UN Internal Oversight: Progress Made on Independence and Staffing Issues, but Further Actions Are Needed

GAO-11-871 Published: Sep 20, 2011. Publicly Released: Oct 20, 2011.
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The United States has long advocated for strong oversight of the United Nations (UN). In 2005, GAO raised long-standing concerns that the ability of the UN's Office of Internal Oversight Services (OIOS) to carry out its mandate was constrained in scope and authority, and in 2006, GAO found that funding arrangements impeded OIOS's ability to operate independently. The U.S. Mission to the UN also expressed concern that OIOS's independence is limited in that it cannot make final hiring decisions for senior staff. In response to such concerns, the UN General Assembly in 2006 created an Independent Audit Advisory Committee (IAAC). GAO was asked to examine actions taken to address (1) impediments to OIOS's ability to provide independent oversight and (2) staffing issues that may have hindered its performance. GAO assessed OIOS's independence based on internationally recognized auditing standards, analyzed OIOS and other UN documents and data, and interviewed agency officials.

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Recommendations for Executive Action

Agency Affected Recommendation Status
Department of State The Secretary of State and the Permanent Representative of the United States to the United Nations should work with the General Assembly and member states to address remaining impediments to OIOS's ability to provide independent oversight resulting from its relationships with certain UN funds and programs and other clients.
Closed – Not Implemented
The Department of State (State) agreed with the recommendation, and took steps to address some of the impediments to OIOS' independence. For instance, State officials indicated that State worked with the UN's Office of the Legal Adviser to clarify OIOS' oversight authority over UN funds and programs. However, despite State's efforts, the actions taken thus far by United Nations have not fully addressed GAO's concerns. For instance, the Independent Audit Advisory Committee, an organization responsible for advising the UN General Assembly on the effectiveness of OIOS audit and oversight functions, noted that concerns remain regarding impediments to OIOS' independence. These concerns include the fragmentation of funding sources; internal inconsistency in seeking funding for OIOS activities; the inflexibility of resources between internal oversight functions; and the lack of financial independence, especially with respect to extra-budgetary resources.

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