– ITU-Reporter

TWEAK TO ITU practices can align the agency with practices in a majority of organizations in the U.N. system, and could bolster the agency’s independence, an oversight body mandated to act as agent of change across the U.N. system suggested.

Chief of Oversight


ITU Oversight Unit Proposal Appears to Pass Over Review of Accountability Frameworks in the U.N.


Broader knowledge of ITU oversight, audit, evaluation and ethics activities could bring the agency in-line with practices in a majority of organizations in the U.N. system, and could bolster the agency’s independence, recent reports from the U.N. Joint Inspection Unit (JIU) variously said.  The sec.-gen. early in 2023 floated a proposal to ITU Council to sign off in July on creation of an oversight unit and for the hiring of a diplomatic-level staffer.  A March 2023 JIU review of accountability frameworks in U.N. system organizations was not obviously cited in the list of documents to the ITU Council meeting, nor was it obviously included in the content of documents available to the public.  A sec.-gen. report to council included JIU excerpts from 2021 and 2022 reports, which addressed several subjects other than accountability. 

The ITU is one of the few U.N. agencies that provide no public access to internal audit, nor evaluation, reports, a March 2023 U.N. Joint Inspection Unit (JIU) review of accountability frameworks in United Nations system organizations said.  ITU’s perch is shared by the International Maritime Organization and the International Atomic Energy Agency, it said.  The JIU is “the only independent external oversight body” of the U.N. system “mandated to conduct evaluations, inspections and investigations system-wide,” the unit’s website said: Its mandate is to look at cross-cutting issues and to act as an agent for change across the U.N. system.  

          The U.N. World Tourism Organization provides no public access to its internal audit report, the March JIU report said.  That organization has no evaluation function, it said.

The sec.-gen. asked ITU Council members to green light this month the creation of an oversight unit, and the hiring of a diplomatic-level staffer — dubbed “Chief of Oversight” — who would enjoy diplomatic immunity.

Oversight reports and documents to ITU Council are available only to persons vetted by governments and members, namely: 1) Report of the internal auditor on audit activities; 2) External auditor’s interim report on the 2022 financial statements; 3) ITU management response to the external auditor’s interim report; 4) Report from the ethics office; 5) Report from the ITU investigation unit; 6) Report on the headquarters project; 7) Report on the member state advisory group on the headquarters project, and; 8) Strengthening internal controls systems and measures.

 Internal audit and evaluation reports are available to the public at about two-thirds of organizations tallied by the JIU in March, namely ICAO, the International Trade Center, the U.N. secretariat, UNCTAD, UNDP, UNEP, UNESCO, UNFPA, UN-Habitat, UNHCR, UNICEF, UNODC, UNRWA, UN-Women, WFP and WIPO, it said.  The sec.-gen.’s report on JIU suggestions extended to reports from 2021 and 2022.  The March 2023 JIU tally was not included in the sec.-gen.’s report on JIU recommendations to ITU Council in July. 

One document submitted to the July ITU Council meeting included extracts from JIU reports in 2021 and 2022 on U.N. system-wide issues and recommendations to executive heads and executive bodies.  ITU extracts from 2021 and 2022 JIU reports detailed subject areas, namely: 1) Review of measures and mechanisms for addressing racism and racial discrimination in U.N.-system organizations: managing for achieving organizational effectiveness; 2) Business continuity management in U.N.-system organizations, and; 3) Review of the ethics function in the U.N. system, and highlights.  

One deficiency in independence of certain U.N. agencies is related to annual reporting on the activities of the ethics function to the legislative organs and governing bodies, the JIU in a 2021 report said: “A few organizations do not even present an ethics activity report at all to their legislative organs and governing bodies, while a few others do not make the report publicly available.”

A 1999 JIU review of ITU handling of JIU reports said the agency was not in the practice of general distribution to member states.  JIU working procedures said: “Upon receipt of [JIU] reports, the executive head or heads concerned shall take immediate action to distribute them, with or without their comments, to the States members of their respective organizations.”  ITU was not queried about distribution of the March report to member states.  It is available online.   The absence of confidence in dissemination to member states prompted the JIU to create a website where they could be found, the review of ITU handing of JIU reports suggested.