06 July 2006 | Paul Snell
Secretary-general Kofi Annan has personally intervened to try to rectify the UN's long-running procurement crisis.
Annan has asked the General Assembly to approve more than $6.1 million (£3.3 million) to implement reforms recommended in his report Investing in the United Nations: For a stronger organisation worldwide.
The report, published last month, said: "Present resources allocated are not sufficient to effectively meet the medium-to-long-term requirements of the organisation. The procurement reform measures will not be achieved without increasing the staff and financial resources."
The request echoes comments made by former UN procurement chief Christian Saunders in an interview with SM
, 16 February), where he described purchasing as under-staffed and overworked. In the past two years alone, procurement spend at the UN has leapt from $1.01 billion (£557 million) to $1.77 billion (£978 million).
Annan's report follows last year's independent review into purchasing which was held after the discovery of fraud within the UN's procurement department.
Of the $6.1 million funding requested, just over $4.8 million (£2.6 million) specifically relates to procurement. It will fund 11 new purchasers and six more posts to assist the procurement service, which include consultants and staff training. It will also cover office equipment, maintenance of IT and travel costs for procurement staff. In his report Annan identified three main areas for reform: strategic management of procurement; optimising UN acquisition management and changes to internal control measures.
Strategic management will see the establishment of a "procurement reform implementation team", to monitor changes. Improving acquisition management will see a greater emphasis on strategic sourcing and partnerships, to avoid duplication and improve purchasing power. There will also be improved use of technology, including e-procurement systems and purchasing cards.
Annan said there will be a continued focus on improving ethics and integrity. An independent committee will oversee the bid protest system, which allows suppliers to request a review of procurement decisions. There will also be increased transparency to the vendor review committee, examining the performance of suppliers. The committee will be made up of staff from various offices in the secretariat, including the ethics office.
In addition to the requirement to file a financial disclosure form, staff will also be obliged to file a declaration of ethical responsibilities.
Mandatory training in best-practice will be introduced for buyers, costing about $800,000 (£441,000). It will be developed following a review of guidance outlined in the UN's Procurement Practitioner's Handbook.
While these changes are implemented the UN continues to search for a new head of procurement.