Hundred and Nineteenth Session
Rome, 20 - 25 November 2000
REPORT OF THE JOINT MEETING OF THE EIGHTY-THIRD SESSION OF THE PROGRAMME COMMITTEE AND THE NINETY-FOURTH SESSION OF THE FINANCE COMMITTEE
Rome, 10 May 2000
MATTERS REQUIRING ATTENTION BY THE COUNCIL
Report of the Joint Meeting of the Programme and Finance Committees
Matters for information
|FAO's Presence at Country Level
Joint Inspection Unit Reports
Savings and Efficiencies in Governance
Any Other Business:
1. The Committees submit to the Council the following report of their Joint Meeting.
2. The following Members were present at the meeting:
|Programme Committee||Finance Committee|
|Mr R. Rose (Canada)||Mr A. Mekouar (Morocco)|
|Mr P.N. Ross (Australia)
Mr T.N. Mokake (Cameroon)
Mr Z. Tang (China)
Mr B. Gutiérrez Zuluaga Botero (Colombia)
Mr A.S. Karama (Indonesia)
Mr F. Zenny (Jamaica)
Mr G. Mansour (Lebanon)
Mr I.M. Zawia (Libya)
Mr J. Berteling (Netherlands)
Ms S. Nyamudeza (Zimbabwe)
|Ms I. Di Giovan Battista (Argentina)
Ms N. Gangadharan (India)
Mr Rho Kyeong-sang (Korea)
Ms. E.F. Eltom (Sudan)
Mr R. Gerber (Switzerland)
Ms P.M.S. Hingi (Tanzania)
Mr A. Beattie (United Kingdom)
Ms. L.J. Tracy (USA)
3. Mr F. Zenny replaced Mr R. Harrison as representative of the Government of Jamaica on the Programme Committee.
4. Ms I. Di Giovan Battista replaced Mr R.O. Villambrosa as representative of the Government of Argentina on the Finance Committee.
5. Mr S. Baharsjah, the Independent Chairman of the Council, was present at the meeting.
6. The Agenda and Timetable for the Joint Meeting were approved with the inclusion of three items under the item Any Other Business, i.e.: Preparations for the Medium Term Plan 2002-2007; FAO's New Financial Systems and Procedures; and Consideration of Evaluation Reports in the Joint Meeting.
7. The Committees discussed jointly the JIU Report scheduled for the session: Review of the Administrative Committee on Coordination and its Machinery (JIU/REP/99/1) with the benefit of the presence of the Vice-Chairman of the Unit.
8. The Committees addressed more particularly the comments and recommendations regarding the Sub-committee on Nutrition (SCN). While noting the difficulties experienced in the recent past with respect to the functioning of this mechanism, the Committees welcomed the improved conditions which should facilitate fruitful cooperation in the future. They also welcomed the resumption of FAO's active participation in the SCN, including appropriate contribution to its budget.
9. With regard to Recommendation C2 on the consideration of recent developments in the UN system in FAO fora, the Committees took note of the Director-General's comments and confirmed the satisfactory character of current arrangements. The Committees also agreed that such aspects as the functioning of the UN Resident Coordinator System (as mentioned in paragraph 80 of the report) and the cost of coordination (Recommendation C3) deserved appropriate attention by the Governing Bodies. The Committees endorsed the comments of ACC and of the Director-General on this report.
10. The Committees briefly addressed again the handling of JIU Reports in FAO, and confirmed the pertinence of current practices.
11. The Committees considered the Director-General's proposals to enhance FAO's presence at country level through the outposting of senior technical officers, described in document JM 2000/1. They also took note of the new arrangements for the implementation of the Field Programme, involving the ongoing process of progressive transfer of operational responsibility for national projects to FAO Representatives (FAORs).
12. A majority of members of the Committees was prepared to advise the Council to approve the Director-General's proposals contained in JM 2000/1. Some members wished, however, to receive additional information that could be discussed during the forthcoming Joint Meeting of the Committees before taking a decision. The Committees generally supported the continuation of operational decentralization while noting the gradual approach and welcoming the plans to put in place the usual and necessary pre-requisites including system support, training and budgetary and evaluation structures.
13. The Committees decided to consider this item further at their Joint Meeting in September 2000 and requested that further information be provided on FAORs, particularly: (i) the devolution of operational responsibilities and the impact that such responsibilities would have on the functioning of the FAORs, the current balance between normative and operational activities in the FAO Representations based on existing work measurement studies and how the Representations would be strengthened in order to cope with their additional workload; (ii) the qualifications of FAORs and how the senior technical officers proposed to be outposted in new Representations would be able to attend to both their technical tasks as well as representational duties; (iii) criteria for establishing FAO country offices, particularly Low-Income, Food-Deficit Country (LIFDC) status; and (iv) the role of the FAOR in country level UN system coordination. In addition, information had been requested on other related questions of detail.
14. The Committees recalled the many actions which had been taken to reform the workings of the Governing Bodies. They noted that the Joint Meeting in September 1999 had decided to postpone further consideration of the reform of the General Debate at Conference to the year 2000.
15. The Committees noted that, at the current round of Regional Conferences, the innovation of setting aside one half day for delegation heads to have roundtable discussions beforehand had been successful. It was suggested that the possibility of introducing a similar procedure for the FAO Conference be taken into account by the Secretariat when preparing the document for the Joint Meeting in September 2000.
16. The Committees received an oral report on progress in the preparations of the Medium Term Plan (MTP) covering the period 2002-2007, which was due for consideration at their September sessions, and by the Council in November. In this connection, the Committees noted the intention to involve also the technical committees of the Council (COAG, COFI and COFO) at their scheduled sessions early in the year 2001, so that they could provide comments on aspects of the Plan falling under their respective mandates.
17. While the next MTP document would be firmly grounded in the FAO Strategic Framework 2000-2015 approved by the Conference, the Committees were informed, in particular, of the special efforts being made to respond to one of the key policy dimensions highlighted in the Strategic Framework, i.e. the need for a multi-disciplinary approach. To this end, the same groups which had worked on the formulation of the Corporate Strategies in the Strategic Framework, as well as all other in-house substantive coordination mechanisms, had been asked to identify the appropriate cross-sectoral activities worth including in the MTP.
18. At the same time, the Committees noted that MTP submissions for substantive activities had been requested from all departments, based on the revised programming approach endorsed by the Conference, which had been tentatively applied in the Programme of Work and Budget (PWB) 2000-2001. While units had to extend the planning period up to the year 2007, they were requested to pay due attention - among other aspects - to specifying indicators of the expected outcomes of programme entities and their major outputs. The main task before the Secretariat at the present time was to present the results of this intensive planning effort in a comprehensive, yet sufficiently concise, form in the MTP document, with proposed activities analyzed and presented both in terms of the Strategic Objectives in the Strategic Framework, and the established PWB programme structure (Chapters and Major Programmes).
19. In recalling the positive impact of similar arrangements on facilitating the involvement of Member Nations during the preparation of the Strategic Framework, the Committees felt that it would be useful to have briefings of Permanent Representatives preferably before the Programme and Finance Committee meetings in September 2000.
20. The Secretariat briefed the Committees on the systems implementation including the key management objectives, the financial architecture, and management reporting. The briefing highlighted what had gone well, what had not gone well, and the resource constraints. Additionally, it highlighted in particular the problems with the Field Accounting System, data conversion account management, interface problems, systems experience in FAO and systems support for project work. Members expressed their appreciation for the comprehensive and frank account of the progress to-date on the project. Detailed questions were raised by the Members on the project budget and implementation problems.
21. The Secretariat explained that the increase in funding from US$10 million to US$20 million had arisen because the original software package, without amendment, had not met all of FAO's requirements, and hence additional modules had been introduced from other sources for travel and field office transaction processing, thus increasing the complexity of the project.
22. Members also raised a number of questions regarding the impact of the project on major current and planned activities, including the auditability of the records, reporting to donors, effect on various programmes and the impact on further decentralization currently under way. The Secretariat explained that with any change in systems, auditors experience difficulties as programmes have to be adapted to the new circumstances. The Secretariat further clarified that the quality of donor reports produced in 1999 reflected the problems experienced in posting transactions from the field offices, but these had been corrected and further reports for 1999 should reflect this corrected position. Meanwhile, the reports for 2000 will depend upon the eventual transfer into FAS of the information currently held on spreadsheets by the FAOR offices.
23. The Secretariat reported that, according to the current understanding of the requirements to support decentralization, the interim version of the Field Accounting System would provide the required support. However, there will be a subsequent review to reconsider which transactions should be processed by a FAOR office, as a result of which the interim software solution may need to be redesigned.
24. Members noted the nature and extent of problems identified in the Information Note (FC-PC Working Paper) and the constraints on progress. Members also noted the importance of the Oracle project to FAO and expressed concern that it is behind schedule and underfunded. The Committees therefore requested that the Secretariat: (i) prepare a submission for their September session providing further information on the nature and extent of work to be done, as well as cost, timescale and possible sources of funding to resolve outstanding problems of the project; and (ii) appeal for voluntary contributions before September notwithstanding the authority of the Director-General to allocate the necessary resources to the extent possible within the context of the existing budget approval.
25. The Committees recalled that revised arrangements for discussing evaluation-related documents, had been endorsed by the Council, wherein the Programme Committee would be the primary recipient of detailed evaluation reports. However, it was felt that there might be scope for joint consideration by the two Committees of selected reports.
26. The Committees, therefore, agreed that the two Chairpersons in consultation with the Director-General could, on the basis of the anticipated work-programme of the two Committees for a given biennium, discuss this possibility, bearing in mind the need to optimize the time available.
1 Doc.: JM 2000/INF/1
2 Doc.: CL 119/INF/11
3 Doc.: JM 2000/1