Secretary-General signs the first Statement on Internal Controls

The Secretary-General has signed the first Statement on Internal Control for all operations of the Secretariat for 2020, marking an important milestone towards achieving greater accountability for results.  The Statement on Internal Control is a public accountability document that provides reasonable assurance that the Secretariat operated under an effective system of internal control during 2020. This is a very important step towards a more systematic approach to managing control and risk as well as to increasing the effectiveness of the Secretariat.

The Financial Policy and Internal Control Service, in the Department of Management Strategy, Policy and Compliance, led a major effort to document all high-level controls across the Secretariat, or risk control matrices, and review process flowcharts in functional areas. Every entity in the Secretariat contributed to this change, to strengthen the internal control framework; each one of them did an internal control self-assessment to review the effectiveness of their internal controls, based on very detailed activity-level and entity-level controls.  These entity assessments, and a collective review of their assessments, formed the basis for the Secretary-General’s statement on internal controls, now available publicly on the reform’s website: reform.un.org

This first Statement is the culmination of many years of specialized work, triggered by the adoption of the International Public Sector Accounting Standards (IPSAS). While it had its genesis in financial reporting, the scope of the Secretariat’s Statement, which is based on the COSO Internal Control-Integrated Framework, was amplified to embrace operational and compliance objectives also.  This was done to leverage this project as an enabler of the Secretary-General’s management reform, especially the delegation of authority, and the commitment to transparency and accountability for results. The internal control framework will be reviewed and updated continuously. Each year’s Statement on Internal Control will reflect on the specific areas that are identified as opportunities for improvement.

The 2020 Statement has identified the following areas for further improvement: talent acquisition processes; learning skills and development;  personal data protection and privacy; property management; maintenance of risk registers; advance purchase of air travel tickets; and monitoring, evaluation, and oversight of third parties.

As we strive to improve the Secretariat’s effectiveness in delivering on its mandates, the annual SIC framework will hopefully become an integral part of the manager’s toolkit in ensuring the optimal utilization of resources for delivering their respective programmes, and increasing trust in, and confidence about, the Organization.  

For more information on this initiative, please contact Ms. Sandra Canales Ruiz at canales@un.org.

 

Updates

The UN MEDEVAC Mechanism serves as an example of a successful One UN partnership between numerous entities to design, resource, and implement a system-wide medical evacuation framework in the face of the unprecedented circumstances of the COVID-19 pandemic. Complementing First Line of Defense (FLOD) activities, COVID-19 MEDEVAC is a last resort, which provides life-saving support for severely ill COVID-19 patients who require a level of care not available at their location. This ensures that UN personnel, partners, and their dependents can continue to stay and deliver.

The global human resources strategy of 2019-21 set a goal to become “simplified, decentralized, flexible, and field-oriented” in order to drive strategic human resources management and empower managers. 

Then COVID-19 exposed an overreliance on physical paperwork and signatures in our human resource management. Adopting electronic signatures and migrating paper-based forms into digital systems will help the United Nations strengthen its ability to manage human resources in an ever-changing world.

It might seem like critical situations or incidents should be second nature in the United Nations, yet sometimes capacities are stretched beyond any norm or barriers to reallocation of resources put up obstacles. As part of management reform, a dedicated capacity in the Department of Operational Support was created to support the start-up, surge, or closure of Secretariat entities, as well as to better respond to critical incidents.