Identifying Marginal Activities Could Help Control Growing U.N. Costs

ID-81-61: Published: Sep 30, 1981. Publicly Released: Sep 30, 1981.

Additional Materials:

Contact:

Office of Public Affairs
(202) 512-4800
youngc1@gao.gov

GAO reported on the efforts of the Secretary General of the United Nations (U.N.) to reduce U.N. costs by identifying marginal and ineffective activities. The review was undertaken because Congress is concerned about the growing U.N. budget and the corresponding U.S. contribution. Member countries believe that the real growth of the U.N. budget can be lowered by shifting resources from obsolete, marginal, and ineffective activities to new activities. Every year, the Secretary General identifies more marginal activities to be terminated; however, he still has not identified enough to have much effect on the budget.

The Secretary General has asked program managers to determine if any of their activities are of marginal value. GAO believes that not many activities have been identified as marginal because program managers are unable to objectively evaluate their own activities. In a recent study, the U.N. Joint Inspection Unit also concluded that a main reason for the unsatisfactory response is the reliance on program managers to identify marginal activities. Unit inspectors believe that, to make the identification process meaningful, more decisive efforts are needed. It suggested establishing a monitoring unit in the Secretariat that would have the authority to terminate activities. The unit also suggested establishing groups outside the Secretariat to analyze U.N. operations. GAO agreed that there may be a need to adopt alternative identification approaches and believes that the unit's suggestions provide a basis for pursuing such approaches. GAO believes that existing U.N. programming, financial, audit, and evaluation groups can satisfy these needs without additional costs.

Recommendations for Executive Action

  1. Status: Closed

    Comments: Please call 202/512-6100 for additional information.

    Recommendation: The Secretary of State should continue to stress the importance for the Secretary General to comply with repeated resolutions requesting him to identify marginal activities.

    Agency Affected: Department of State

  2. Status: Closed

    Comments: Please call 202/512-6100 for additional information.

    Recommendation: The Secretary of State should consult with other major contributors in the Western European and Other Group on the importance of identifying such activities so that a common strategy for reducing budget growth can be developed.

    Agency Affected: Department of State

  3. Status: Closed

    Comments: Please call 202/512-6100 for additional information.

    Recommendation: The Secretary of State should continue to review in detail the proposed U.N. budget and the Secretary General's reports on marginal activities. In addition, the information developed by program managers as a result of these exercises should be shared with U.S. representatives on the Fifth Committee and the Committee for Program and Coordination. This action will enhance their credibility by demonstrating to other member countries that these activities are included in the proposed budget.

    Agency Affected: Department of State

  4. Status: Closed

    Comments: Please call 202/512-6100 for additional information.

    Recommendation: The Secretary of State should instruct the U.S. Mission to suggest to the United Nations that the Office of Program Planning and Coordination, the Office of Financial Services, the U.N. Board of Auditors, and the Joint Inspection Unit be used to identify possible marginal activities.

    Agency Affected: Department of State

  5. Status: Closed

    Comments: Please call 202/512-6100 for additional information.

    Recommendation: The Secretary of State should instruct the U.S. Mission and U.S. delegates to the United Nations to call for the Secretary General and appropriate intergovernmental bodies to evaluate the Joint Inspection Unit's recommendations.

    Agency Affected: Department of State

  6. Status: Closed

    Comments: Please call 202/512-6100 for additional information.

    Recommendation: The Secretary of State should annually advise the appropriate congressional committees on the status of U.N. identification efforts and the effect on U.S. contributions.

    Agency Affected: Department of State

 

Explore the full database of GAO's Open Recommendations »

Jul 21, 2016

Jun 23, 2016

May 12, 2016

Apr 14, 2016

Mar 4, 2016

Oct 30, 2015

Sep 9, 2015

Aug 17, 2015

Jul 9, 2015

Apr 27, 2015

Looking for more? Browse all our products here