Review of Ireland’s Development Aid Programme in Uganda: Discussion.

Today's meeting is concerned with the Irish Aid programme in Uganda and will involve a discussion with His Excellency Mr. Kevin Kelly, ambassador of Ireland to Uganda, and Ms Louise Supple, regional director, central Africa region, Concern Worldwide. Ambassador Kelly is accompanied by Mr. Donal Cronin, head of development at the Irish Embassy in Kampala, Mr. Damien Cole, director of programme countries for Irish Aid, Ms Marcella Smyth, deputy director of programme countries for Irish Aid and Ms Iseult Fitzgerald, deputy director of the Africa section at the Department of Foreign Affairs.

Irish Aid's current three-year country strategy programme for Uganda is drawing to a close. We will be interested to hear from Concern on the impact the cuts are having on its programmes in the country. This is the second hearing we have had on the effectiveness of Irish Aid; we started with Mozambique. Members will be interested in the results that have been achieved since 1994 when Uganda became a programme country. An enormous amount of money has been spent on the country. We wish to hear what has been achieved and learn of the progress made there on poverty reduction and governmental structures. The ambassador also has an opportunity to respond to comments made about the levels of aid provided and the cuts to the overall budget, as well as the effect the latter has had on the work being done in Uganda.

I ask the ambassador to make a statement, followed by Ms Supple, after which I will open up the meeting to members to ask questions.

H.E. Mr. Kevin Kelly

I thank the Chairman and members of the Sub-Committee on Overseas Development. I am accompanied by my "Team Uganda", which comprises colleagues from Kampala and from headquarters in Dublin, whom the Chairman has already introduced. I am also very pleased to share the table with Concern, with whom we work very closely in Uganda. We have a good working relationship and our work does not just depend on funding from Ireland as we have close working relationships on a range of policy and programming issues.

I will bring members of the sub-committee up to date on our development programme in Uganda. I understand they have been given a brief on the programme so I will not take up their time with its detail. Instead, I will use this opportunity to highlight some of the main challenges and opportunities related to Irish engagement in Uganda. I am delighted that our appearance today follows on from a very productive visit by this sub-committee to Uganda in 2008 and the in-depth Project Uganda report produced by the Joint Committee on Foreign Affairs in July 2004.

The Chairman's visit to Kampala and the remote region of Karamoja managed to provide a more extensive and colourful overview of Irish engagement in Uganda than any briefing from me could succeed in providing and I will be happy to answer any questions the sub-committee may have on developments in the country since the 2008 visit.

I will open my brief statement with a quotation from the recently conducted peer review of Ireland by the OECD development assistance committee, DAC. The examiners chose to visit Uganda for an examination of the work of Irish Aid and for first-hand experience of our programme. The report had the following to say:

Irish Aid operates in Uganda in a context of significant progress in development, although important challenges remain to address governance, poverty reduction, and areas of fragility. Irish Aid stands out as having a very good development co-operation programme, with a reputation built on the excellence of its staff as well as its genuine and effective partnerships.

Irish Aid has operated in Uganda since 1994 and has established a strong programme which focuses on three critical poverty-reducing sectors, namely education, HIV-AIDS and governance. There is a strong team in place delivering the programme and rigorous monitoring and accountability systems to ensure value for money. Ireland is spending €150 million in Uganda in the period 2007-09. This includes some €25 million to be spent through Irish NGOs, missionaries and other NGO partners, many of whom have a strong field presence in Uganda.

Uganda, virtually a failed state in the mid-1980s, has recovered well from years of brutal dictatorial rule and civil strife and today is a stable, relatively peaceful, modern democracy. The country is well on the road to development, although there is still a way to go. I will give a few examples of how we have contributed to this journey. Uganda has experienced remarkable economic growth rates in recent years, reaching 9.8% last year. We have seen a consistent reduction in poverty levels from 56% in 1992 to 31% in 2005. Irish Aid supports the poverty action fund to support the Government in reducing poverty. This involves financing ring-fenced elements of Government expenditure which are deemed to be particularly important in reducing poverty, especially in the areas of education, health, water and sanitation, rural roads and agriculture.

Since universal primary education was introduced in 1997, numbers at school have risen from 2.5 million to a remarkable 7.5 million. Irish Aid is a lead donor in education, combining much needed financial resources to the sector with hands-on technical support in improving the quality of education through curriculum development. An Irish technical assistant, seconded from Mary Immaculate College in Limerick, works in the Ministry of Education in Uganda. Ireland is supporting the renovation and expansion of 11 secondary schools and two teacher training colleges in the poorest, most conflict-prone parts of the country, such as Karamoja, the region visited by the sub-committee.

As development actors we sometimes talk about statistics and numbers but sometimes fail to understand the impact of such investments. Two weeks ago, however, I was in Karamoja to visit some of the schools and saw the pride people have in their new buildings in what is a desolate part of the country. It is very insecure at the best of times and we required a military escort but it was a pleasure to see the schools, their dormitories and dining rooms in the village of Kotido. One teacher boasted that she worked in the University of Kotido. The programme provides some 2,000 school places and it has brought about huge change to people's lives.

The HIV-AIDS prevalence rate in Uganda was a staggering 18% in 1992. However, with strong leadership and co-ordinated effort, this has reduced drastically to 6.8%. HIV-AIDS is a central part of the Irish Aid programme in Uganda.

Public confidence in the justice system has risen to 70%, recovering from a situation of rampant injustice, virtually no government and distrust in past regimes. Ireland is chairing the international donor group for the justice, law and order sector and engages on an ongoing basis with the judiciary and all other actors in the process.

Despite these successes, there remain many challenges. For example, chronic poverty affects a quarter of the population and is particularly acute in Karamoja. Infant and maternal mortality are stubbornly high and the HIV-AIDS prevalence rate is creeping upwards, despite our success in reducing it to 6.8%. However, the key point to note is that progress has been possible and remains possible and Ireland is playing an important and much valued role in contributing to that.

Uganda today stands at a crossroads, faced as it is with economic and political decisions that will significantly affect its future prospects. I will outline three challenges. First, massive oil reserves have been found in the west of the country, which is great news for Uganda and has the potential to double Uganda's total revenue within ten years. Will Uganda follow the Norway route and manage the oil industry, and the dollars that will flow from that, well? Alternatively, will Uganda go down the path of Nigeria, with corruption, civil unrest, and unequal benefits the order of the day?

Peace has come "dropping slowly" in northern Uganda but, now more than ever before, with 80% of internally displaced people having returned to or near their homes, recovery and normalisation are possible. Will Uganda be able to consolidate this peace and ensure that regional inequalities — long entrenched in the country — are addressed? Or will Uganda find it difficult to sustain a real and lasting peace, placed as it is within a volatile region, with the menace of the Lord's Resistance Army rebel group still a reality?

The maturity of democracy, still in its infancy with the introduction of multi-party democracy for the 2006 elections, will be tested in the run up to the 2011 elections. Will Uganda go the way of Ghana with incremental democratisation and peaceful elections, or will it veer towards the pathway of Kenya, where contested elections led to widespread violence and resulted in a compromise government of national unity?

In summary, Uganda, far behind in the league tables on many aspects of development, but with an increasing potential to achieve sustainable development for all her people, has now a golden opportunity to exploit regional integration, internal stability and a fast paced economic growth. Will it capitalise on this, or will the coming years be a lost opportunity?

The answers to these questions will depend very much on the political directions, leadership inclinations and policy decisions in Uganda over the coming five years, the period of the Irish aid country strategy. Our programme has made and can continue to make a difference in Uganda. We have a critical role to play in supporting Uganda in making the right kinds of decision and taking the right journeys of direction in the coming years.

The Ugandan authorities are preparing a new national development plan to govern their policies and priorities for the next five years. In planning our strategy, we have been engaged in an in-depth scoping and analytical work, charting out various scenarios for the coming period. We want to ensure that our country strategy is appropriate to the context, that the risks are well understood and responded to and that every effort is made to address the issues and challenges I have outlined.

The focus of any future engagement will remain on tackling poverty with an increasing emphasis on northern Uganda and Karamoja, in particular, the regions of greatest need.

This is but a brief outline of the challenges and opportunities we face. Ours is not an easy task but we are clear about what we want to do and where we want to get to. We appreciate the support and encouragement we have received from the Oireachtas in performing our duties — our duties to Irish taxpayers and to the poorest least represented citizens of Uganda.

I thank the committee for this opportunity to discuss our programme and we are ready to take any questions members may have.

Before I call Ms Louise Supple, I acknowledge the presence of representatives from Trócaire in the public Gallery.

Ms Louise Supple

Thank you, Chairman and members. I hope to outline the links Concern and Irish Aid have on the ground in Uganda and to talk about some of the challenges facing NGOs in Uganda.

Concern Worldwide has been working in Uganda on a continual basis since 1990. During this time Concern has worked with a number of civil society organisations, government and international institutions. A key relationship established during this time has been that between Irish Aid and Concern, in terms of financial assistance and in meeting shared programming principles and objectives focused on the most vulnerable people. In 2008 approximately 1 million people directly or indirectly benefited from Concern's work on the ground and a total of €3 million was expended with approximately €1.2 million to €1.3 million coming from Irish Aid.

The strategic plan that currently guides Concern's country programme covers the period from 2008 to 2012. As His Excellency, Mr. Kevin Kelly outlined, despite being one of the poorest countries of the world, it ranks 156 out of 177 in the human development index. Uganda has experienced more than 20 years of relative stability and uninterrupted economic growth with an annual GDP growth average of 7.3% in the period 2003 to 2007. However, it is anticipated that if the high population growth rate of 3.2%, one of the highest in sub-Saharan Africa and the resultant dependency is not addressed by increased economic investment and investment in social services, gains made to date will be eroded.

Regional disparities exist for poverty and all social indicators with northern Uganda being ranked the poorest region in the country, followed by the east. The slow to non-existent pace of development in these regions of Uganda can be attributed directly to the long period of conflict and insecurity in the region. Southern Uganda is more developed, benefiting from peace, more productive agriculture and better infrastructure.

The signing of and the subsequent implementation of the Juba peace agreement has seen significant improvement in the situation in the north and considerable numbers of the 1.4 million people who have been displaced by the conflict to date are returning home. Achieving this necessitated much lobbying, discussion and collaboration on the part of the government of Uganda, civil society and the international community. Irish Aid participated through its involvement with the Partners Development Group and Concern participated through the Civil Society Organisation for Peace in northern Uganda of which Concern held the chair during this critical period.

With the retreat of the Lord's Resistance Army to the Democratic Republic of Congo, the Government of Uganda developed the peace recovery and development for northern Uganda. This programme will be implemented in 32 districts with a three year budget of approximately $606 million. The Government and the international donor community have now honoured their commitments to this fund. In moving forward strong co-ordination will be the key to achieving the actions laid out in this plan. Irish Aid in Uganda is in a strong position to influence this.

Against this background Concern's programme in Uganda will target the northern districts of Karamoja and Pader and the eastern district of Amuria. Concern will implement programmes on health, HIV-AIDS and food security, namely agriculture production and improving access to markets.

As Irish Aid and Concern continue with plans to deliver new country strategies, opportunities exist for mutual sharing and collaboration, all of which are essential to ensure aid effectiveness. The importance of and impact of this type of collaboration has also been highlighted in the recent OECD DAC peer review already mentioned by His Excellency, Mr. Kevin Kelly. This recognised Irish Aid's approach to development partners as being strategic and targeted.

Concern endorses the direction outlined in Irish Aid's draft strategy to date and has been part of the consultation process on the ground in Uganda. Joint collaboration has already started on the ground where Concern is currently implementing the gender responsive HIV-AIDS mainstreaming in the Irish Aid post-primary education programme in Karamoja.

While the security situation in the north of Uganda has improved greatly the LRA remains active in the Democratic Republic of Congo. A recent UN report stated that approximately 1,200 people mainly women and children have been killed by the LRA since they retreated to the Democratic Republic of Congo. They were killed in the most heinous ways. It is essential that the international community continue to support the effort to bring this conflict to an end. Concern will continue to be a key member of the Civil Society Organisation for Peace in northern Uganda.

While ongoing monitoring of the security situation will be necessary for some time to come, as displaced populations return home to their villages, some of which have been displaced for up to 20 years, Concern's programmes are now taking a broader focus. In northern Uganda gender based violence is common. Acts of GBV are a daily occurrence — rape, child sexual abuse and defilement, forced and child marriages, domestic violence, physical assault or battery. In a recent study carried out by Concern, a programme officer told us:

Redundancy [and unemployment] where both men and women but mainly men resort to drinking has led to violence. Men lost hope in life because of the war. They are not bothered about engaging in any income generating activities.

Another female elder told us "Beating is part of us; women feel that if an Acholi man does not beat a wife then he does not love her." The respondents further added that GBV is culturally accepted in their communities and that men have the authority to "punish" their errant wives when the need arose.

In addressing this issue Concern will draw heavily on the guidance and best practice notes developed by the Irish Gender Based Violence Consortium.

I advise Ms Supple that the sitting will be suspended because there is a Vote in the Dáil.

Sitting suspended at noon and resumed at 12.15 p.m.

Ms Louise Supple

On the issues of HIV and AIDS, Ambassador Kelly already outlined the significant improvement in the prevalence rates in Uganda. However, there is concern that in some areas the prevalence is once again rising, specifically in the northern regions. The threat to development gains of a rising prevalence rate is significant and Concern will continue to implement programmes to address issues related to HIV and AIDS.

It is appropriate to mention at this stage that due to the current financial crisis and reduction in Ireland's overseas development aid and the subsequent reduction in the organisation's multi-annual programme agreement, Concern has had to suspend planned activities to address issues related to HIV and AIDS awareness in Pader. This will result in 28,000 vulnerable people, mainly women and young girls and boys not having access to the information and services which are imperative for protecting themselves against HIV infection and AIDS.

For the returning populations of the North, food security and restoring sources of livelihood is a key priority. The war in Northern Uganda has disrupted the traditional livelihood mechanisms of this population who, until recently, depended on the World Food Programme for approximately 75% of their food requirements. Problems facing this sector include access to improved seeds, unpredictable climatic conditions and poor agriculture extension services. Concern, through civil society partners, will work directly with communities and link to the national level to effect policy change as necessary. This is in keeping with the organisation's global programming strategy and in keeping with the objectives of the Hunger Task Force.

The final issue to bring to the sub-committee's attention this morning relates to governance and the regulatory environment that governs NGOs. The issue of corruption has been and continues to be a challenge for Concern and the international community as a whole. Concern recognises that multi and bilateral donors need to support government budgets and recognise government sovereignty. This is in keeping with the leading principle of the Accra Accord for Action, which was developed following the 2005 Paris Declaration. Concern also recognises the need for donors to utilise strong processes when passing financial resources through the government. Concern advocates, however, that a balance is needed and that support to government structures alone is not enough and therefore continued support to both national and international NGOs, which deliver a significant proportion of their services directly, is required. Within the country programme in Uganda, Concern maintains a strong focus on accountability to communities, partners and donors.

With regard to the regulatory environment that governs NGOs in Uganda, considerable concerns exist about the NGO Act of 2006. The current draft policy and regulations restrict the operating environment for NGOs in Uganda. The main concern is that the space for civil society to carry out advocacy related activities will be eroded. In light of the upcoming elections in 2011, therefore, this could prevent NGOs from conducting civic education programmes. As this Bill is finalised it will be important that all development actors are speaking with one voice when they give feedback.

In summary, Concern is positioned to continue to address the needs of the most vulnerable communities in Uganda. Building on experience gained over the past 18 years Concern will do this in partnership with many different organisations and institutions of government and civil society. Maintaining and building on the relationship with Irish Aid will continue to be key a feature of Concern's work in Uganda. The areas of overlap in each organisation's strategic plan will be the driver for this. To ensure that Concern can continue to operate in Uganda and to deliver on partner agreements, Concern once again urges the Government of Ireland not to make further cuts to the overseas development aid budget. A 22% cut is enough.

I thank the committee for its attention.

Thank you, Ms Supple. Rather than clustering questions, I propose that one member at a time ask questions and receive a response. As to the format of the discussion, we will open it up now and, if we have enough time, we will go through the different sectors individually.

From 2007 to 2009 we will have spent €150 million in one of the fastest growing economies in Africa yet at the moment we are suffering an economic disaster, according to the most basic economic indicators. The ambassador is not a politician but, notwithstanding this, can he respond with regard to the amount Irish taxpayers are spending? Can he give a reason we should continue with this level of spending? Uganda is different from many other donor countries because of its long-standing relationship with Ireland — it has been a programme country for 15 years. When we were there it was clear to us that the relationship that has built up between the countries is extremely close, even in Government circles.

Tullow Oil was mentioned and it is a good example; we do not tie our aid to trade and this is as things should be. However, perhaps the ambassador can give us an idea of the type of relationship that has grown over the past 15 years between Irish officials and Ugandan officials.

Ms Supple made a pointed reference to the issue of corruption in Uganda and commentators have asked whether we should fund at this level a country with endemic corruption. Can the ambassador ensure that the audit systems in place are good enough to see that the money does not go astray? This must be dealt with; the ambassador mentioned that rigorous monitoring and accountability systems were in place to ensure value for money and he may wish to address this matter, along with Ms Supple.

H.E. Mr. Kevin Kelly

The Chairman asked important questions that we always ask ourselves when we are developing a strategy. We understand that Ireland is now in a difficult economic environment and that people consequently ask why we fund this programme in Uganda to the extent that we do. I am glad the Chairman mentioned this as large amounts of money are involved; it has increased from around €1 million when the embassy opened in 1994 to €35.5 million this year. A significant amount of money goes to Uganda from Irish taxpayers.

Why do we fund Uganda in this way? The needs of that country are huge and we have mentioned some of the major problems it faces. The maternal mortality rate in Ireland is one woman in 1,000 but the figure in Uganda is 550 per 1,000; this gives a sense of the huge development challenges that country faces. We have built up a very solid relationship with Uganda and much of this is due to funding supplied by Irish taxpayers; however, it is also built on a proud missionary past. At the turn of the last century an Irish woman from Wicklow became known over the length and breadth of Uganda as Mama Kevina, a similar name to mine, and she left 90 institutions, including clinics, schools and hospitals when she died. The Irish missionary history in Uganda is phenomenal and this has helped us in the relationships we have built up with the authorities over the years; it is very unusual to come across a government that does not contain at least a few members who were educated by Irish missionaries. We have a proud missionary past and a history of engagement in social development issues; we are building on this.

I was asked how we can justify the expenditure and the short answer is that our aid is working. We have seen huge improvements, though we are not quite where we want to be. I will not repeat the facts and figures I mentioned in my opening statement but will give one or two others. Over the space of four years class sizes have fallen from, on average, 70 children per class to 50 children per class. This level is still unacceptable but it is an improvement and Ireland has provided a great deal of support and engagement in the education sector. Uganda will be one of the few countries in sub-Saharan Africa to meet the millennium development goal of universal primary education by 2015. There are many different engagements across the various sectors and we are happy to answer questions on any of them because in each sector we have seen quite an amount of progress, along with challenges; aid is working.

In terms of relationships, we are looking to the future and our aim is to work ourselves out of our jobs. We do not wish to sit before this committee in 15 years arguing for money and describing a large aid budget; we hope to reduce our engagement in Uganda gradually over time. This is an interesting time because there is a potential oil bonanza and an Irish company, Tullow Oil, is central to it. We are in a fortuitous situation and we have an opportunity to engage with the government regarding the oil sector in a way in which we might not previously have been able. In Uganda the Norwegian donor provides most of the technical support for oil exploration because of that country's relevant experience. Ireland can now legitimately raise questions and help in this regard because an Irish oil company is involved. We have built up a good practical working relationship with Tullow Oil, we are helping it with its corporate social responsibility work and we are gently encouraging it regarding environmental standards. We are not experts in the petroleum industry but I am happy to report that our colleagues, the Norwegians, who have the relevant expertise, have been very complimentary about the behaviour of Tullow Oil in Uganda. Tullow Oil has taken steps in terms of transparency, environmental protection, consulting communities and ensuring the government gets a fair deal from the investment. As well as our aid programme, we hope we are building relationships for the future with a growing economy in Uganda. Our development engagement is a stepping stone to a new kind of relationship that we hope will be more about trade than aid.

I do not wish to monopolise the discussion but will answer briefly the questions on corruption. I was asked to assure the committee that we are keeping an eye on the purse and ensuring good value for money for Irish taxpayers, which is always important but is especially important at the moment. Corruption is a problem and we acknowledge that it is one of the key development challenges facing Uganda. There is no way I could tell the committee there is no corruption as there is ample evidence to the contrary. Interestingly, most of the information we now receive on corruption comes from the government's systems and this is positive. The information does not leak out in mysterious ways; it comes from government anti-corruption agencies and we are learning about corruption through surveys and information provided by the Government's structures. The media is also very active and this is helpful regarding corruption information. Uganda is the fifth African country in which I have lived and I never saw such press freedom in the others. It surprised me that any politically elected leader, such as the President, could face such a barrage on a daily basis from a variety of newspapers. The media have also played an active role in exposing corruption.

Poverty and corruption are, unfortunately, common bedfellows and one often finds corruption when a country is developing. Although corruption does exist and affects service delivery, it is not all bad news. In the past couple of years there have been positive developments, some of which can be directly related to our support. For example, the oversight public accounts committee of the Parliament is beginning to show its teeth. It has been led by the Opposition since the introduction of multi-party politics in 2006 and it is beginning to hold the Government and the Executive to account. People are frequently hauled before the committee and sometimes detained if they cannot provide the right answers. In the recent Temangalo scandal, there was an allegation of an improper land deal in which a Minister had used his influence to get a certain price for private land when selling it to a Government agency. The media exposed the scandal, the public accounts committee conducted an investigation and a commission was established and reported its findings, leading to an outcry. It is very encouraging to see these committees beginning to have a role.

When the committee visited Uganda, members met the auditor general, who complained he was seriously understaffed and could not do his job properly. I am happy to report that, since the visit, his budget has doubled. I met him recently in Kampala and he told me that, at last, he had a fully functioning system so that he could now do his job. He enjoys a great deal of international respect and has not been shy about tabling the most unpopular reports before Government, a few examples of which we have provided.

Our job as a partner of Uganda is to strengthen these agencies and our governance programme has a strong focus on anti-corruption measures, such as building up the auditor general and the inspector general, in which we have had some successes. One of the complaints the sub-committee made during its visits was about the weak audit coverage at local level, because a lot of money goes through local government. Due to increased capacity, last year some 74 out of the 80 local governments had submitted their accounts for scrutiny by the auditor general, which represents a huge improvement on the statistics we provided when members visited.

Our external engagements involve supporting the media, civil society and the watchdogs who hold the Government to account. Internally, we have a rigorous system of checks and balances. We have a full-time internal auditor and are audited externally by KPMG. We are held to account by management in headquarters in respect of audit coverage and in 2005 we achieved coverage of 99%. In 2006 we achieved 97% and we are still awaiting the audits for 2007 and 2008. I can give more information about the systems we have in place. There is real-time access to all our transactions at the press of a button in Limerick and we have a rigorous system of controls.

Ms Louise Supple

I will add another point to the corruption debate. Concern works at a lower, district level with various civil society partners and we attempt to strengthen the community's capacity to challenge the Government. This is a question of rights and involves the duty holders and the duty bearers challenging each other. Our budget tracking programmes show the funds provided for school construction and health but we work with the community. We empower the community by giving it the information it needs about its rights, thus enabling it to challenge the Government. It is a slow process but there have been a number of positive experiences. This work is necessary and balances what is happening at the national level. It enables districts to build links to the national activities of which the ambassador spoke.

Concern has strong audit procedures and systems and is rolling out a humanitarian accountability programme to provide complaints mechanisms to give communities a voice.

I thank the ambassador and Ms Supple for their contributions. We very much appreciate the work Irish Aid and the NGOs are doing in Uganda.

Has there been an improvement in the standard and quality of policing or is corruption still a factor? Is there legislation against violence towards women and, if so, has it been implemented? Has China invested in Uganda? What is its role in that country? Has there been any progress towards elections in 2011, and towards democracy in general?

How many Irish missionaries work in Uganda at present? It is interesting that Uganda is one of the sub-Saharan countries that has reduced the incidence of AIDS, to 6.4% from 18%. The prevention measures have obviously been very successful but what did they involve?

Ms Supple said that, because of the reduction in the budget for Irish Aid, the AIDS prevention programme in Pader had to be cut back. That raises two fundamental issues. The first, which we face at home, is the need for reductions to be made because the money is not there. Such cutbacks always seem to mean a reduction in the service provided but is it necessary to reduce the service provided by the AIDS programme in Uganda? Could greater efficiency be found in the delivery of the service?

The second issue concerns the co-ordination and integration of services. There are a number of agencies working in sub-Saharan Africa, particularly in the area of AIDS. They do very good work but their co-ordination leaves something to be desired. Many seem to work independently and might provide better value with a more integrated approach.

My final question relates to the economy and the role of agriculture in Uganda and what Uganda would like to see in terms of the World Trade Organisation talks. The only other issue is one Ms Supple raised, namely, the question of the LRA and the violence in Northern Uganda. She made the point that it is essential that the international community continue to support efforts to bring the conflict to an end. What further action would the ambassador like the Irish Government to take?

I will try to allow in as many members as possible if you can be as brief.

H.E. Mr. Kevin Kelly

Thank you, Chairman. I thank Deputy O'Hanlon for his questions. I will ask my colleague to answer some of the questions and I will focus on the ones on the economy, agriculture, trade and China and, perhaps, the integration of services. In terms of governance and policing, there has been a marked improvement. Uganda was virtually a graveyard when the current government took over in 1986 and there was no semblance of law and order. Through our support and the support of other partners, the Justice, Law and Order Sector that we are currently chairing, of which the police is a core beneficiary, we have seen some major improvements. In parts of the country that were virtually controlled by military soldiers, for example, the conflict region of Northern Uganda and also Karamoja, police stations have been established and there are efforts to have more of a civil police rule. In 2005 the ratio of police officers to population was one police officer to 1,400 people. Through our support that ratio has been reduced to one police officer to 875 people which is a marked improvement.

Violence against women and domestic violence is a major issue, as was mentioned by my Concern colleague. Ireland has been very involved in work in this area through the engagement of former President Mary Robinson who came over as part of the Club of Madrid last year and was very much a champion of issues around domestic violence, pushing for domestic violence legislation. We also facilitated a meeting between her and His Excellency the President of Uganda as a result of which the Women's Movement, last week, celebrated on the streets the fact that after many years of campaigning the Domestic Violence Bill was finally debated in parliament. It is hoped there will be some movement on that because there is a terrible culture in Uganda in terms of violence against women. The Embassy has taken it up as a campaign issue. We are doing a great deal in terms of advocacy and policy work through the Justice, Law and Order Sector. We have also supported NGOs. We support a local organisation called the Centre for Domestic Violence Prevention, CEDOVIP. We have been working with this NGO to support local communities and involving men in taking charge in terms of domestic violence against women. It is a major issue but it is one that is very much on our radar.

Deputy O'Hanlon asked about preparations for the elections which will take place in 2011. It feels as if this election campaign has already started. There is a huge amount of activity going on. The Opposition is talking about pacts, coming together, and seeing whether it will be able to lodge a successful bid against the incumbent. As donors, as development partners, it is our top issue in terms of our dialogue in the EU ambassadors group which meets monthly. Under Article 8 of the Cotonou treaty we have a structured dialogue with the government on several key issues and elections are at the top of that agenda. The discussions are around electoral reform and the composition of the electoral commission to make sure that the next elections will be an improvement on the last. The verdict on the last elections was that although, in general, they were an improvement on previous elections there was room for improvement in several key areas relating to how the elections are run.

In terms of missionaries, I do not have the exact figure. It is in the region of 35. We have a slightly transient group of people. Some people go away for a year or two and then come back. Just last week I welcomed a new Irish priest from Dublin who is up at the border of Southern Sudan in a very remote area. Sometimes people are in the country for a year before they make it down to the Embassy to register. There are 11 missionary organisations, including the Medical Missionaries of Mary and the Daughters of Charity. We have a very close engagement with many of those groups and they receive quite an amount of funding through Irish Aid HQ and the Misean Cara funding line so we have a very strong engagement with them.

Ireland has been very involved. It financially supported the peace talks. Although in Northern Uganda we have a peace agreement that was not signed, we have peace, whereas in many other countries there is a peace agreement that is signed but war is still raging. We are very happy that although the LRA problems have been exported across the border and have led to very terrible crimes even in the past six months, in Uganda a level of normalcy is returning to Northern Uganda where almost 80% of the internally displaced people are able to move out of those terrible camps, where they have been cooped up for 20 years, and try to rebuild their lives. We are very involved in funding the peace process and in terms of the recovery and development of Northern Uganda.

I will let Deputy Timmins in and open up the debate a bit more.

I thank the ambassador and his staff and the staff of Concern for their contribution to the meeting this evening and for the work they do along with the other NGOs. I note the comments of the OECD report. It is very heartening to hear the ambassador's submission which contains much good and positive information. The statistics that strike me are the ones regarding the increase in primary schools from 2.5 million to 7.5 million, the enhanced confidence in the justice system to 70% — I do not know that we would get that here in Ireland — the fact that there is economic growth and the projected economic growth, and the discovery of oil which, I hope, will be used for the common good.

In his submission the ambassador spoke about two paths, the Norwegian path or the Nigerian path. We all hope the Ugandans will take the Norwegian path. Would the Ambassador care to forecast which road they might go down?

I support, as does Fine Gael, money going to Uganda. Although we hear there is corruption, if we look into our own hearts we must admit that money goes astray in certain areas at home. We call it corruption when it happens abroad but at home we call it maladministration or inefficiency. However, beauty is certainly in the eye of the beholder, if I may keep in line with the poetic terms the ambassador used in his submission that peace had come "dropping slowly" in Northern Uganda. When I hear about Uganda the image that suggests itself is that of President Museveni and what we read or hear from the director of GOAL about corruption in terms of the money that is given. I am not asking the ambassador to reflect on Government policy as, perhaps, NGOs will, but does the ambassador not find it disheartening and does he believe it has a negative effect on his work to hear this continuous mantra regarding corruption in Uganda and money going astray? If this is the message going out, does it not make it easy for the Government to cut back on certain aid programmes? Perhaps this message is refuted, but not successfully it seems. Why are the good stories we have heard here today about how matters have improved not published? Can the figure of €125 million that has been spent over the past couple of years be reduced for 2009? Is there any way a figure can be put on how much has gone astray because of corruption? It is easy to talk about corruption in an abstract sense but I am more interested in the specifics.

The impact of the bad publicity and the President's name are continually mentioned. The impression created is that every penny that goes into Uganda goes into the President's pocket. However, the statistics locally regarding support and reforms seem to indicate that is not the case.

Deputy O'Hanlon covered the issue of violence against women. It is very disturbing and I welcome the moves that have been made to address it. Ms Supple refers in her submission to the concern regarding the NGO (Amendment) Act 2006 and the possible negative implications it will have in the transparency of the upcoming election. Can the Irish play any role in it? One does not want to use the aid budget as leverage, but can our Government or Minister for Foreign Affairs, Deputy Martin, do anything to point out the shortcomings of the Act or how it can hinder governance? Measures should be taken to address it. Former President Mary Robinson assisted with the issue of violence against women. Is there any way we can assist in the election or have Concern or other aid groups lobby the ambassador or Minister about the shortcomings of the Act?

The delegation mentioned co-operation with Irish Aid. What co-operation took place? I have not been to Uganda but some of my colleagues have. How does the work Concern does in Uganda compare with that done by GOAL, Self-Help, Trócaire and other major organisations? Is there a crossover? Sometimes I have a simplistic view of this and wonder if it would be better to put all the eggs in one country rather than having four organisations replicating administration. Instead of four countries, each agency could work in one country. Can the delegation give me its view on that? The briefing note referred to a dispute in Lake Victoria on the island of Migingo. What is the situation with respect to that?

The delegation can respond and then Senators Ormonde and Hannigan can speak. I agree with the sentiments expressed by Deputy Timmins. Senators Hannigan and Ormonde may remember when we went to Karamoja and saw the schools. We had been briefed on KPMG and the auditing systems, but it was made clear to us that the shovels of concrete going into the foundation of the school were also being counted by the clerk of works we employed. The project went down to that type of detail and it was illuminating, as far as the auditing system is concerned.

H.E. Mr. Kevin Kelly

I thank the Chairman and Deputy Timmins for the questions. I will not be able to predict whether it is Norway or Nigeria, but I have a great deal of confidence in the future for a number of reasons. We seem to have a very responsible oil company which is very interested in being transparent. One talks to people in Tullow who say it is not in it for a quick buck but has a longer term perspective on its concessions in Uganda and Ghana.

I also have confidence because of the level of debate that is happening. Money is not yet flowing. It will take three or five years before it might produce 20,000 barrels per day. The debates on this are in the newspapers every second day and refer to the public forums that are in place, the projects being run by NGOs, the debates happening with the Minister for Energy on how the money will be shared, what money will go to the local kingdom of Bunyoro-Kitara where the oil fields are, what the environmental protection will be, because unfortunately the oil is located in a very delicate ecosystem, and what protections will be put in place.

That is level of debate and scrutiny already in place, even though money has not yet begun to flow. There is also expert technical assistance from Norway. My colleague, the Norwegian ambassador, informs me that the Ugandans are very open to the dialogue and advice that has been received so far. On the basis of current evidence, I have every reason to be optimistic and hopeful that the project will take the Norway route.

In terms of the Deputy's questions on corruption and comments made by, I understand, GOAL, we welcome debate on development in Uganda. We recognise that everybody is entitled to a view and such views are very useful because public officials keep us on our toes. We have a very good working relationship with GOAL in Uganda and meet it, along with other NGOs, on a quarterly basis and many other occasions. We have an ongoing debate with it.

The issue of corruption is very real and there are very real examples. On the question of how much money I would care to guess has gone astray from Irish Aid resources, I would hope it is zero. Currently, I am not aware of any losses to our programme and, as the Chairman said, we were able to show, in real time, the systems and controls we have in place. We brought the committee to the auditor general's office and during that meeting we were shown a demonstration where the people involved could click a button and show the figures in real time. The figures were updated as the committee looked at the demonstration. It concerned expenditure in the state house.

We have tried to put systems in place in Irish Aid to ensure we monitor our resources. In terms of Ireland moving towards the Accra Agenda for Action, we have to count the inputs but we are really looking at results.

This is important. The ambassador is responding to Deputy Timmins. The notion that a reasonable percentage of Irish aid is being siphoned off is nonsense.

I am glad to hear that and that the ambassador has confirmed he is of the view that the Irish Aid money that goes to Uganda is all put to the use it is designed for. I congratulate the ambassador and am delighted to hear that.

H.E. Mr. Kevin Kelly

The systems we have in place attempt, at all times, to achieve that. Our interest is very much focused on results. Now, when we talk to the Government, we say we are putting money into the education sector, but state what it has promised to deliver. We ask where the results are and how many more children are in school this year compared with last year. Those are the types of discussion we are currently having.

A final question concerned Migingo island, which is smaller——

The rock fall of Lake Victoria.

H.E. Mr. Kevin Kelly

To say it is approximately the size of this august House may be appropriate. It is a small island. I am happy to say there was a lot of hype in the media about it, but the two Governments concerned are taking a very sensible approach and have said the issue will be resolved diplomatically. A border commission is, as we speak, boating its way around the island to measure it and looking at old colonial maps. It is not a cause for concern in terms of conflict between Kenya and Uganda at the current time.

I am anxious to let the other members contribute as they have been here a long time.

I thank the Chairman. I welcome the delegation and thank it for its contribution. I am glad to hear the ambassador's comments on corruption. The peer review of the OECD published a number of months ago used Uganda as a case study and found that the vast majority of Irish aid was audited when it was spent. It was good to see an outside body concur with the ambassador's view.

I have a number of questions. The first concerns freedom of assembly. When we visited Uganda last year there were issues regarding freedom of assembly and gay rights marches that had been broken up. Have there been any recent recurrences of the Government breaking up marches of any kind?

Regarding education, I note the ambassador's comment that the country will, it is to be hoped, reach the millennium development goal of universal access to primary school education by 2015. This week, Archbishop Tutu and former President Mary Robinson wrote to the leaders of the G8 countries who are meeting next week in Italy outlining their concerns that across Africa up to 75 million children would not be able to access primary school education and asked for a global education fund to be set up. In light of the fact that population growth in Uganda is well over 3%, which will lead to a doubling of the population within the next 25 years, how does the ambassador see the increased number of schoolchildren being served by the Government? What is Irish Aid doing about improving access to education over the next five years?

I am delighted to meet the ambassador and his staff again; we had a very interesting time on our visit to Uganda and I also welcome the representatives of Concern. I thank the representatives of both Concern and the Embassy for their very interesting contributions.

Many of my questions have been asked. I was very interested in the matter of the Norwegian concept of what to do when oil becomes available versus the Nigerian concept. This should be kept on the agenda and watched closely. It was stated that the process will take a couple of years and that money will be shared. We will have an interest in this and that empowers us to engage in the debates on such matters in Uganda.

Having visited Karamoja, I was impressed and left in no doubt that we are getting value for money. Irish Aid is working there and this was clear to me when I saw the construction work on post-primary schools in the area. The pupil-teacher ratio is coming down and the discipline evident in the schools was a credit to the staff of the Embassy and the non-governmental organisations, NGOs. We witnessed much poverty and tackling it is a major challenge. It was upsetting to visit a small village and see what people had to do to avoid starvation.

Ms Supple spoke of the fall in HIV from 18% in 1992 to 6.2% today but later in her statement she said Concern must suspend activities planned to address these issues. It worried me very much to hear this. More than 28,000 vulnerable people, mainly women and young girls and boys, will now not have access to treatment. Is this due to the reduction in Irish aid? I would not like to think this could happen and if it is the case then the money must be channelled into this area. It is a question of how best can we use the money available. We must be careful of statements that give a negative impression because I did not pick up on this when I was in Uganda.

I welcome the ambassador and Ms Supple and thank them for their presentations. To follow on from Senator Ormonde's comments, the reduction in the prevalence of AIDS has been outstanding; the fall from 18% to 6.2% or 6.8%, depending on the presentation, is very significant. Can Ms Supple expand on to what this fall is attributable? Are we sharing this information with other aid countries? How does Uganda compare with other Irish Aid countries with regard to the reduction in the prevalence of HIV-AIDS? This is a significant success story.

The Irish taxpayer will give €35.5 million to Uganda this year; it is a significant sum of money that is being well used. However, we must live in the real world regarding the economic conditions in Ireland and Europe. How does Ireland rank alongside its European colleagues regarding the percentage of GDP given in aid to Uganda? How much does Britain, a former colonial power, give to Uganda and how do we compare? I understand the worries of Concern in this regard but, regarding the reallocation of existing resources, has efficiency been sought within the aid programme and by Concern? Has the number of members of administration staff been reduced? Have other than front line services been cut back or is it necessary to discard or suspend programmes like this to save other things that are being done? I am not making assumptions regarding the policies of the witnesses, I just want background information.

Regarding Irish Aid, I have told other aid agencies and ambassadors that I think volunteerism is an extremely important part of what the Oireachtas and taxpayers do. How open are the aid agencies? We must do more to educate the taxpayers as to how their money is being used abroad; they must see there are benefits and that there is a moral obligation on us to assist certain countries. There should be education programmes in Ireland so people will be confident regarding how their money is spent.

I noticed in the brief that the economy in Uganda is due to grow between 4% and 7% from 2009 to 2010. This seems significant but I also noted that an increase of around 10% is needed to make a serious impact on poverty. The share of GDP of the agriculture sector in Uganda is reducing; apart from oil, what other sectors is the Ugandan Government considering expanding into? Is Uganda moving towards a diverse economy? With regard to propping up the economy, how significant are remittances from Ugandans abroad?

A great deal has been thrown at the witnesses and they may take their time in responding.

Ms Louise Supple

I will certainly start on the issue of Concern making savings in its budget as this has been raised by many people. I was asked whether instead of cutting services Concern can make other savings. I will have to refer to the overall organisation, rather than just the operation in Uganda, to explain what has happened. As a result of the current financial crisis, Concern has had to implement a strict cost-effectiveness programme. This has resulted in more than 500 members of staff, mainly in administration services across our programmes, being made redundant. We have also closed three of our country programmes in East Timor, Laos and Nepal. We have achieved a very high level of efficiency in all of our country programmes and we cannot make any more savings in terms of administration and overheads. Organisationally, in 2010 we are looking at reductions in funding from both the Government and the public. Discussions are ongoing about potential further cuts in country programmes, though no decisions have yet been made on this.

In Uganda and many of the countries in which we work we have had to start looking at programmes. The programme I highlighted in Northern Uganda was planned but had not started; we had a budget of €75,000, which was a mixture of money from the multi-annual programme scheme, MAPS, and general donations. We have had to stop that programme because we do not have the money; this may seem very negative but it is the reality. This is due to cuts in the overseas development aid budget, though Concern and the wider NGO community understand the challenges faced by the Irish Government and the decisions it must make. This is one of the implications of those cuts. Uganda has not seen the scale of cuts experienced by other countries in which we work.

I was asked why the programme to reduce the prevalence of HIV-AIDS was so successful. The Irish Aid team will be able to contribute more to the answer to that question but when I was country director, ten years ago, the programme was housed in the office of the President so was given very high priority. It was successful because it was under his scrutiny.

H.E. Mr. Kevin Kelly

I will try to be equally brief. To justify the journey made by Mr. Cronin from Uganda I will ask him to deal with questions about the economy, China, HIV-AIDS and the delivery of educational services.

Senator Hannigan asked about freedom of assembly and gay rights. We are very aware of those issues and are actively engaged in them. The issue of gay rights seems to excite a lot of energy on the part of the Government. It is difficult for the international community to get involved because it is perceived as a Western import and when it is raised by foreign ambassadors it can cause an allergic reaction. The European Union has consistently raised issues around human rights and the protection of individuals. Through the work of Frontline, which is an Irish NGO and does fantastic work supporting defenders of human rights, we have actively supported individual cases as they arise.

Freedom of assembly is enshrined in the Ugandan constitution but some months ago there were anti-homosexual demonstrations in Kampala. The issue is in the public domain in Uganda and we are working with our European colleagues in this regard. One of the issues for the Swedish Presidency will be human rights. We have recently held discussions with the media about responsible reporting and the effects of media reporting on certain minority groups.

In terms of the size of ODA and where we fit in, Ireland is still one of the top ten donors in Uganda. I have an interesting pie chart that shows that three of the top donors, the World Bank, the United States and the UK, give half of the aid and the remaining donors gave up to 90%. Ireland is in this latter group. We are on the level of the Netherlands, Sweden and Norway with 4% of the total aid to Uganda coming from Ireland, while the UK provides 10%.

Is that in monetary terms or in percentage terms?

H.E. Mr. Kevin Kelly

It is in percentage terms.

Senator Ormonde referred to the different approaches of Nigeria and Norway in regard to oil and asked how we could influence the debate. We engage with the oil companies and at a high level of Government to push for more transparency around the petroleum agreements reached with oil companies. We are pushing for a good oil and gas policy and there has been much debate around establishing a new legislative framework around revenue sharing. We also fund civil society and have funded two studies, one on how revenue should be shared out in an oil boom and the other on environmental issues. Supporting our civil society partners is a very useful way of raising issues in the public domain and enhancing citizen accountability over this important issue.

The stark reality of life in Karamoja was mentioned and members saw it for themselves on their visit. I always thought Ethiopia was the poorest country I had seen but once one arrives in Karamoja one feels it is at the frontier. Poverty levels are at 80% and literacy rates are below 20%. Partly because of the increased attention created by the visit of the sub-committee to Karamoja a major pillar of our support will now be on Karamoja. We hope to look at chronic poverty and vulnerability though we do not yet have approval for our strategy. We will look at how to allocate more of our resources to the best effect in Karamoja, as well as supporting civil society organisations to target livelihoods. It is, however, very difficult because one needs to deal with pastoralists in some parts of the region and gun warfare and cattle raiding in others. Our director general takes the view that we would not need to be there if it was not tough.

Mr. Donal Cronin

I will take two or three issues. Deputy O'Brien asked about the economy. The percentage of GDP made up of agriculture is approximately 29% but between 75% and 80% of Ugandans are employed in agriculture. It is a key sector and there are huge opportunities for regional trade, especially with peace coming in Southern Sudan and new opportunities in Congo. The East African Community, which was formed in 2005, benefits from Uganda's participation and leadership.

The East African Community has an interim economic partnership agreement, EPA, with the European Union but 0.12% of all EU imports are from east Africa so there is potential for that to be built on. The Government of Uganda is prioritising industrialisation and services, bringing added value to raw materials for export. Anyone who has heard President Museveni speak will know he loves to quote the fact that 1 kg of coffee in Uganda will cost $1 whereas 1 kg of coffee on European supermarket shelves will cost $14.

Dairy farmers in Waterford say something similar.

Mr. Donal Cronin

Uganda has a vibrant services industry, particularly in telecommunications, and the members of the sub-committee will remember the number of mobile telephones they witnessed when they visited. The tourism sector is also increasingly important. Uganda is aiming for a diversified economy, which is borne out by the thrust of the new national development plan which will be launched in the coming weeks. We are supporting the thrust of the plan via the enabling sectors such as education, human capital, HIV-AIDS prevention and mitigation.

The success of Uganda in dealing with HIV-AIDS was largely built on the ABC programme, which stands for abstinence, being faithful and using condoms. There were other critical elements, the foremost being the political leadership shown by President Museveni downwards. The raising of awareness on all fronts was also critical. There are challenges because there is a shift in the mode of transition. Whereas in the past the problem was single casual relationships, HIV-AIDS is now spread via long-term relationships. It is being spread through multiple sexual partnerships, for example, and many of the efforts nowadays are directed at looking at how behavioural change can be supported and how indigenous groups, civil society, the church and citizens' organisations are able to bring about a heightened degree of awareness and to remove any opportunity for complacency to creep in.

Uganda is well-renowned internationally for having that success story over the years and, indeed, the best practice has been very much shared among other countries in the developing world. However, those other countries are increasingly looking at Uganda and asking if rates are starting to creep up, how can one keep them down? Our programme is very much focused on that. For example, this year alone in our country programme we are ploughing €4.5 million into civil society organisations for their work in prevention, awareness raising, etc.

Another critical factor, and a new phenomenon in recent years, is the explosion of anti-retroviral, ARV, treatment which is critical to keeping people alive. Today in Uganda, over 150,000 people are on ARVs. That is thanks to the support of the Government of Uganda but also the international donors including Ireland, which are supporting agencies such as the global fund in providing those ARVs. The United States, of course, is an important actor in that regard as well.

I want to turn to education because we find that the issues in education, population growth about which Senator Hannigan spoke, and HIV-AIDS are very much interlinked. It is clear in Uganda, as elsewhere, that the further pupils go in their education, the smaller the size of family they will have. It makes a difference when pupils complete primary school and then go into secondary school.

There is population pressure in Uganda. More than half of the population is under the age of 15. At present, the services in terms of the infrastructure in education have kept abreast of that. The schools are there. When one goes to any village or community one will find schools and teachers.

The problem we are trying to address with our partners in government, other development partners and civil society is in the quality of education. One may have the infrastructure in bricks and mortar and one may have the teachers, but are they teaching a curriculum which is achieving its objective and are the students completing primary school and going on to secondary school? At present, roughly half of the children who go into primary school will find themselves in secondary school and our main efforts are in increasing that proportion and getting people to go into secondary school and to complete their education. That is certainly a challenge, but one which we and the Ugandan Government are rightly prioritising.

The committee asked about the resources. The lion's share of Uganda's budget will go to education as well as infrastructure. Some 30% of Uganda's discretionary budget is being spent on education. It has been prioritised. They have the numbers, they are keeping abreast, but now the challenge is ensuring that those pupils are utilising their education and are able to continue it as far as they would wish.

Does Senator Hannigan have anything else to add before the vote in the Seanad?

I need to be excused for the vote, but I thank the visitors for their comments.

I asked about the role of China in Uganda.

Mr. Donal Cronin

China, as the Deputy will be aware, is an increasingly large actor in Africa in terms of trade and aid, and that has also been the case in Uganda in the past five years. It is difficult to put a figure on the amount of funding in aid China is giving to Uganda but it is estimated to be in the order of $80 million to $100 million per annum. China's main emphasis is on infrastructure, ICT and support for trade. There is also an increasing interest by private sector banks, for example, those from China, especially now that oil is on the horizon. China would have supported the Ugandan Government, for example, in building the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and other public buildings. There is a large Chinese Embassy in Uganda and it has fruitful relationships with the diplomatic community. Currently, China is a player but not a major player. Certainly, China would not be giving aid in the same volumes as, for example, the United States or the United Kingdom. Of course that may change as matters progress.

Yesterday the division promoting Ireland abroad, along with Enterprise Ireland, came before the Joint Committee on Foreign Affairs. Deputy O'Brien mentioned, as I did, the amount of money we spend in Uganda. Would that division in the Department contact the ambassador on a regular basis? We do not want to tie trade to aid, but would that division be involved on an ongoing basis with the Irish Embassy as to business interests within Uganda?

H.E. Mr. Kevin Kelly

Yes. As has been mentioned, the total size of trade between the two countries was approximately €8 million. It is not a significant amount of business. Where there is a regular flow of communication and contact, I can think of three instances where we are attempting to provide information and support to Irish companies that are looking for a foothold in the Ugandan market. At Umeme, the major electricity supply company, the new managing director is an Irish citizen formerly of the ESB, and this also creates further links between the two. We also provide a short quarterly report to the division the Chairman mentioned updating on facts and figures. There is a regular flow of contact, communication and information between the two.

We neglected another question on communication and information from Deputy O'Brien and with the Chairman's permission, I will ask our director from headquarters to mention the communications side.

Absolutely, go ahead.

Mr. Damien Cole

I wanted to respond on the issue of development education and communication, to which we in Irish Aid have been paying a great deal of attention. We have been working closely with our colleagues in the field, in particular, in identifying the results and impacts of what we are doing on the ground in all of the programme countries in which we work so that we can identify how Irish taxpayers' money is being spent effectively to make a difference. The ambassador and Mr. Cronin pointed out the real results we are achieving on the ground in health and education.

The committee will also probably be aware of the Irish Aid volunteering centre at the top of O'Connell Street which is an important resource for providing information to the public about our work and giving them an opportunity to see for themselves the kind of areas where we are helping out in sectors such as health and education. We have an active development education programme which provides a great deal of support to schools, voluntary organisations and community organisations in the form of information and updates about the work that we are doing. We have a comprehensive communications strategy to get the story of our work out and, in particular, our results and impacts on the ground, drawing very much from the field experience in all the programme countries in which we work.

I have a couple of brief questions, one of which was on the health area. We have almost an exit strategy in the health sector. Can the ambassador explain why that occurred and the rationale behind the decision?

H.E. Mr. Kevin Kelly

I am happy to do that. Part of this new commitment to be good donors is that we all signed up to the Accra Agenda for Action and the Paris Declaration, which means that donors are supposed to concentrate on areas where they have a comparative advantage. In the good old days, a donor, for example, Austria, which tended to be a small donor in many countries with a budget of approximately €3 million or €4 million, may have been involved in ten sectors so one could imagine the transaction cost that poses for the receipt of quite a small amount of money.

There is a push for a division of labour so that one does not have 20 donors in one sector and one donor in another sector, with the number of donors balancing out.

Under the leadership of the Government, there was an exercise called the division of labour where all the donors were asked to state their area of comparative advantage, where they could best utilise their own resources and capacity and then to concentrate expertise also in this area. Ireland decided to withdraw from the health sector at that time for a number of reasons. We believed the sector was already adequately covered. We entered into an agreement with the UK, that the DFID, the Department for International Development of the UK would maintain continued engagement in health and we would concentrate on education. We had that deal between us but also that they would continue to keep us involved. For me to say that we actually withdrew from health might be a little misleading. Under our poverty action fund, which is a ring-fenced poverty reduction fund, 17% of our support for that fund goes towards the health sector. So withdrawing for Ireland means that we do not have bodies on the ground and we are not as actively engaged in the policy side as we are in education.

I see where the ambassador is coming from. There is a criticism levelled at countries and donors that they do not engage in the type of co-ordination necessary in the different sectors. The ambassador stated that they do so actively and have done it with DFID, the Department for International Development in the health area.

H.E. Mr. Kevin Kelly

I think that is why in a way we are happy to say that we got an AAA rating from the DAC for being a good donor in that way. It is recognised that Ireland plays that seriously. Over 90% of our aid is predictable. We try to follow through. The Chairman is correct to state that it is not a uniform picture. The pie chart that I would have liked to have shown the committee shows that the top ten donors in Uganda provide 90% of the funding, but another 30 donors provide 10%. One can imagine the number of donors who give very small amounts and impose transaction costs in terms of engagement. It is a big challenge for African governments that are already depleted of capacity to have to deal on a day-to-day basis with missions from Oslo, Stockholm and a number of countries. The issue of transaction costs and reducing the number of transactions and being more efficient is very important in terms of helping a country develop.

It was mentioned that the ambassador is engaging in policy dialogue and macro-economic performance. At what level in the Ugandan Government is the ambassador doing that?

H.E. Mr. Kevin Kelly

I thank the Chairman for that question. We are part of a select group of donors that supports JBSF, which is a joint budget support framework, which is for all those donors that are providing support into Government systems either through education or health. It is not just direct budget support donors, it is donors such as Ireland that are providing ring-fenced support to sectors. Through that we have developed a framework of indicators that will measure progress, the results that I measured earlier and part of those results are around macro-economic performance. We work closely with the World Bank and the IMF. Whenever the IMF missions are in town, we meet them and we are actively involved. That is about setting a framework and targets that are the Government's own target, so it is not the donor sitting down and dreaming up new conditionalities. In fact, we are working with the Government and agreeing a set of targets that are also around macro-economic fiscal discipline, public expenditure management and all of the reforms required to make the plumbing of the economy work well. There is also a public expenditure management working group committee, in which we are very actively involved. We have a full-time locally employed Ugandan economist on our team who helps us to provide that type of economic analysis as well. We are actively involved in those fora.

The ambassador has dealt with everything and made a very impressive contribution. I mentioned to Ms Emer Kerrigan that what was really good was to give the ambassador the opportunity to respond to things that have been occurring in the general aid area and to tell his own story. I am not surprised that the ambassador has got that kind of review rating, having been there and knowing the work that he does.

I thank the members for their attendance. There are only seven members on the sub-committee so we have pretty much a full attendance.

Would Ms Supple like to say something?

Ms Louise Supple

I thank the Chairman and members for the opportunity to attend and partake in the discussion.

The sub-committee adjourned at 1.35 p.m. sine die.