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PRESS BRIEFING BY UNDER-SECRETARY-GENERAL OF OFFICE OF INTERNAL OVERSIGHT SERVICES

Department of Public Information . News and Media Division . New York

20 July 2005

Evaluating the United Nations watchdog office to bring about greater independence, transparency and accountability was the first priority for Inga-Britt Ahlenius, the new Under-Secretary General of the Office of Internal Oversight Services (OIOS), she said this afternoon in her first Headquarters press briefing.

In introducing Ms. Ahlenius, Mark Malloch Brown, Chef de Cabinet of the Secretary-General, said her appointment was a very important part of the reforms under way at the United Nations. In her previous positions as Auditor-General of Sweden and Auditor-General in Kosovo, Ms. Ahlenius had demonstrated qualities and values that were of priority to the United Nations, namely a commitment to the principles of integrity and transparency, as well as skilful management and use of resources.

He said the discussions both within the United Nations and in Washington, D.C., recognized that the function of oversight needed strengthening, as well as more resources and independence with greater transparency and accountability. Ms. Ahlenius would be critical in assessing the current situation and working with the Secretary-General and MemberStates to put in place reforms to that end. Her appointment was one of a series of reform changes that the Secretary-General did not have to wait for the membership to make. Others were the new financial-disclosure arrangements and the incorporation of a provision into the contracts of senior United Nations officials that gave the Secretary-General the power to dismiss them.

Ms. Ahlenius said she was happy to be joining the Organization at a time when change was under way to reform such an important institution to make it better fit the interests of Member States and people around the world.

In response to questions about how accessible she would be to the press, she said that in her previous posts she had had an open relationship with the media and the public, in keeping with the nature of the audits she had conducted, which were primarily external and expected to be publicized. In light of the fact that the Office of Internal Oversight Services did internal audits, she would need to evaluate the difference and determine what was appropriate. However, she stressed that her own preference was for openness. The General Assembly had requested more transparency and reports in the functioning of the OIOS.

To questions about her priorities for the Office, such as making personnel changes or investigating allegations of corruption, she said she knew the OIOS itself needed reform and her first task was to gather information that would help her analyse and evaluate conditions and then work with others to bring about the greater independence, transparency and accountability that was required.

Asked if she had the power to fire staff, she said she was under United Nations staff regulations, which in some instances might be a hindrance in hiring and firing. It was understood that the staff regulations were also being examined in the general review of United Nations reform. Somebody had already been appointed to investigate allegations against her predecessor and the OIOS and a report on that investigation was expected.

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