HABITAT refutes charges made by OIOS

NAIROBI, May (G-77) -- The head of the U.N. Commission on Human Settlements (Habitat) Wally N'Dow has refuted charges made against his body by the Office of Internal Oversight Services (OIOS). N'Dow said the findings were unsubtantiated and were factually erroneous.

''The report leads any careful reader to the conclusion that the allegations in the body of the report are not sufficiently substantiated and that the facts have not been established accurately enough to enable its authors to be similarly categorical in their recommendations,'' said Dr N'Dow.

N'Dow who took office two-and-half years ago, accused the Oversight Office of dismissing his efforts to make factual corrections before the report was published.

He said the financial management issues date back 20 years, and urged those reviewing the report to be careful ''as people's careers and records were at stake''.

N'Dow, who holds the rank of Assistant Secretary-General within the United Nations, admitted that some administrative matters had been overshadowed by preparations for the second U.N. Conference on Human Settlements (Habitat II) and its pre-conference activities.

''The conference took its toll on our small staff and presented us with challenges we had not faced before, not least of which was limited resources,'' he added.

The OIOS report was one of two tabled before the Commission's meeting. Following a one-week visit to Habitat's headquarters here last September, the OIOS report noted that Habitat is at ''a critical point of its life, suffering significant shortcomings in its management system, staffing and approach''.

It also said that the Centre was lacking in leadership and had a lop-sided organisational structure that had caused unnecessary duplications in responsibilities and blurred accountability.

The UN body also had a unilateral, personalised decision-making process, and there was a lack of commitment by the management, which resulted in a weak and dispersed internal control system of the Centre's resources, the OIOS report said.

Besides the OIOS document, another report sponsored by the governments of Denmark, the Netherlands, South Africa and Uganda was tabled before the 16th session.

''One of the biggest threats to the Centre is the deteriorating financial situation both in the short and the long term,'' said the second report. It blamed the financial crisis on poor funding, a decline in the availability of funds that are not tied to specific programmes and weak administrative systems.

The report recommended that an external facilitator be brought in to manage the Centre through the transition period. The individual would report directly to the UN Secretary-General and would have powers to make important decisions in co-operation with the Centre's Executive Director.

Several member governments agreed that efforts would have to be made to revitalise Habitat.

N'Dow offered Habitat's full support in carrying out any recommendations made by the Commission. He said that the Centre, which serves as secretariat for the Commission, was fully prepared to engage in consultation with member states, as it was ''morally bound to see that the Habitat Agenda sees the light of the day''.

Addressing the Fifth Committee on May 20, Mr. Wally N'Dow said many of the recommendations in the Oversight Office report would be fundamental in revitalizing the Centre, a process that was under way.

In a resolution adopted at its sixteenth session, which ended on 7 May, the Commission on Human Settlements had committed itself to the idea that the Centre's revitalization was essential for the implementation of the outcome of Habitat II. It had also stated that adequate resources should be provided to the Centre. The governments that had taken part in the session agreed to increase their contributions to the Centre.

The Commission said that, in implementing the Oversight Office recommendations, the views of the Executive Director should be taken into account, he continued. In that context, actions had been taken to send appropriate directives to various offices and units.
Many members of the Commission had expressed the view that some of the findings of the report of the Office of Internal Oversight Services were incomplete in some respects, such as those on the elaboration of the Centre's structure and on the actions of individuals. There were expressions of concern in the Commission regarding what some members saw as a lack of balance in the report.