roadmap for the next strategic plan. It is equally important, though, that UNDP report results project-by-project and country-by-country. To achieve this, the United States and other Board members have repeatedly pointed out that management must make improving the quantity and quality of evaluations conducted by country offices a top priority.

UNDP’s response to the changing events in North Africa demonstrated its ability to quickly deliver much needed international support to transitioning societies. As many parts of the world undergo dramatic and fundamental transformations – from the Middle East to Central Asia to Sub-Saharan Africa – it is important to clearly demonstrate that UNDP’s programs, and its mandate to address the governance-poverty nexus, are in fact contributing to the long-term stability, prosperity and freedom of these societies.

Finally, as the management and the Board proceed with the development of an integrated budget, we would like to reiterate that it is critical that UNDP use evaluative information and program results as the basis for budgeting and resource allocation.

Madam President, the United States remains a strong supporter of UNDP’s mission. We look forward to working closely with you and Board members during these meetings and beyond to achieve our shared objective of making UNDP a more transparent, effective and responsive organization.

Thank you.

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