Friday, October 28, 2011

Joe "the plumber" Torsella gives hell to United Nations: calls for reality check in all UN budgets

Former USUN Amb. John Bolton one said: "If the UN lost 10 Floors it wouldn't make a bit of difference".

Yesterday at the first ever televised 5th committee meeting, the current USUN Amb. Joe "the plumber" Torsella, showed that Bolton aint got nothing on him.

These are some of the budget statements made by USUN's Joe "the plumber" :

But as we review this budget we also see, as I said here last month, that while the Secretary-General has led, not enough of the rest of us—both within the Organization and among the Member States—have followed. The innovations I just described have enabled the publishing section of DGACM to propose a reduction in its work force by 41 posts, for example; yet, the Organization as a whole is shrinking by just 44 net posts, a reduction of only four-tenths of one percent. And while we here debate that 0.4 percent, potential add-ons to this budget—both those that we know today, and those yet to be considered—mean that the Secretary-General’s commendable call for budget restraint could, if we are not disciplined and careful in our work here in this Committee, end in a budget that actually increases from the last biennial budget.

Our first and most urgent task is to set the United Nations on the path of real fiscal discipline in the 2012-13 budget. That means passing a budget with substantial and sustainable reductions. It means judging whether we’ve achieved real savings by using as our benchmark not a budget outline, but the expenses we approved during the previous period, the 2010-11 bienium. It means measuring all expenditures, including add-ons, in our definition of expenses for the 2012-13 period. And it means achieving savings that will recur, savings the ACABQ would call “significant and structural”.

Many Member States, governments, businesses and NGOs have implemented total or partial hiring freezes on vacancies resulting from attrition, and in these difficult times the United Nations should do the same. Moreover, posts that have been persistently vacant over long periods should be abolished. The disturbing trend toward upward re-classification of posts identified by ACABQ should be reversed: the budget before us proposes upward reclassification of 55 posts—more than double the 27 reclassifications contained in the proposed program budgets for the past three biennia combined. Few of these reclassifications should be approved. Furthermore, we call on the Secretariat to comprehensively review all current employee benefit programs and costs, including health care, pension, leave, and travel policies.

Our second task is to ensure that the budget we pass is in fact a binding budget, and prevents the United Nations from spending more than we actually approve this fall. We continue to be disappointed and concerned that every year Member States are presented a significant number of add-ons at considerable cost that in some cases are not mandated, in many cases can be foreseen, and in all cases should be better managed. Budgets are not suggestions. The United Nations must strictly adhere to the principles reflected in resolutions 41/213 and 42/211 that call for new proposals to be "budget neutral" or offset with savings within the approved budget. And we, as Member States, must ensure that the Secretary-General has the tools to enforce these policies.

We also continue to be concerned that the large additions to budget requests stemming from “re-costing.” While we recognize the organization needs some ability to protect itself from inflation and currency fluctuations, there are better ways to achieve that protection than passing a budget with blanks instead of numbers and regularly adding new funds to it. We continue to seek further details and analysis from the Secretariat—as soon as possible—on options, such as currency hedging, to deal with this issue. We should leave here with the confidence that we’ve approved a final budget, not a first draft.

As the United States has said before, the United Nations’s budget is too complex and opaque, and it is built around the wrong measures. Paradoxically, there is too much data, and too little useful information. Readers of United Nations budget documents, for example, will search in vain for the actual travel budget by department or the cost of employee healthcare. But they can easily find the precise number of policy papers issued by any number of the executive committees, as if the number of papers itself is a meaningful measure of accomplishment.

The budget in its current form of 37 different and partitioned sections would tie the hands of the best manager in the world. Our job is to set priorities, not to needlessly constrain the Secretary-General’s ability to operationally adapt, as changing circumstances and changing times demand, to meet the goals we set. If we are demanding more accountability for results from United Nations managers—as we should—we should also give them more flexibility to redeploy some resources within and among budget sections.

And finally, we need to reexamine how managers build the United Nations budget in the first place. It is striking that each budget begins with the prior budget’s appropriation. We are caught in a perpetual exercise of adding to the previous biennium’s budget appropriation with the assumption that all previous mandates should be met in the same way and at the same funding level and every new mandate requires new resources. This premise is flawed. The fundamental reality is that resources do not equal results. No organization can work effectively without prioritizing to bridge the gap between limited resources on the one hand and ambitious goals on the other. That’s a conversation held daily in most governments, businesses and families; it should be held more frequently here at the United Nations and in the Fifth Committee.

Three tasks. A 2012-13 budget that represents a significant and sustainable belt-tightening from 2010-2011. A 2012-13 budget that is in fact final, comprehensive, and stable for the full biennium. And reform of the budget process this year so that United Nations budgets in future years will be prepared, presented and debated very differently. If we do those three things, Mr. Chairman, we will indeed have seized this opportunity.

Even if all the above would have been a "orchestrated rhetoric" to slow down the US Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen and US House Republicans in the Committee on Foreign Affairs to pass a substantial budget cut on US fundings for the United Nations, the cat is out of the bag and won't be easy to put it back. Torsella has gone where no other US Ambassador has even dared before, and now the scrutiny of UN's budget will only increase and make the tenure of Ban Ki-moon's second term a living hell.

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