Mandated by the September world summit, United Nations Secretary-General Kofi Annan has sent a report to the UN General Assembly on establishing a new ethics office with independent external oversight and auditing, as well as with expanded provisions governing whistle-blowing and staff financial disclosures.
The 191-member General Assembly, through its Fifth Committee (Administrative and Budgetary) and its 16-member Advisory Committee on Administrative and Budgetary Questions (ACABQ), is charged with reviewing and deciding priorities and budgetary matters, including which UN programmes continue.
In the report, Mr. Annan says: "Staff members expressed concern about the ethics climate within the United Nations in the 2004 integrity perception survey. Similar concerns were raised by the report of the Independent Inquiry Committee on the oil-for-food programme. In addition, recent events have created the imperative to establish new mechanisms to improve ethics within the organization. The creation of an ethics office is central to this effort."
The ethics office would foster a staff culture of transparency and accountability and set standards for training and appropriate professional conduct, the report says.
It would lead and manage the UN ethics infrastructure by taking such steps as administering the financial disclosure programme, which would now cover about 1,000 staff members, and protect the staff against retaliation for reporting misconduct, it says.
In the case of a complaint of retaliation for whistle-blowing, the ethics office would conduct a preliminary review to see if there was a credible case. If so, it would forward the matter to the Office of Internal Oversight Services (OIOS). If the OIOS established the case, the Ethics Office would then recommend measures for correcting the situation through reinstatement or transfers.