Written Answers. - Overseas Development Aid.

Ivor Callely

Question:

35 Mr. Callely asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs the total allocation of moneys to NGOs in 2001; the monitoring and evaluation which exists of such moneys; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [3729/02]

Non-governmental organisations, NGOs, engaged in development co-operation activities with people in the developing world receive very significant funding from the Government. The principal source of funding is the Government's official development assistance programme, Ireland Aid, which operates a number of schemes for NGOs, including NGO co-financing, rehabilitation assistance, emergency humanitarian assistance, human rights and democratisation. NGOs received approximately €33 million directly from Ireland Aid in 2001. Funding of approximately €7 million was channelled to NGOs through the Agency for Personal Service Overseas for personnel co-funding and training costs and through the national committee for development education for development education activities. Both APSO and the NCDE are funded directly by Ireland Aid. Therefore, in 2001, a provisional total of approximately €40 million was allocated to NGOs. Final out-turns for 2001 are not yet available, but will be published in Ireland Aid's 2001 annual report, which will be available later this year and placed in the Oireachtas Library.

A further source of funds for development NGOs during 2001 was tax deductibility allowed by the Revenue Commissioners on contributions made to such organisations. A number of Irish NGOs are also in receipt of substantial funding from multilateral agencies, such as the UN and the EU, to which the Government contributes from its official development assistance budget. The Deputy will be aware from previous replies to parliamentary questions on this topic that all applications for funding from NGOs, including missionary orders, must conform to a detailed set of criteria and guidelines pertaining to the particular sector being funded. Applicants for funding must demonstrate a capacity to carry out the tasks envisaged as well as a clear and coherent strategy to achieve the aims and objectives of the programme or project. The track record of the applicants in terms of planning, management, monitoring and evaluation is an important consideration when examining proposed projects and programmes. Applications must be carefully costed in advance. Successful applicants are subject to formal contractual arrangements which set out the terms, conditions and reporting requirements.

My Department has a separate audit and evaluation unit which is tasked with ensuring the highest standards of evaluation and the adoption of best development practice. Independent consultants and international experts are regularly commissioned to assist in the evaluation process. Each year a number of projects and programmes carried out by NGOs are selected for rigorous evaluation and financial audit by Ireland Aid's evaluation and audit unit. NGOs in receipt of public funds must demonstrate that they have systems in place to monitor and evaluate projects and a demonstrated capacity to address issues such as sustainability, participation, local ownership, gender, environmental impact and cost effectiveness. In addition, the evaluation team reports on whether the projects and programmes are performing to expectations, whether the funds are reaching the beneficiaries and if the projects and programmes funded represent good value for money.
During 2001 a number of major evaluations were conducted by the Ireland Aid evaluation and audit unit. These evaluations were headed by international consultants and reviewed projects implemented by all five of the Ireland Aid block grant recipient NGOs. Two evaluations examined NGO block grant projects in India and Bangladesh as well as in Kenya, Uganda and Malawi. These evaluations proved to be extremely useful exercises both for Ireland Aid and for the NGOs concerned, as they highlighted the many strengths of the NGO work in these countries, while also pointing to areas which can and must be developed and improved in the future. The evaluation and audit unit also commissioned a financial management systems review of five further Irish NGOs which had expressed an interest in receiving an Ireland Aid block grant. The report of this review, which was conducted by independent external experts, is currently being finalised. An evaluation was also undertaken of the activities of the NGOs which had received Ireland Aid funding following the Gujarat earthquake in India.
A number of major evaluations of NGO projects and programmes are planned for 2002. A comprehensive evaluation of Ireland Aid's in-country micro projects scheme is scheduled to commence later this month and will examine in detail the operation of this scheme, through which local and indigenous NGOs and missionaries can receive funding for relatively small development projects. It is anticipated that a major review of the operation of the main Ireland Aid NGO co-financing scheme will be conducted during the second half of 2002.
Throughout the Ireland Aid programme, evaluation is seen as an essential tool in learning valuable development lessons and adopting new and improved ways of achieving real and sustainable positive change in the lives of the poor in the developing world. We must continue our efforts to ensure that aid is delivered as productively, effectively and efficiently as possible. The Ireland Aid programme is subject to rigorous peer review by an OECD development assistance committee. In 1999 the OECD published its most recent review of the Irish programme. The OECD review, which was very positive, stated that Ireland sets high standards for aid and pointed to a clear focus on poverty reduction. Preparations for the next OECD peer review are scheduled to commence during 2003.
As the Deputy will be aware, an Ireland Aid review committee is currently conducting a comprehensive review of the structures, policies and programmes of the entire Ireland Aid programme. It is anticipated that the review committee will shortly report to Government on its findings. An important element of the work of the review committee has been consideration of how the official aid programme can best work in a complementary way with NGOs. During this process the committee has engaged actively with the NGO and missionary communities, as well as with other interested parties.