|10UNROME5||2010-01-19 18:15:00||UNCLASSIFIED//FOR OFFICIAL USE ONLY||UN Rome|
1. (U) This message is sensitive but unclassified. Not for
distribution outside U.S. Government channels.
2. (SBU) On January 14, the Mission co-hosted with UK
counterparts a well-attended meeting of the Rome Chapter of the
Geneva Group, and discussed ways to strengthen the group to push
forward reforms at FAO and other Rome based UN agencies. The
Group agreed to become more proactive and may form smaller
working groups on specific items of interest - such as Human
Resource reform. Mission circulated for consideration a draft
letter from the Geneva Group Co-Chairs to the incoming Inspector
General of FAO, set to begin working on February 7, to identify
areas of concern on the oversight functions in FAO (septel
report on UNTAI provides more details). The letter sparked a
lively discussion on joint letters from the Group, as a tool for
more proactive collaboration among members in Rome. End summary.
Human Resources Reform
2. (SBU) Co-hosted by the Mission DCM and the U.K. Permanent
Representative, representatives from all Geneva Group members
(minus Russia and South Korea) discussed priorities for FAO
reform, particularly in human resources management and oversight
functions. Noting that 70-80 percent of the UN specialized
agency budgets are spent on personnel-related costs, the group
discussed ideas on reducing staff costs and inspiring a more
motivated/ effective staff. The Mission suggestion that the
Group address gender inequality at FAO, where females are
significantly underrepresented at the professional level, was
enthusiastically endorsed by all other participants. Members
also discussed concerns about the level of salary increases
recommended by the International Civil Service Commission, the
large number of anticipated director level retirees at FAO, and
limited employment opportunities for spouses of FAO employees.
The group agreed to seek more employment statistics from FAO's
Director of Human Resources and bring these issues to FAO's
Finance Committee, and to FAO's incoming Deputy Director General
for Operations He Changchui. The group agreed to recommend to
the three Rome-based UN agencies that they coordinate together
and with host-country Italy regarding spousal employment for
international staff of the UN.
Concerns with International Civil Service Commission (ICSC)
3. (SBU) The Canadian Deputy Permanent Representative focused
on the problems that ICSC "create throughout the UN system,"
primarily related to salary increase recommendations. The
Canadian Representative further reported that his conversations
with Ottawa on the ICSC topic had been well-received and may
have convinced Canada to focus on ICSC in the coming year. The
representative from the Netherlands agreed that ICSC-related
salary costs were a problem and indicated he would raise the
issue with his capital as well. The Mexican representative
suggested that Geneva Group Rome invite ICSC members to brief
the Geneva Group when any of its members visit Rome.
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Joint Letter to the Incoming FAO Inspector General
4. (SBU) On February 7, FAO's new Inspector General Ian
Fitzsimmons is expected to commence work. Members expressed
concern that Fitzsimmons will need help to penetrate FAO's
bureaucracy. To assist him, USUN Mission proposed a joint
Geneva Group welcome letter (text in paragraph six) detailing
potential areas for focus: risks of FAO decentralization,
disclosure of FAO Audit and Oversight Reports to members,
cooperation with the new FAO Ethics Officer, and improvements to
the Audit Committee. While all Geneva Group members agreed on
the importance of engaging the new Inspector General, Germany,
France, and Sweden raised concerns over whether their capitals
would support a joint letter from the Geneva Group. All Geneva
Group members promised to review the letter and, at a minimum,
jointly raise these issues with Fitzsimmons during a welcome
reception to be hosted by the Australian Ambassador.
Geneva Group Next Steps
5. (SBU) The Geneva Group agreed to become more proactive and
may form smaller working groups on specific items of interest -
such as Human Resource reform. Going forward, the Group
co-chairs will propose a significant increase in the number of
meetings: approximately six per year. The Group agreed that
more frequent meetings would provide the opportunity for members
to share thoughts and possibly coordinate joint approaches both
before and after FAO Finance and Program Committee meetings.
The Group will also continue to provide input into the April
Geneva Group CLM meeting and September Geneva Group meeting on
the margins of the UNGA.
Text of Draft Letter to New FAO Inspector General
6. (U) Begin Text of Draft Letter:
Dear Inspector General Fitzsimmons:
On behalf of the entire membership of the Rome-based chapter of
the Geneva Group, we wish to congratulate you upon your
selection as incoming Inspector General of the Food and
Agriculture Organization, and welcome you to your new home in
Rome. We very much look forward to working with you and your
staff, and to supporting you as you carry out the many
responsibilities incumbent in this key position.
With the ongoing reorganization of FAO senior management,
including creation of an Ethics Office and Ombudsman, it would
appear that all the components of an effective oversight
function are in place. We will look to you and other senior
managers to ensure these oversight components work in harmony to
ensure an organization with high ethical and managerial
standards. In addition, we wish to draw your attention to
several important areas where work is needed, consistent with
the Immediate Plan of Action (IPA) and recommendations of FAO's
Internal/External Audit Committees and the Chief Executives
Board for Coordination (CEB).
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To begin, proper risk management must remain a top priority of
your office and the entire FAO organization, consistent with IPA
conclusions and earlier discussions in FAO's governing bodies.
We trust that you and your staff will continue to focus on
effective enterprise risk management, not only in your biennial
audit plan, but throughout the organization. Specifically, we
hope your office adequately addresses the risks of
decentralization in the coming biennium. The 2008 Audit
Committee annual report was explicit on this point, identifying
as "high risk" the state of internal controls over decentralized
activities, and the regional office structure, generally. In
2008, the OIG concluded that over half of FAO country offices
reviewed had not adequately implemented FAO's prescribed
policies and procedures. The report further indicated
"significant weaknesses in key components required for an
effective system of internal control." The report noted that
these weaknesses "ultimately threaten the health of the
organization, as they considerably weaken the capacity of FAO
country offices to manage their operations well, support the
delivery of FAO accountability obligations, guarantee that
activities remain within the boundaries established by FAO's
regulatory framework, and safeguard the resources and assets
entrusted to its care." In light of plans to further
decentralize authorities to FAO field offices, we trust that you
will place the proper attention on ensuring proper safeguards
are expeditiously put in place.
We also encourage you and your office, as a matter of policy, to
ensure maximum transparency and accountability in all its work.
One such manifestation of such openness would be with respect to
disclosing to Member states audit and oversight reports. In
this regard, we call to your attention a recommendation of the
CEB in October of 2007 (CEB/2007/2; III. Management Issues,
Section B) to make such reports available to Members. We look
forward to FAO correcting this anomaly.
We welcome the establishment of a new FAO Ethics Office, and
encourage you and your office to do all it can during its
infancy to ensure its success. We recognize, however, that the
resources afforded this office are quite limited, given its
stated scope of work. Not only must this office formulate an
organization-wide ethics program, but it also must institute
from the ground up a financial disclosure program for P5 and
senior staff, those with procurement responsibilities, and their
dependent family members. Formal review of these disclosure
forms will be labor intensive, and may require assistance from
other parts of FAO, including OIG, for follow-up of reports
where problems/concerns are revealed.
Another area where additional OIG attention is warranted is in
the area of staff "whistle-blower" protections, beyond those
encapsulated in the OIG Charter and on-line documentation. Such
protections, to be truly effective, need to be explicit and
widely known within the organization. We believe FAO can do
more to strengthen and publicize among staff an explicit
whistle-blower protection program consistent with efforts in the
UN Secretariat and other UN funds and programs.
We are also concerned, in broad terms, with the present efficacy
of the Audit Committee, comprised of five external members -
three of whom are effectively no longer able to perform their
duties. We encourage you to propose how this committee might be
structured to ensure more relevance to the work of the
organization. One possibility might be that the Committee be
comprised of both internal and external members, or that
external members be resident in Rome.
In closing, we look forward to hearing from you on the expected
finalization and publishing of FAO's draft "Integrity Roadmap"
which we understand is currently under senior management review.
We believe such a roadmap could be a useful tool to improve
UN ROME 00000005 004 OF 004
oversight of this institution. Again, we welcome your arrival
and look forward to a fruitful working relationship.
Sincerely, Co-Chairs of The Geneva Group, Rome Chapter