Financial terminology

(1)     At the 20th session (April 1959: CO-ORDINATION/R.295, para. 78) in response to an observation by the Joint Panel of Auditors calling for a common definition of the term ex gratia, the Committee drew up a compilation of existing practices and suggested to ACC that it authorize the Secretary-General of UN to transmit the compilation to the Joint Panel.

(2)     In consequence of recommendations made in the second report (A/6343) of the Ad Hoc Committee of Experts to Examine the Finances of the United Nations and the Specialized Agencies, CCAQ in 1967 began a study with the object of standardizing the financial nomenclature in use by the various organizations. The 29th session (March 1968: CO-ORDINATION/R.679) agreed (subject to possible modification when French translations were available) on definitions in English for an initial list of 71 terms.

(3)     At the 30th session (March 1969: CO-ORDINATION/R.733, para. 108) CCAQ approved a Glossary of financial and budgetary terms (CO-ORDINATION/R.733, Add.5) and agreed that it should be published in loose-leaf form, initially in English and French with Spanish and Russian later. The quadrilingual Glossary appeared as CCAQ/SEC/119(FB).

(4)     At the 31st session (March 1970: CO-ORDINATION/R.799, paras. 46-48) CCAQ agreed a revised common definition of "Equipment, non-expendable" as follows:

"Items of equipment valued at $100 or more per unit, with a serviceable life of at least five years, for which formal inventory records are maintained."

CCAQ agreed that it should remain open to each organization to maintain inventory management records for equipment costing less than $100.

(5)     At the 39th session (March 1974) CCAQ decided that it would in future use the term "programme support costs" (later shortened to "support costs") instead of "overhead costs" or "administrative and operational services costs" (CO-ORDINATION/R.1032, para. 4).

(6)     At the 41st session (March 1975: CO-ORDINATION/R. 1088, paras. 36-38), CCAQ decided that in its definitions of "Equipment, expendable" and "Equipment, non-expendable" the minimum value for recording non-expendable equipment should be increased from $100 to $250. The Committee asked its secretariat to obtain from organizations, and then circulate, any lists of sensitive and attractive items that might exist. (See CCAQ/SEC/357 for this list.)

(7)     At the 42nd session (September 1975: CO-ORDINATION/R.1114, para. 5) CCAQ agreed to the inclusion in the Glossary of seven terms and definitions recommended by its Task Force on Harmonization of Programme Budget Presentation.

(8)     The Committee agreed at the 46th session (March 1977: CO-ORDINATION/R.1211, para. 10 and annex III, paras. 28 and 29 and appendix II) to the inclusion in the Glossary of ten further terms and definitions recommended by the Task Force. A revised edition of the Glossary (CCAQ/SEC/119(FB)/Rev.1) was issued in May 1977, incorporating all of the definitions approved.

(9)     At the 47th session (September 1977: CO-ORDINATION/R.1238, para. 35), in the framework of an examination of classes of extrabudgetary funds, the Committee found that there was no valid distinction between "Trust funds" and "Funds in trust" and that the use of the latter term led to confusion and should be discontinued. At the 48th session (March 1978) the Committee approved for inclusion in the Glossary new definitions of "Account, special" and "Trust fund" (CO-ORDINATION/R.1279, paras. 32 and 33).

(10)     At the 49th session (September 1978: CO-ORDINATION/R.1307, paras. 47 and 48) CCAQ decided to omit a standard minimum value from the Glossary definitions referred to in paragraph 6 above, and amended those definitions accordingly. It agreed that organizations should consult from time to time on the minimum unit amount being used.

(11)     At the 53rd session (September 1980) the Committee reviewed the current position of the organizations with regard to this minimum unit amount. It confirmed its preference for not specifying a minimum value in the text of the Glossary definitions, but agreed that the organizations should attempt to use the same amount in practice. An amount of US$ 400 was recommended at that time (ACC/1980/32, paras. 37 and 38).

(12)     Having established at the 51st session (September 1979) a Working Party on the Harmonization of Financial Statements whose mandate was to include questions of financial terminology related to financial statements, CCAQ reviewed the Working Party's recommendations on this subject at its 54th session (March 1981). New and revised definitions of terms proposed by the Working Party were approved with the exception of "Assets, fixed", "Cash", "Revenue, gross" and "Revenue, net", which were to be re-examined. It was agreed that definitions in the JIU Glossary of evaluation terms should be considered for possible inclusion in the CCAQ Glossary to the extent that they were relevant to financial and budgetary operations. The standard definition of "Trust fund" was amended along the lines proposed by the French translators. It was agreed that consideration would be given in due course to definitions not yet examined by the Working Party, and that revised definitions should be developed for "Contributions, voluntary" and "Obligation", and the possibility of a standard definition of "Unencumbered balance" and/or "Unobligated balance" further investigated. It was also agreed that a further meeting of the Working Party did not need to be envisaged immediately, but that the CCAQ secretariat should consult the organizations by correspondence about outstanding matters relating to financial and budgetary terms and submit the results at the next session (ACC/1981/10, para. 21).

(13)     The Committee had the results of these consultations before it at the 55th session (September 1981). It agreed that the outstanding questions should be discussed in a specialized working party, arrangements for which it would consider at the next session (ACC/1981/30, paras. 38 and 39). At the 56th session (March 1982) the need for consideration of these questions in a specialized working group was reaffirmed; the Committee decided to entrust this task to such a group when it became necessary to convene one (ACC/1982/6, para. 49).

(14)     At the 58th session (March 1983) the Committee reaffirmed its preference for not setting a common minimum value in the standard definitions of expendable and non-expendable equipment (see paras. 6 and 10 above) but agreed that amounts of $ 400 and $ 500 would currently be appropriate in practice (ACC/1983/11, paras. 50 and 51).

(15)     A revised edition of the Glossary (ACC/1983/FB/1) was published in May 1983, containing all of the terms for which definitions had been approved up to that time. The full text of the Glossary is reproduced in Handbook annex XII.

(16)     At its 89th session (February 1999: ACC/1999/6, para. 26) the Committee was informed of revisions to the glossary of financial terms being prepared to reflect the addition of key terms used in the United Nations Accounting Standards and some proposed changes reflecting current usage by some organizations. In view of complications in the area of budgeting terms, the Committee considered that it would be more appropriate to prepare a Thesaurus of budgeting terms which would set out the principle terms used by each organization with an attempt to indicate which different terms covered the same basic concepts. A full record of the discussion is to be found in section 16.3, para. (16).

(17)     At its 90th session (August-September 1999: ACC/1999/14, para. 51) the Committee was briefed on the status of work on updating the Glossary. Such an update had not been undertaken since 1983 and the number of changes proposed by organizations was considerable. In connection with a report being prepared on UN system on the experience of organizations with Results-Based Budgeting (RBB), the JIU was recommending that, in order to assure appropriate guidance from Member States in resolving the problem of the lack of agreed definitions in this area, the updated Glossary should be reviewed and commented upon by the appropriate bodies of the UN system organizations. The Committee felt that it was premature to take any decisions on likely input to ACC comments on this report. This should wait until organizations had received and reviewed the final report. While eventual harmonization of terms in the budgeting area was a worthwhile goal, achieving this would be complicated by the history of each organization working with its own governing body to agree new budgetary approaches, many of which used totally new terms or applied existing terms but with new meanings. While a working party might be appropriate to address the issue of harmonization, a decision on setting up such a working party should await finalization of ACC comments on the JIU report. Meanwhile the Secretary should undertake informal consultations with the Secretary of CCPOQ.

(18)     At its 91st session (August-September 2000: ACC/2000/6, para. 38 & annex V) the Committee was briefed on the status of work on updating the Glossary. It agreed to the proposed changes and additions listed in the annex. It also agreed to revert to the question of RBB terminology at the next session, at which time participants would be briefed on further work that would be undertaken by CCPOQ and CCAQ(FB) secretariats.


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