[Dateline: New York | Author: OPPBA]
A very successful meeting of Chiefs of Finance was recently concluded at Headquarters. The meeting, which was organized by Office of Programme Planning, Budget and Accounts (OPPBA), brought together the wider finance community in the UN, with participants drawn not only from the Offices away from Headquarters, the Regional Commissions and the Tribunals, but also from the Peacekeeping and Special Political Missions.
Forty-two Finance Officers from overseas joined their colleagues at Headquarters in a very useful exchange of experiences, best practices, ideas, concerns and challenges.
In his opening address on Sunday, 2 November 2008, Mr. Jun Yamazaki, the Controller, emphasized the importance of teamwork. The current turmoil in the financial markets is putting a strain on national Treasuries at a time when the UN is seeking the support of Member States for increased contributions to both the peacekeeping and regular budget, noted Mr. Yamazaki. As a result, it cannot be “business as usual” at the UN. Work simplification, he said, was a priority in going forward.
The Finance Officers were updated on status of the Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) system and the International Public Sector Accounting Standards (IPSAS). With regard to IPSAS, there will be greater engagement with all the stakeholders in 2009 to prepare for the new accounting policies and increase awareness. Training materials are being developed and shall be introduced in phases across the UN Secretariat. It is expected that IPSAS training will be required for 3,500 staff in the UN alone.
Besides IPSAS, a number of other issues requiring attention of the Finance Officers were also covered at the workshop. There were 22 breakout sessions, which allowed for more in-depth discussions.
Subjects covered were diverse, ranging from preparing for the upcoming year-end closing of accounts and preparation of financial statements and ideas for work simplification, to procedures for recovery of costs of air operations in the peacekeeping area and for handling of medical expense claims in the field. All of these will ultimately help in improving Finance practices, both in the field and at Headquarters.
In his closing remarks, Mr. Jayantilal Karia, Director, Accounts Division and OIC, Peacekeeping Finance Division, OPPBA, asked Finance Officers to share useful information exchanged during conference with their colleagues.
He also urged them to implement within the next six months the “simplification projects” identified to bring about efficiencies.
Mr. James Mutiso, Chief, Field Budget and Finance Division, Department of Field Support (DFS), endorsed the usefulness of the workshop and reiterated the need for Budget and Finance colleagues in the field to work together even more closely. The meeting ended on Wednesday, 5 November 2008.