I propose to take Questions Nos. 31, 34, 60 and 90 together.
As Minister of State with responsibility for Ireland’s Official Development Assistance, I am very conscious of the need to have a high level of assurance that our development assistance is fully accountable and that it makes a real difference to the lives of the world’s poorest people.
To ensure that our assistance is targeted at those most in need and delivered in the most effective manner we work through a variety of delivery channels in partnership with national governments, local communities, NGOs, and key multilateral partners such as the United Nations. Each of these partners is fully accountable to my Department for any funds received. Programmes in receipt of Irish Aid funding are subject to regular internal and external monitoring to ensure that our support is reaching its intended beneficiaries and the planned objectives and goals of the Irish Aid programme are being achieved. These programmes are regularly monitored by internal auditors, by independent experts, and by the Evaluation and Audit Unit of the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade. These reports are reviewed by the independent Audit Committee of the Department.
In line with best practice and with recommendations from the OECD for improving the accountability of all development financing, Ireland strongly supports the strengthening of partner country delivery systems. We provide assistance to national Government oversight institutions, such as the Office of the Comptroller and Auditor General and the Public Accounts Committees of national Parliaments, to ensure Governments are held to account for the effective expenditure of public funds, including overseas development assistance.
The recent case in Uganda, where there was evidence of the fraudulent use of Irish Aid funds, is a clear indication of the need for continuous vigilance in the oversight of any Irish Aid funds disbursed to our programme partners. The report into the events in Uganda, which is available on the Department’s website, contains a number of recommendations for improving the monitoring and oversight of Irish Aid spending. As Deputies will be aware, the misappropriated funds have now been returned.
Our management and oversight systems are continually under review to ensure that Irish development funding goes to those most in need, and that we meet the highest standards of accountability. I have accepted all of the recommendations of the Uganda report. Our oversight systems are also being reviewed in the light of the report and, where necessary, will be adapted if any deficiencies are indentified.