On Friday, August 5, the Humpty Dumpty Institute hosted its 36th Congressional Staff Delegation to the United Nations Headquarters. The delegation was comprised of a bipartisan group of senior Congressional staffers (see participant list). The day centered on United Nation’s procurement procedures and reform.
The delegation began with a working breakfast at the United States Mission to the United Nations (USUN) with a briefing from Ambassador Joseph M. Torsella, the U.S. Representative for Management and Reform to the United Nations. Ambassador Torsella expressed that while the U.N. is an effective institution, it needs to increase its accountability, transparency and ethics regulations within the United Nations procurement and budgetary departments. He explained that the U.S. Mission to the U.N. plays a significant part in creating change in the financial institutional culture of the United Nations.
The delegation then proceeded to United Nations Headquarters for a briefing from Dmitri G. Dovgopoly, Director of the Office of Central Support Services for the United Nations Procurement Division (UNPTD). The role of Central Support Services is to provide peacekeeping forces with the necessities they need in order to function, including transportation, food, and fuel. Mr. Dovgopoly explained that each department of the United Nations has its own procurement office which creates challenges in maintaining central accounting and auditing at the United Nations. He added that, to tackle this issue, oversight reforms such as mandatory financial disclosure and mandatory ethics training for all departments of United Nations Procurement have been introduced.
Fernando Blasco, Senior Programme Officer of the United Nations Global Field Support Strategy (UNDFS) spoke next on how financing is arranged for the U.N. peacekeeping missions. He agreed with the U.S. Mission that transparency and accountability must be improved. Mr. Blasco stated that this will happen as each regional headquarters of the U.N. develops more effective strategies on the ground.
Next, Dominic Grace, Director and Takakazu Numata, Senior Officer for Procurement Function spoke on behalf of the United Nations Development Program (UNDP), the second largest recipient of overall UN funding. UNDP has 166 country offices and purchases goods and services from approximately 180 countries. The speakers highlighted that the U.S. is the third largest supplier of these goods and services worldwide. UNDP’s procurement principles include an investigative team to ensure the quality of all vendors’ purchases, as well as judiciary councils to hold hearings about any unethical behavior by vendors. UNDP is constantly striving to improve the procurement process and address the concerns mentioned by the USUN and Office of Central Support Services.
The last briefing of the day was from Eva Busza, Director, Strategic Planning Unit, Executive Office of the Secretary-General. She echoed the previous perspectives on U.N. Procurement Reform. Eva also indicated that the Strategic Planning Unit has put into effect a much more rigorous screening process that vendors must pass in order to do business with the United Nations.
The delegation ended the day with a working lunch with various U.N. ambassadors and U.N. diplomats. Congressional staffers and members of the United Nations community took this opportunity to engage one another in a dialogue centered on the day’s briefings. The participants concluded the day with the consensus that while the U.N. has a large undertaking ahead of them, the future of U.N. Procurement Reform is headed in the right direction.
Mr. Tom Buttry – Legislative Correspondent, Senator Tom Harkin (D-IA)
Mr. Shelly Davis – Chief of Staff, Rep. Yvette Clark (D-NY)
Mr. Kevin C. Wrabley – Legislative Assistant, Rep. Mark S. Critz (D-PA)
Ms. Anne Hughes – Legislative Assistant, Rep. Jim Moran (D-VA)
Ms. Maggie Seidel – Policy Analyst, Rep. Louie Gohmert (R-TX)
Mr. David Richmond – Legislative Assistant, Rep. Eni Faleomavega (D-AS)
Mr. Michael Shank – Communications Director/Policy Advisor, Rep. Mike Honda (D-CA)
Ms. Karen Smyth – Congressional Liaison, United Nations Information Center