Defining accountability

Accountability in the context of management is defined in General Assembly resolution 64/259

“Accountability is the obligation of the Secretariat and its staff members to be answerable for all decisions made and actions taken by them, and to be responsible for honouring their commitments, without qualification or exception … Accountability includes: 

  • achieving objectives and high-quality results in a timely and cost-effective manner.
  • fully implementing and delivering on mandates to the Secretariat approved by United Nations intergovernmental bodies and other subsidiary organs established by them, in compliance with all resolutions, regulations, rules and ethical standards;
  • truthful, objective, accurate and timely reporting on performance results;
  • responsible stewardship of funds and resources;
  • all aspects of performance, including a clearly defined system of rewards and sanctions;
  • due recognition to the important role of the oversight bodies and full compliance with accepted recommendations.”

Understand the accountability architecture of the Organization

  • The critical linkage between institutional accountability and individual accountability is established for senior managers through their compacts with the Secretary-General and, for all other staff, through the performance management system. The approved organizational goals and objectives cascade down through the work plans of successive levels of managers and staff.
  • Senior Managers Compacts focus on the top five programmatic priorities of each senior manager and relevant management reform projects, and specific indicators related to human and financial resources management and the implementation of oversight body recommendations.
  • Managers are accountable for delivering programmatic results by managing their human and financial resources in a responsible and effective manner and in accordance with the approved organizational goals and objectives.
  • The full accountability architecture is explained for managers on the Accountability A to Z page of iSeek.

Manage with accountability

  • Know the goals of your department/office/mission, as detailed in strategic frameworks and plans, budgets, and compacts.
  • Be familiar with finance, budget and human resources management policies.
  • Uphold the organizational values and ethics and prevent conflicts of interest.
  • Ensure that your unit and each of your staff have up-to-date work plans that reflect approved goals and objectives.
  • Monitor progress and evaluate performance of your programme, your staff, and the use of financial resources. Take corrective actions and make improvements, especially as recommended by oversight bodies

Budget and manage resources

What managers need to know

What managers need to do


  • Member States determine mandates for the different parts of the Secretariat, and allocate resources to deliver on those in a budget cycle.
  • The regular budget funds the Secretariat over a two-year period; the peacekeeping budget finances peace operations for one year.
  • The results-based management process translates legislative mandates into programmes and sub-programmes of the Secretariat—through the Strategic Framework.
  • The Office of Programme Planning, Budget and Accounts (OPPBA) at UNHQ guides departments and offices in submitting their biennial programme plans driven by defined objectives and expected results.
  • Expected results justify the resource requirements. Results-based budgeting involves calculating and proposing resource requirements (human and finance) on the basis of pre-determined results—what we expect to realize when the objectives are met using the allocated resources.  Actual results are measured by objective performance indicators.
  • You align your team’s work plans with the objectives defined for your unit. The desired achievements are aimed at meeting certain results.  Outcomes are expressed as a quantitative standard, value or rate.  They are the direct effect of outputs, the products or services delivered by your programme.
  • You may be involved in preparing the proposed budget—at the department/ office level or for the work unit.
  • You may be expected to defend the budgets in the Advisory Committee for Administrative and Budgetary Questions (ACABQ) and the Fifth Committee of the General Assembly.
  • You monitor how financial resources are used and the progress.  
  • You may be asked to report on the “outputs” that are listed in your office’s/work unit’s budget document.
  • You should aim to evaluate your programme’s activities so as to improve performance.
  • You cooperate with programme audits that may be initiated by various oversight bodies.

> Introduction to the Budget Process learning programmes (Log in to inspira, go to Main Menu, then Self-Service, Learning, My Learning. Do a search using "budget" and you will see a list of online courses on the UN budget process. You can complete them in inspira.

Results Based Budgeting guidance

> Budget and Finance Manual (v.1, 2012)

> Budget documents from your Department/Office (on your intranet or check with your unit’s/office’s Administrative Officer)

Guidance on Attending Informal Fifth Committee Meetings

Guidance on Attending Formal Fifth Committee Meetings


What managers need to know

What managers need to do


  • We have the obligation of stewardship for the ethical and responsible management of resources entrusted to the United Nations by Member States. Our ethical principles have special significance in procurement because commercial transactions carry risk of conflict of interest, mismanagement, waste and fraud.  This requires a strict and sometimes complicated process for the acquisition of goods, services or works, based on principles in the Financial Regulations. 
  • These principles are put into effect through the financial rules that specify the conditions under which procurement can take place, including the need for competitive bidding, how it is carried out and requirements for a written contract.
  • A procurement officer will coordinate the formal solicitations—requesting competitive offers, including Quotation Requests, Invitations to Bid and Requests for Proposals.
  • Delegation of authority for the procurement function is person-specific and cannot be passed on or assumed through appointment to a specific office or function. Only those officials who have duly received a Delegation of Procurement Authority may enter into financial commitments on behalf of the United Nations.
  • You decide that goods or services are needed to meet programme goals.
  • You must work with procurement colleagues to obtain goods and services above a threshold amount, to define requirements (a detailed description of the what, when and where) and any technical or operational expectations.
  • You may have input for the sourcing: identifying the market and potential suppliers for the requirement.
  • Competitive offers are formally received by procurement officers and opened under strict procedures that protect confidentiality and maintain segregation of duties.
  • You must follow the instructions of the procurement officer for objective, quantifiable assessment of offers for best value and the interest of the Organization.
  • When a contract is awarded, a legal obligation on behalf of the Organization is created. During the life of the contract you have formal and operational responsibility for monitoring performance and delivery of requirements according to the contract terms and conditions, recording progress against established benchmarks, correcting any deficiencies in performance and ensuring that all obligations have been satisfied.

> Procurement learning programmes (Log in to inspira, go to Main Menu, then Self-Service, Learning, My Learning. Do a search using "procurement" and you will see a list of introductory online courses on procurement in the UN. You can complete them in inspira

>Introductory and more advanced procurement courses are available on the  Procurement training campus

>Also visit the UN Procurement Division intranet site. From here you will find links to the Division's intranet and extranet resources.



Managing leave and using flexible working arrangements

  • You manage leave and work time arrangements to deploy your team members for the optimal delivery of programme results. You are expected to authorize leave and some of the other benefits for your staff members. The HR Factsheets explain the details on different types of leave. Every Factsheet explains the policy governing the benefit as well as the how-to for staff and manager. The Factsheets will guide you and the staff member in planning leave; some situations have defined timeframes that must be respected (such as maternity leave, paternity leave, rest and recuperation break at certain duty stations). As duty stations launch Umoja, managers will learn how to authorize leave and other benefits in the new system.

    > Go to Benefits for the HR Factsheets


  • Members of your team may ask you to consider flexible working arrangements. This is your decision to make, and you will have the delivery of the work top in your concern. Be reasonable and reflective in considering the options. You are encouraged to rethink the manner in which the work is currently performed and how it could be done in a different way, perhaps even more productively. Certain types of flexible working arrangements may not be possible for some jobs. Similarly, demands and requirements may lead to suspension of flexible working arrangements at certain periods.

    > Go to Flexible working arrangements for more details.

  • Staff members cannot engage without the approval of the Secretary-General in any outside activity, occupation or employment, whether remunerated or not, when on leave or before/after working hours.

    The Secretary-General may authorize a staff member to engage in an outside occupation or employment, whether remunerated or not, if: It does not conflict with the staff member’s official functions or the status of an international civil servant; It is not against the interest of the United Nations; and It is permitted by local law at the duty station or where the occupation or employment occurs. Similarly they may not engage in outside activities that relate to the purpose, activities or interests of the United Nations unless they are performed in the course of the staff members’ normal official duties. Special leave may be granted for the conduct of an approved outside activity.

    Except in the normal course of official duties, prior authorization is required to engage in any of the following, if such acts relate to the purpose, activities or interests of the United Nations: Issuance of statements to the press, radio or other agencies of public information; acceptance of speaking engagements; taking part in film, theatre, radio or television productions; submitting articles, books or other materials for publications.

    As a manager, you should be aware that staff members in your team wishing to engage in outside occupation or employment need to submit their requests through you to the Executive Officer or the local HR chief. At Headquarters, the Executive Officer will submit such requests to OHRM for decision. At offices away from Headquarters, the local HR chief will submit his/her recommendation on the requests to the head of department/office for decision.

Support and tools available to managers

Most departments/offices have one or more Administrative Officers who can answer your questions and provide tools specific to your department/office. They will have the up-to-date information on resources (such as consultant databases) and can assist with procurement processes.

Important documents: