By an IPS Correspondent
UNITED NATIONS, Jan 10 2017 (IPS/G77)
The UN’s Administrative and Budgetary Committee (Fifth Committee) has approved a $40 million project to retrofit the premises of the Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific (ESCAP) in Bangkok, as part of the upgrades of UN Commission buildings, including the Economic Commission for Africa (ECA) in Addis Ababa.
The project, described as “the most cost-effective, low-risk and viable option”, is expected to provide long-term energy and space efficiencies.
Speaking for the “Group of 77” and China, a Thai delegate reiterated the importance of continued interaction between the Organization and the host country throughout the project’s planning and implementation.
The Group believed governance and oversight were key drivers of the project’s successful implementation. Close interaction and coordination, with clear reporting lines, between the Secretariat in New York, the Office of Central Support Services and the Commission in Bangkok, were essential, the delegate said.
Meanwhile, the 2016 seismic risk analysis of the ESCAP premises confirmed that peak ground acceleration was classified as having moderate to heavy potential to cause damage to structures. Coupled with the area’s soil and bedrock characteristics, that could lead to several damage, or even complete collapse of the secretariat building, if an earthquake hit.
The Group found the identified risk ‘extremely alarming’ and believed the safety of staff and visitors should never be compromised.
The Group agreed with the Advisory Committee on Administrative and Budgetary Questions (ACABQ) that option C, combining seismic and life-cycle facets and carried out in multiple phases over a six-year timeline, was the most viable and cost—effective option.
That option also had the lowest risk and provided long-term efficiencies in energy and space. The Group supported the approval of a multi-year construction-in-progress account from 2017 until its completion, as well as the proposed scope and timeline for the project to ensure its successful implementation plan.
The Assistant Secretary-General of the Department of Management’s Office of Central Support Services, said Bangkok was surrounded by seismically active zones, compounded by the specific soil characteristics of the area.
He said the project aimed to address that risk through seismic mitigation retrofit to ensure safety of staff, delegates and visitors. In addition, it would offer an opportunity to address life-cycle replacements of building systems that were close to reaching the end of their useful lives.
Turning to the construction of office facilities at the ECA in Addis Ababa, the Group noted that an independent assessment had confirmed that neither the contractor nor consultant design firm had breached the contract, the Thai delegate said.
The Group recommended the ECA complete the contract and stressed the need for greater efforts to ensure the remaining work was fully completed within the newly defined timelines to avoid any additional delay or cost overrun.
Noting that the renovation of Africa Hall had been under discussion for nearly a decade, the Group was again disappointed at the delays arising from, among other reasons, contract negotiations. The Group emphasized the need for timely completion of the Africa Hall renovation and sought details of the revised time frame and steps to recover the lost time and expedite the project’s implementation.
The Group also noted that the planned expenditure for the biennium was lower than originally planned due to delays in contract talks. It understood that the remaining financial planning elements would be carried out within the approved maximum resources of $56.9 million and any unspent balance would be retained in the multi-year construction-in-progress account, created under section IX of Assembly resolution 70/248.
Regarding oversight and governance, the Group stressed the need for full and timely implementation of the issued recommendations of the Office of Internal Oversight Services (OIOS) and ensuring the Financial Rules and Regulations, as well as procurement policies and procedures, were strictly followed.