Chief Commissioner speech at the launch of ICAI

24 May 2011

Chairman, Secretary of State, my Lords, Ladies and Gentlemen – thank you all for being with us today. This is a really exciting day for the Independent Commission for Aid Impact as it marks both our official launch as a permanent organisation and the publication of our work plan.

What is really important about ICAI is that we are unique in the development world. Unique in independence, in structure and in remit and scope. Reporting to the International Development Committee will ensure that we are an independent organisation and will enable us to produce reports that are objective, constructive and based firmly on strong evidence. This will be crucial for giving taxpayers the confidence that they are getting maximum value for spending on aid and help to ensure that recipients get the maximum impact from the UK aid budget.

I am delighted that we now have the full team of Commissioners on board.  Mark Foster, who until recently was Group Chief Executive of Global Markets and Management Consulting at Accenture and the Executive responsible for Accenture Development Partnerships, Accenture’s model for strengthening global NGO’s; John Githongo, who is well know for his pioneering anti-corruption work in Kenya and across Africa and previously Executive Director of Transparency International Kenya; and Diana Good, a former senior partner of Linklaters who is a part time judge and has worked on governance and girl’s education projects in Africa. Mark and Diana are here today and John sends his apologies. As much as I know he would have loved to have been here, he is based in Kenya so it is rather a long way for him to come for a morning! They are all acknowledged leaders in their field and I am delighted that they are on board. Together, we aim to bring a fresh perspective to the development debate, through our combination of scrutiny and private sector expertise, as well as our international and development experience.

I am sure that one reason for your attendance is to hear about the proposals in our work plan. You should all have received a copy when you arrived and I hope that you have had the chance to look at it. You will see that the work plan is structured into two parts for each of the three years: a core component of some ten reports a year and a flex component of up to ten further reports a year. It is our intention that the combination of the two will enable us to set a clear overall direction for our work, whilst giving us the flexibility to respond to emerging topical issues and to requests from Parliament or other stakeholders.

You will see that the plan covers core development areas such as health, education and Africa. It also addresses a range of topical issues including Afghanistan, corruption and climate change, as well as many other important areas, such as budget support, which are key elements of the fight against poverty.

We have compiled the work plan with the benefit of analysis and proposals from a range of sources. These include:

  • Recommendations from the International Development Select Committee
  • Our recent public consultation
  • Meetings with a wide range of stakeholders, including many of you here today
  • Discussions with DFID and other Government Departments which spend Official Development Assistance
  • A synthesis study examining centrally commissioned evaluations, parliamentary inquiries and external audits of DFID from the last five years.

 

These sources of information have been important in helping us to develop our work plan. I would like to take this opportunity to thank you for your input into the consultation. Your expertise and experience has been vital in shaping our thinking around the work plan and ICAI priorities.

In order to select proposals from the wide range of suggestions we have received, we have used four criteria – coverage, materiality, risk and interest. There is a detailed explanation of what these four criteria cover in the work plan. We believe these criteria allow our work plan to do justice to the breadth, depth and complexity of UK aid expenditure.  

We are also delighted to confirm that today we can officially announce that the contractor appointed to work with ICAI will be KPMG in partnership with Agulhas Applied Knowledge, the Centre for Evaluation of Global Action (CEGA) and SIPU International. We welcome them all on board. We will now begin to work together to establish in detail how we will go about scrutinising programmes and producing reports. It will be important to get this right early. Ensuring effective quality assurance, whilst recognising the need for innovation, will enable us to produce credible and accessible reports based on strong evidence.  

As you know there is a great deal of public interest in the performance and effectiveness of the aid budget. We hope our recommendations will play a role in leading to beneficial change. This does not mean, however, that we expect all programmes to be perfect. We recognise that some aid is risky and some aid is innovative and we welcome that. We will not shy away from the hard to measure programmes and the long term impacts. We understand that long term programmes may change with changing priorities, circumstances or political situations, indeed they should do so. This is not about what is ‘easy to do’. It is about promoting trust, transparency and accountability in UK aid.

We are particularly aware that ICAI will continue to face many challenges, challenges that you will recognise. Including:

  • How to report on allegations of corruption without interference in the appropriate legal processes;
  • How to evaluate multilateral programmes, getting access to what is really going on, without duplication or seeking to override existing reporting mechanisms;
  • How to attribute outcomes to UK interventions where there is a complex delivery chain;
  • How to examine the increasing amount of ODA spend that is going to fragile states;
  • How to evaluate long term programmes which are only partially complete.

 

These are challenges that will not be solved overnight and that will not be solved in isolation. We want to ensure that we continue to learn from your experiences and expertise and we would welcome your continued input and thoughts around our work.

We now look forward to starting to put our work plan into action. We do not under-estimate the challenges involved in delivering against our aspirations but we plan to seize the opportunities to help UK aid deliver value to the taxpayer and the maximum benefit to recipients in the most efficient and effective way. Our success will be based on the credibility of our reports and recommendations. That credibility will come from the importance we place on balancing value for money with delivery and impact on the ground.

Shortly after our remarks the Secretary of State and I will be signing a Framework Agreement which set out the respective roles and principles for interaction between DFID and ICAI. This will be vital for ensuring that both parties understand their responsibilities going forward.

Finally, on behalf of ICAI I would like to thank you all for being here. I thank Malcolm Bruce for chairing this meeting, the Committee for their recommendations and advice and the Committee staff in assisting in the organisation of this event. Also, I thank the Secretary of State for being with us today and for the support he has given in establishing the Commission.

Thank you very much for listening.

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