STATEMENT ON BEHALF OF THE GROUP OF 77 AND CHINA BY MR. RICHARD TUR, SECOND SECRETARY OF THE PERMANENT MISSION OF CUBA TO THE UNITED NATIONS, ON AGENDA ITEM 133: PROGRAMME BUDGET FOR 2023: CAPITAL MASTER PLAN, AT THE MAIN PART OF THE SEVENTY-EIGHTH SESSION OF THE FIFTH COMMITTEE OF THE UNITED NATIONS GENERAL ASSEMBLY (New York, 6 November 2023)
1. I have the honor to deliver this statement on behalf of the Group of 77 and China.
2. Our Group wishes to thank Mr. Chandru Ramanathan, Assistant Secretary-General, Controller, for introducing the Twenty-first annual progress report of the Secretary-General on the implementation of the Capital Master Plan and Mr. Abdallah Bachar Bong, Chair of the Advisory Committee on Administrative and Budgetary Questions, for introducing the related report.
3. The Group of 77 and China notes that currently, all construction work and related administrative close-out activities have been completed, with the exception of those related to one remaining arbitration case.
4. We also recall that the approved funding for the Capital Master Plan project amounts to $2,150,400 and that the final consolidated requirement remains at $2,309,300 million if the portion funded by the support account for peacekeeping operations is taken into consideration.
5. In this regard, the Group is seriously concerned that once again, the financial close-out of the capital master plan project will be delayed due to the ongoing arbitration case, with the resultant legal fees estimated at $225,000 for the period from July to December 2023. This will, as a result, escalate the estimated cumulative expenditure for the legal expenses to $10.7 million by the end of December 2023. This is indeed a very worrying trend that also affects the return of any final residual balance to Members States.
6. The Group commends the efforts being made by the Office of Legal Affairs in actively defending the interests of the Organization in the arbitration proceedings to prevent the Organization from incurring avoidable expenses. However, the Group concurs with the recommendation by the Advisory Committee that the Secretary-General should assess how to mitigate the costs of ongoing proceedings and to limit the financial liability of the Organization to the fullest extent possible. The Group looks forward to receiving more information and clarification on the arbitration proceedings during the informal consultations.
7. We will also assess whether it is necessary to undertake a comprehensive review of the implementation of the capital master plan project with the view of ensuring accountability and transparency, enhancing project governance, as well as limiting the financial liability.
8. The Group takes note of the status of the implementation of the recommendations of the Board of Auditors provided in the twenty-first annual progress report and observes that two recommendations remain outstanding, one of them pending the outcome of the ongoing arbitration case.
9. In this regard, we also note that the full scope of the three-year accessibility programme was completed in 2023 with the aim to bring the United Nations Headquarters facilities in line with the 2010 Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) Standards for Accessible Design. We would like to receive updated information on this matter. The Group encourages the Secretary-General to continue his efforts with a view to implementing the remaining two recommendations.
10. In conclusion, Mr. Chair, the Group of 77 and China wishes to assure you our continued commitment to actively and constructively engage on this important agenda item during informal consultations.
I thank you.