As Minister of State with responsibility for Ireland’s Official Development Assistance, I am keenly aware of the need to have a high level of assurance that our development assistance reaches its intended beneficiaries, and makes a real difference in the lives of the poorest people. Ireland’s Policy for International Development, One World, One Future, which was launched just over a year ago, reaffirms our commitment to maximizing the impact and accountability of the aid programme.
To ensure that our assistance is effectively delivered to those most in need in developing countries, Irish Aid works in partnership with national and local Governments, local communities, NGOs, and key multilateral partners such as the United Nations, the European Union, and the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development.
Accountability and transparency is at the core of all we do. All programmes considered for funding assistance are rigorously appraised by Irish Aid staff using clear criteria, including efficiency in the use of resources, cost effectiveness and sustainability of intended impact. Programmes in receipt of funding are subject to regular internal and external monitoring to ensure that the intended objectives and goals are being achieved. They are regularly monitored by Embassy-based internal auditors, independent experts, and the Evaluation and Audit Unit of the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade. The Unit’s work is regularly reviewed by the independent Audit Committee of my Department. In addition, the Comptroller and Auditor General provides independent assurance that Overseas Development Assistance is provided in accordance with the law, is managed to good effect, and is properly accounted for. Moreover, peer reviews by the OECD have clearly stated that Ireland’s aid programme is of the highest quality, characterised by its focus on poverty reduction and building the capacities of poor communities and national institutions in some of the poorest countries in the world.
Strengthening institutions is a key element in maximising the impact of the aid programme. Accordingly, in Key Partner Countries benefiting from our support, we provide assistance to national Government oversight institutions, such as the Auditor General’s Offices and the Public Accounts Committees of National Parliaments, to ensure governments are held to account for the effective expenditure of public funds.
The Irish Aid programme, managed by the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade, proactively manages risks and has a strong focus on value for money, transparency, accountability and sustainable results. In the event of any fraud such as happened in Uganda in 2012, it is policy to demand a full refund of monies misappropriated. As the Deputy will be aware, the Government of Uganda has fully refunded the €4 million in aid funds which were misappropriated.