The Government is strongly committed to Ireland's overseas aid programme. Last month we launched Ireland's new Policy on International Development, "One World, One Future". The policy clearly sets out our vision for a sustainable and just world, and our goals and areas of focus for the coming years. It reaffirms the Government's commitment to international development and its centrality to our foreign policy.
The new policy restates the Programme for Government commitment to achieving the UN target of providing 0.7% of GNP for Official Development Assistance (ODA). Over the past two years, the Government has broadly stabilised the budget for development assistance. This is an important achievement. We will endeavour to maintain aid expenditure broadly at current levels until economic circumstances permit us to make further progress towards achieving the 0.7% target.
Preparations for Budget 2014 are currently under way. Budget 2014 will be framed in the context of the Government's overall fiscal consolidation strategy of reducing the deficit to below 3% of GDP by the end of 2015. Departmental budget allocations for 2014 must be set in this context, and all Departments will be required to provide further savings. While I am firmly committed to working to maintain aid allocations at their current level, the final allocation will be a matter for Government decision and will be announced in the Budget Statement.
Under the Government's aid programme, Ireland has long term, strategic development partnership programmes with a small number of developing countries. Working with our partner countries, we are helping to build government and institutional capacities to deliver the essential services their populations need, mainly in the areas of health, education and food security. There is an approved strategy for each partner country, which includes a detailed results framework. Rigorous systems are in place for planning, monitoring, evaluating and auditing the aid programme and in particular our assistance to Partner Countries. Programmes are continually monitored and assessed at mission level and by headquarters staff to ensure they deliver the intended results. Crucially, this enables us to measure the impact and effectiveness of our programmes.
In addition a comprehensive system of internal audit is in place in the Department and audits are carried out on an annual basis, as appropriate by auditors based in our Embassies, the Department's evaluation and audit team, international accountancy firms whom we commission and the national audit offices of our partner Governments. Oversight of the internal audit function is by the Department's independent Audit Committee which provides an independent appraisal of the Department's audit and evaluation function, meets with the Comptroller and Auditor General, and publishes an annual report on its work. The Committee reports directly to the Secretary General of the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade.