Senior UN development agency official pledges strengthened management

“As we work in increasingly more dangerous and challenging environments, the need for stronger oversight and accountability has even become more important,” Ad Melkert, Associate Administrator of UNDP, told a press briefing at UN Headquarters in New York.Mr. Melkert pledged that “a number of categories of staff” would be required to file financial disclosure statements, including senior-level personnel and those involved in procurement activities. This comes is in addition to measures already in place at the Under-Secretary-General level.“I am happy to inform you that both the UNDP Administrator and I have completed our financial disclosure statements this year as part of the overall UN procedure,” he said.A correspondent asked whether the officials would follow the example of Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon and make their financial disclosure forms public. “I’m not in favour of having financial disclosure made public on the website,” Mr. Melkert replied. “I think that is overstepping the privacy of people.”Other measures include the establishment last year of an independent audit advisory committee which has since met four times. “In the ongoing dialogue, it is extremely useful to get that external advice; it’s the first time UNDP has opened up itself to that,” Mr. Melkert said.He also said top UNDP officials were committed to providing members of the Executive Board with access to findings from internal audits. “In doing so we will make sure that all information in internal audit reports is accessible to Member States,” he said. “Again we have to discuss that with the Board, but I feel that is the right thing to do and it is really new in UNDP that we do that.”Another measure he said would help boost transparency is standardizing the information provided on all UNDP websites. “While we already have an information disclosure policy, having all programme information on our websites will help cut the current 30-day requirement for responding to information requests hopefully to get you the information you need within your deadlines,” he told reporters.Mr. Melkert also announced that UNDP is developing a “legal framework for addressing non-compliance with ethical and professional standards.”“Basically the document serves to remind staff members of their duties to abide by the highest standards of conduct and to inform the mechanisms available to report wrongdoing,” he explained.Asked why UNDP did not seek an external investigation of reports that its staff and vehicles were involved in diamond-smuggling in Zimbabwe, Mr. Melkert said he took the allegation very seriously. At the moment there are two investigations ongoing, he said, “and then we will decide whether more is needed, and I don’t exclude also that that should be something more than internal.” 6 June 2007A senior official from the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) today outlined a series of measures from financial disclosure to standardizing information available on the Internet to improve management at the agency.