Rome, 28 October – 2 November 2002
Report of the Hundredth Session of the Finance Committee Rome,
Report of the Hundredth Session of the Finance Committee
|-||Programme Implementation Report (2000-2001)||5 - 14|
|-||Medium Term Plan 2004-09||15 - 22|
|-||Functional Currency Issues and Protection of the Programme of Work and Budget against Exchange Rate Fluctuations||23 - 30|
|-||Financial Highlights||34 – 40|
|-||Audited Accounts – FAO 2000-2001||41 - 45|
|-||Eligibility for Education Grant – New Staff Regulation 301.3.35||67|
Progress Report on Management of Long-Term Investments
|70 – 76|
|-||Progress Report on the Oracle Project||77 - 90|
1. The Committee submitted to the Council the following report of its Hundredth Session.
2. The following representatives were present:
|Chairperson:||Mr Humberto Oscar Molina Reyes (Chile)
|Vice-Chairperson:||Mr Anthony Beattie (United Kingdom)
Mr Hideki Moronuki (Japan)
Ms Fatimah Hasan J. Hayat (Kuwait)
Mr Adnan Bashir Khan (Pakistan)
Mr Abdoukarim Diouf (Senegal)
Mr Rolf Gerber (Switzerland)
Ms Perpetua M.S. Hingi (Tanzania)
Ms Carolee Heileman (United States of America)
3. The Chairman informed the Committee that Mr Eiji Suzuki (Japan) would regretfully be unable to attend the session. The Committee noted that Mr Hideki Moronuki had been designated to substitute for Mr Suzuki.
4. In adopting its agenda, the Committee expressed concern that the World Food Programme (WFP) had not yet provided the necessary documentation in all the required languages for the items related to WFP. It recalled that the documents should have been provided at least one month prior to the beginning of the session. The Committee decided that in order to give appropriate consideration to these items prior to the next session of the WFP Executive Board, it would be necessary to hold a special session of Finance Committee on 7 and 8 October 2002. The representative of WFP indicated that all documentation would be available before the end of the current session and that WFP would bear the costs of the special session.
5. The Committee expressed satisfaction with the Programme Implementation Report (PIR) 2000-01 and welcomed the improvements in its format and presentation. The Report was considered an important accountability document in providing quantitative information on the accomplishments of the Organization and thus an important source of information for members.
6. The Committee noted that the format of the Programme Implementation Report would be significantly modified beginning with the 2002-03 biennium. In this regard the Committee was informed that a draft format of the new model for the PIR would be presented next year to the Programme Committee for consideration. The Committee recommended that in the future the PIR include indicators of delivery and impact as well as comprehensive coverage of the strategies to address cross-organizational issues. It noted the need for the executive summary to provide a concise synthesis of the overall report and suggested inclusion of comparative information in tables containing financial and other quantitative data, to make it easier for members to analyze.
7. The Committee noted that the expenditures of the Organization in 2000-2001 were less than the level authorized and appreciated that no budgetary transfers between chapters had been necessary, largely as the result of a positive staff cost variance.
8. While total voluntary contributions had risen due to the growth in the Iraq “Oil-for-Food” Programme, the Committee expressed concern about the continued decline in non-emergency extra-budgetary resources and hoped that this trend would be reversed. The Committee noted that requests for emergency assistance continued to expand and appreciated the increased cooperation between FAO and the World Food Programme (WFP) in addressing emergency situations. It also welcomed the enhanced cooperation with the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD) and WFP in the areas of food security and poverty alleviation.
9. Some members expressed support for the Special Programme for Food Security (SPFS) and for the concentration of these resources on the Low Income Food Deficit Countries (LIFDCs). The Committee appreciated that the recommendations in the recent evaluation of this programme were being implemented.
10. The Committee welcomed improvements made in language coverage and urged the Organization to continue to pursue efforts in this regard.
11. Concern was expressed that the basis for evaluating geographical representation of FAO staff established in 1956 had become outdated. The Committee was informed that a paper on the issue would be presented to the 123rd Session of the Council.
12. The Committee noted the effective cost savings derived from decentralization, but noted this had been an area where added preparatory work in terms of systems development and training would have facilitated more effective implementation of decentralization. The Committee was informed that an evaluation of decentralization was programmed for 2003.
13. The Committee noted that the PIR did not address the issue of efficiency savings in the biennium. A paper on efficiency savings had been presented to the 119th session of the Council and the secretariat promised to update this at the earliest opportunity.
14. The Committee endorsed the Programme Implementation Report for submission to the Council and Conference.
15. The Committee welcomed the Medium Term Plan 2004-09, which it considered to be a valuable document and a significant improvement over its predessor. It appreciated the comprehensive coverage of strategies to address cross-organizational issues, which provided an appropriate balance in relation to other aspects of the Medium Term Plan.
16. The Committee noted the importance of the Plan taking into account the outcome of major international fora including the World Food Summit: five years later, as well as the Monterey and Johannesburg conferences.
17. The Committee appreciated the addition of information on estimated additional voluntary contributions, which provided a more complete picture of the resources available for carrying out the programme. It also welcomed the additional information provided concerning the prospects for obtaining increased extra-budgetary resources and how they would be utilized in relation to the activities covered in the Medium Term Plan.
18. The Committee was informed of the risks which might inhibit the successful implementation of the Medium Term Plan:
19. The Committee welcomed the proposals for human resource development in the Plan, recognizing their importance in addressing the cross-organizational issues of ensuring excellence, enhancing inter-disciplinarity and continuing to improve the management process. It also placed importance on broadening partnerships and alliances with other UN agencies, international financial institutions and non-governmental and civil society organizations.
20. The Committee was informed of the potential benefits to the Organization of capital budgeting for financing one-time capital items. While recognizing that it represented a well accepted practice, it requested further information in order to be in a position to consider the merits of this approach. It was informed that a more detailed document on capital budgeting would be prepared for its consideration.
21. Members of the Committee supported additional resources for a number of high priority areas in the Plan including: Forestry, Fisheries, phytosanitary measures, the International Plant Protection Convention (IPPC), pesticides, Codex and plant genetic resources. Many Members attached particular importance to the provision of additional resources for the Technical Cooperation Programme (TCP) and SPFS, while others questioned whether the large increases proposed for these programmes were justified.
22. The Committee noted that the budgetary figures in the Medium Term Plan were to be considered as indicative and non-binding on the membership. In the light of this discussion, some members were of the view that the level of projected budget in the Plan was too high and, thus, it would be useful to have additional scenarios that were based on a level of resources similar to budget levels approved in recent years. Another view was that a Medium Term Plan spanning six years needed to show a growth trend that would allow the Organization to carry out its mandate effectively, taking into account the demands placed by the membership and commitments made during the recently-held summits and, therefore, the document should be accepted in its present form.
23. The Committee appreciated the Organization’s response to its earlier commitment to seek external expert advice on the subject of Functional Currency and Protection of the Programme of Work and Budget against Exchange Rate Fluctuations, and welcomed the informative and comprehensive presentation by the secretariat.
24. The Committee noted the external expert advice that, in accordance with generally accepted accounting principles, the main consideration for determining the functional currency was the primary economic environment in which an entity operated, as measured in terms of cash operations (income and expenditures).
25. The Committee noted the conclusion reached by the external expert that the US Dollar was presently the appropriate functional currency of FAO and that the conditions which determine the selection of functional currency should be monitored for any changes. It requested information on the experience of other UN agencies, notably UNIDO, as it had changed its functional currency.
26. The Committee recalled that the question of protecting the Programme of Work and Budget against exchange rate fluctuations within and between biennia had been before it from time to time since September 2000. The Committee recalled that there was general agreement that the approved Programme of Work should be protected to the maximum extent possible from the effects of fluctuating exchange rates.
27. The Committee noted the recommendation of the external experts in favour of the concept of split assessments and the similar opinion expressed by the External Auditor at the May 2002 session of the Finance Committee.
28. The Committee recognized that the original document on the split assessment proposal offered two alternatives: the first split the assessment of members such that they each paid a predetermined share in Euro and the balance in US Dollars; and the second, which gave the choice to members to select in which currency (i.e. Euro or US Dollars) they would pay. It reviewed the rationale for the secretariat’s preference for the first option where each member was required to pay a predetermined share in Euro and the balance in US dollar including:
29. The Committee noted the complexity of the subject while recognizing the need for the Conference to reach a decision in the context of the PWB 2004-2005. If the exchange rate applicable to the next budget were to remain at the budget rate of the PWB 2002-2003, there would be no currency effect in the next budget. However, the Committee was concerned to learn that, at the current rate of exchange of approximately US$1.00 to €1.00, the adverse impact on the Programme of Work for 2004-2005 would be as much as US$35 million. It requested the secretariat to foster a wider understanding of the issue by holding a presentation for all member nations before the Council met in October 2002. The Committee also agreed that the secretariat should proceed with the preparatory work required on the practical aspects of implementation (as identified in the document and as requested by the Finance Committee) with a view to reporting to the Committee at its session in May 2003, bearing in mind the need for endorsement by the Council prior to the decision by the Conference in November 2003 on the PWB 2004-2005.
30. The Committee decided that it required more information before reaching a conclusion on this matter and making a recommendation to the Council. In particular, it wished to be fully informed of the experience of other UN agencies that had adopted a split assessments scheme, notably IAEA and UNESCO. The Committee also requested information on the incremental costs that might result from such a scheme.
31. The Committee reviewed the second Report on Support Costs following the Council’s endorsement of the policy on support cost reimbursement in November 2000, which was subjected to minor modification in September 20011.
32. The Committee appreciated the information provided regarding the experience in the application of the new policy on support cost reimbursement rates.
33. It endorsed a 5% support cost rate for voluntary contributions for the provision of facilities and services for non-FAO sessions.
34. The secretariat introduced the Financial Highlights paper, showing the financial results for the first six months of the current biennium, and a working paper on the status of assessed contributions up to 6 September 2002. The Financial Highlights paper was a summary of income and expenditure by source of funds, fund utilisation and balances and the status of contributions to the Regular Programme.
35. The secretariat highlighted the weakening financial position of the Organization and brought the following salient points to the attention of the Committee:
36. The Committee expressed its satisfaction with the Financial Highlights document, noting the usefulness of the information it provided. The secretariat agreed to provide an update of the cashflow forecast and financial situation in the form of working papers for future Finance Committee sessions.
37. The Committee expressed concern at the deteriorating financial position of the Organization both in terms of liquidity and of the deficit in the General Fund.
38. The Committee recognized that delays in receipt of contributions might force the Organization to borrow from banks, but expressed its hope that external borrowings could be avoided since such action would result in additional costs.
39. The secretariat confirmed that major factors contributing to the weak financial position of the Organization included arrears in payment of assessed contributions, continued losses on long-term investments and charging of certain unbudgeted costs, such as the amortization of past after-service medical care liabilities.
40. The Finance Committee recognized that to deal effectively with the fragile financial position of the Organization, reporting should be more forward looking and, in this regard, requested that the secretariat prepare cash flow and reserve forecasts to the end of the current biennium under different scenarios.
41. In accordance with General Rule XXVII 7(1), the Committee examined the FAO Audited Accounts for the biennium 2000-2001.
42. The External Auditor noted that he had issued an unqualified opinion on the FAO Audited Accounts for the biennium 2000-2001 and summarized the main conclusions of his report as follows:
43. In response to questions and observations of the Committee, the secretariat provided clarification as follows:
44. The Committee, noting the comments and clarifications provided by the External Auditor and the secretariat, recommended that the Council submit to the Conference for adoption, the audited accounts for the 2000-2001 biennium. The Committee submitted to the Council the draft resolution below for onforwarding to the Conference.
Having considered the report of the 123rd Session of the Council, and
Having examined the 2000-01 FAO Audited Accounts and the External Auditor’s Report thereon
Adopts the Audited Accounts.
45. The Committee expressed appreciation for the work performed by the Cour des Comptes, whose mandate as External Auditor of FAO ended with the audit for the accounts for the 2000-2001 biennium.
46. The secretariat presented the document, which contained the accounts of the FAO Credit Union for 2001, and also the External Auditor’s opinion and report on such accounts.
47. The External Auditor explained that the accounts carried a clean opinion, that the Credit Union was a well managed organization, and that the report included recommendations on loan insurance, operating expenses and on the fact that the Credit Union accounts be consolidated into those of FAO.
48. In response to the Committee’s request for clarifications on the consolidation issue, the External Auditor explained that since the Credit Union was an integral part of FAO, the accounts of the Credit Union should be integrated with those of FAO in order to present the member nations with fully consolidated accounts.
49. The secretariat confirmed that this issue would be covered in the progress report on implementation of the External Auditor’s recommendation to be presented at the May 2003 session of the Finance Committee.
50. The Committee approved the FAO Credit Union accounts for 2001.
51. In approving the Financial Statements of the Commissary for the year 2001, the Committee noted the External Auditor’s recommendation to consolidate the Commissary’s accounts into those of the Organization. The Committee also noted that the secretariat would address this issue at the next meeting in the progress report on External Audit recommendations. This document would include an analysis of the legal and financial liabilities to the Organization and Member States if the Commissary were to encounter economic difficulties.
52. The incoming External Auditor introduced himself and outlined the scope of the programme of work for the biennium 2002-2003.
53. The main components of the programme of work would be the examination of the financial statements, review of management activities, assessment of internal controls and issuance of reports on these matters. The External Auditor would also follow up on the recommendations of the previous audit examinations. In addition, special audits, as requested by the Finance Committee, would also be undertaken.
54. Part of his initial work would be familiarization with the key activities of FAO and its internal control systems and procedures in Headquarters and the decentralised structures. This would form the basis of the audit approach and strategy.
55. The following management areas were proposed for examination during this biennium:
56. In response to the suggestion from the Committee, the External Auditor mentioned that he may submit separate reports on specific examinations, as and when these were completed, in accordance with the provisions of the Basic Texts and Financial Regulations. He also mentioned that material and significant issues as well as the practicability and cost of recommendations would be discussed with management, before their inclusion in the Audit Report in the appropriate manner. Allocation of resources and deployment of staff for audit work was also briefly explained in response to the Committee’s enquiries.
57. At the request of the Committee, the outgoing External Auditor (Cour des Comptes) recounted her experience of her audit work, noting, in particular, the need for continual risk assessment in light of the profound changes in the Organization over the past several years. The Committee thanked both the outgoing and incoming Auditors and welcomed
Mr. P.K. Mukhopadhyay, Director of Audit, Office of the Comptroller and Auditor General (CAG) of India.
58. The Committee expressed its agreement with the first two areas mentioned in paragraph 55 above for examination by the External Auditor. The Committee decided that it would review with the External Auditor at its next session his proposals for examination of a selected area of a major programme of work. The Committee also decided to review the issue of separate reports on specific examinations at its session in May 2003.
59. The secretariat introduced the Incentive Scheme paper noting that in accordance with a resolution by the Conference at its 26th Session in 1991, the Director-General should seek the Finance Committee’s concurrence with the discount rate to be used in applying credits to 2003 contributions. The paper highlighted the rules for the discount scheme and the methodology currently in use in the determination of the incentive discounts as approved by the Conference at its 29th Session in November 1997. It further provided statistical information on the scheme as well as a full list of eligible countries in 2002. The Committee noted that the discount rate to be applied had been duly calculated at 0.45% and that the total discount for 2002 amounted to US$96 327.25 to be applied to the 2003 Assessments.
60. The Committee expressed some concern at the real impact of the Incentive Scheme in encouraging prompt payment by member nations, noting that many members who paid their contributions in good time were not likely to be influenced by the existence of the scheme. The Committee also noted that some members might find it difficult to take advantage of the scheme because of their budget cycle. The Finance Committee decided to focus its attention on the specific purpose of the paper, the approval of the discount rate for the year 2002.
61. The secretariat confirmed that at the request of the Committee, additional information on discount rates in previous years would be provided in the paper in the future. This would allow the Committee to make comparisons between years before reaching their decisions in the future.
62. The Committee reviewed and discussed the proposed rate of discount which was approved.
63. The Finance Committee approved, at its 94th Session, the request of the World Bank (the donor) for a separate annual audit report on the financial statements of the EFRP in Kosovo. The first such report, on the Financial Statements for the Year ended 31 December 2000, had been considered by the Committee at its 99th Session.
64. The External Auditor introduced the Audit Report prepared for the EFRP for the period that ended on 31 December 2001 and presented the main findings of the audit, noting one minor qualification. The main concern of the External Auditor was on record keeping and presentation of financial accounts. The overall assessment of project execution was positive.
65. The secretariat provided further details on the project. Contributors to the overall budget of the project were mentioned and the main components of the project were outlined. The secretariat explained that the project was part of the larger agriculture rehabilitation programme implemented by FAO in Kosovo amounting to approximately US$40 million (including co-financing by different donor countries).
66. The Committee cleared the External Audit report.
67. The secretariat introduced the report and provided further detailed information on the rationale of extending the payment of education grant until the end of the school year, not exceeding one full scholastic year, should a staff member die during the course of the school year. The Committee considered and agreed to submit to the Council the proposed adoption of a new Staff Regulation 301.3.35, which would read as follows: “Eligibility for the grant under Staff Regulation 301.3.31 shall continue for the balance of the scholastic year in course, not exceeding one full scholastic year, when a staff member dies during the course of the school year.”
68. The Committee received an interim briefing from the secretariat on the costs involved in the preparation and conduct of the World Food Summit: five years later. It was informed that information on accounted expenditures, of both Regular Programme and extrabudgetary resources, would only be available after the closing of the 2002 interim accounts. It noted that, in line with the arrangements agreed to by the Council, a full report on costs would be submitted to the Committee on World Food Security (CFS) in May 2003 and requested that this report be provided also to the Finance Committee at its May 2003 session.
69. The Committee took note of the above reports. It noted with particular interest the planned issuance by the JIU of a report entitled “Review of management and administration in the FAO”. It also noted that it would normally be discussed at the next sessions of the Programme and Finance Committees. The secretariat undertook to have it translated and distributed to members of the Committees, as soon as the final version was officially transmitted to FAO.
70. The secretariat illustrated the composition and purposes of the long-term portfolio and commented on difficult market conditions and the performance of the long-term investment manager (Fiduciary Trust International) as of 30 June 2002. The actions and measures taken by the secretariat since the last session of the Committee in May 2002 were also illustrated, in the light of the recommendations of the External Auditor and the FAO Advisory Committee on Investments. In summary:
71. The Committee noted that the secretariat intended to carry out a major review of the objectives of the long-term investment portfolio and the appropriate allocation of assets to support these objectives. Among other things, the review would address the division of the equity portion of the long-term portfolio between a value investor and a growth investor and the appropriate benchmarks for monitoring the portfolio.
72. The Committee noted the concern on the part of the secretariat that the proceeds from the long-term portfolio, however well-managed, would be insufficient to cover all of the staff-related liabilities, especially given the growing cost of After-Service Medical Coverage (ASMC).
73. The External Auditor referred to the points raised in his report, including the need to re-evaluate the ratio of equities and fixed income securities and the portfolio manager’s performance below the benchmark.
74. The Committee thanked the secretariat for the progress in implementing the recommendations of both the External Auditor and the FAO Advisory Committeee on Investments in respect to the recruitment of a new Senior Treasury Officer and the completion of all outstanding strategies concerning short-term investments.
75. The Committee welcomed the decision by the FAO Advisory Committee on Investments to meet in April of each year to allow the Finance Committee to review its recommendations.
76. The Committee requested that an update on long-term investments be submitted at its May 2003 session.
77. The secretariat provided an oral report on progress with the Oracle project.
78. In terms of the current status, it reported that the upgrade to version 11i had been recently completed and that the response to date from users of the new version had been very positive.
79. The secretariat also reported good progress on the ongoing improvements to the Oracle financial systems, the PIRES system to support Programme Planning Implementation monitoring and evaluation, and the Oracle Human Resources (HR) and payroll system.
80. It mentioned that the initial stage of the HR and payroll project would be completed within the allotted funding but, as previously reported to the Finance Committee, work on the major subsequent stages was subject to the availability of additional resources.
81. The Committee requested and obtained confirmation that the version of Oracle financials software now in use in FAO was fully supported by the supplier. The Committee enquired about the financial impact of updates to versions of the Oracle financial system and whether these would be necessary on an ongoing basis.
82. The secretariat replied that updates to versions normally occur every two-four years and that organizations benefit from the new functionality available in later versions. Such recurring costs represent examples of items that could be included in a capital budget.
83. The Committee noted paragraph 202 of the External Auditor report on Oracle and invited the External Auditor to comment.
84. The External Auditor indicated that the HR and payroll project might represent a high risk project, as the solutions available from the major suppliers did not currently meet UN requirements. This was the case with the recent WFP payroll project.
85. The secretariat confirmed that the solutions currently available from the major suppliers do not fully meet UN requirements, but that the extent of the required changes cannot be estimated, until the business requirements have been completed. Should the cost of the required changes be significantly higher than estimated, then other options would need to be considered. However, it was indicated that the delivery of an integrated financial, budgetary and human resources information system was the main objective of the Oracle project as originally envisaged by the Director-General.
86. The Committee asked for confirmation that the Oracle HR and payroll project would need to be halted in December 2002 if arrears payments were not made available to the project.
87. The secretariat replied that, due to a delay in the recruitment of the Project Manager, work on the definition of business requirements would not be completed until mid-2003, and the project was therefore funded until mid-2003.
88. The Committee enquired about the funding requirement for the second half of 2003 for the Oracle HR and payroll project. The Committee noted that only US$2.3 million of the requested US$27 million had been made available and that, if the arrears were made available, these would lapse at the end of 2003.
89. The secretariat confirmed that the project would need to be placed on hold if no funding was provided beyond mid-2003 and that more accurate estimates of the 2003 funding requirements would be available after the Project Charter was completed. It mentioned that the establishment of a capital budgeting mechanism would support the financial rephasing of the project after 2003.
90. In concluding its debate on this item, the Committee recognized that the Oracle Project was directly related to the strategic objectives of FAO in the area of cross organizational issues. It noted the successful upgrade of the Oracle financial system to version 11i. However it expressed concern relating to the impact that the lack of resources could have on the project. The technical difficulties of interfacing different systems was also noted. The Committee agreed with the approach being taken to place the project on hold if funds were not available and wished to be kept up to date with project developments at its May 2003 session.
91. The Committee recalled that on the basis of its decision earlier in the session the Hundred-and-first session would be held in Rome from 7 to 8 October 2002.
92. The Committee was also informed that the Hundred-and-second Session was tentatively scheduled to be held in Rome from 5 to 9 May 2003. The final dates of the session would be decided in consultation with the Chairperson.
1 CL 121/4, Report of the Ninety-seventh Session of the Finance Committee paragraphs 21 – 23 refers.