Chief Commissioner Speech at International Parliamentary Conference on the Post-2015 Development Agenda delivered on 27 November 2013
Accountability and Monitoring in Burma and Odisha
Good afternoon and thank you for inviting me here today. First, I must pass on the apologies of my fellow Commissioner, John Githongo, who was unable to break away from business in Kenya to be with us today.
I have the privilege of being the Chief Commissioner of the Independent Commission for Aid Impact. ICAI is an unique body in the UK. We were set up to scrutinise Official Development Assistance. We focus on maximising the effectiveness of the UK aid budget for intended beneficiaries; and on delivering value for money for UK taxpayers. ICAI was set up in early 2011 and now, in 2013, we are about to deliver our thirtieth report.
We have been to countries across Africa and Asia and beyond, examined programmes across many different sectors and delivered by multilaterals, by contractors and by NGOs.
ICAI has been set up as an independent entity and does not report to Ministers or officials but instead reports to Parliament through the House of Commons International Development Committee (IDC).
This ensures both independence and accountability. ICAI is entirely independent from Government in terms of location, staffing and decision-making processes.
We report to the select committee through our reports and our evidence sessions where we discuss our findings. Members of the Committee have used our reports to challenge DFID and as evidence and background information for their own inquiries.
I am also delighted to be able to tell you that these sessions that have up until now been in private will, in future, be public and be available through Hansard.
Our approach to reviews is detailed in our first report, ICAI’s Approach to Effectiveness and Value for Money, where we set out our view that effectiveness and value for money are inextricably linked. Fundamentally, how can a programme be value for money if it is not effective; and if there is poor value for money, is the programme being as effective as it could be?
We recognised that aid organisations, including DFID, take a range of different approaches to defining and ensuring effectiveness and value for money.
Our approach has been to assess the results that have been achieved on the ground. In our view:
■ effectiveness involves achieving a sustained impact for intended beneficiaries; and
■ value for money is the best use of resources to deliver the desired impact.
In forming our ratings for programmes we consider key stages in the aid project lifecycle:
• Objectives – Does the programme have realistic and appropriate objectives and a clear plan as to how and why the planned intervention will have the intended impact?
• Delivery – Does the programme have robust delivery arrangements which meet the desired objectives and demonstrate good governance and management through the delivery chain?
• Impact – Is the programme having a transformational, positive and lasting impact on the lives of the intended beneficiaries and is it transparent and accountable?
• Learning – Does the programme incorporate learning to improve future aid delivery?
In my view this methodology should demonstrate to both intended beneficiaries and the taxpayer that aid programmes are having lasting, positive impact and that funds are not being wasted. And if we show that aid budgets are being wasted, we make strong recommendations to address the issues and follow up at a later date to verify that action has been taken.
A recurrent theme in ICAI reports is mutual accountability. We look at this at a number of levels, for example:
- between donors and recipient governments;
- through transparency;
- through anti-corruption policies and actions; and
- through domestic or citizen accountability.
To illustrate these points I am going to talk to you about the two programmes that have received Green ratings from ICAI, the highest rating that we award.
In our recent report on Health Programmes in Burma, we saw how success in delivery against a backdrop of difficult country context. The strong leadership and technical expertise of DFID Burma staff helped build good relationships with Burma’s Ministry of Health, other donors and delivery partners. DFID successfully combined a ‘top down’ approach in working with the Ministry of Health and a bottom-up approach in identifying the needs of intended beneficiaries.
The work with the Ministry of Health was particularly significant given the European Union (EU) Council Decision that no development assistance to Burma should be implemented through the Government of Burma at that time (although this has been subsequently lifted).
There are still accountability issues, namely the lack of quality data to inform decisions and monitor effectively. DFID now has an opportunity to work with other donors and the Ministry of Health to capture better quality information about the health sector in Burma and to create stronger and more robust monitoring systems and data baselines across key health programme areas.
In addition, DFID employed a range of mechanisms to deliver its health aid programme in Burma. It invested significant time and resources in developing relationships with its delivery partners. It also established a robust programme of audit and review to ensure that these programmes were delivering. This diversification not only showed a good awareness of Burma but also a good understanding of the population’s health needs and how best to meet them.
We praised DFID for its firm approach to ensure that funds disbursed are appropriately accounted for and that safeguards are in place to prevent and detect fraud and corruption. This was particularly important in a country that ranked at 172 out of 176 countries in the Transparency Corruption perceptions Index 2012.
We saw good examples of Government and community accountability in Western Odisha too.
The Western Orissa Livelihoods Project (WORLP) in India sought to reduce poverty by improving communities’ water resources, agriculture and incomes. It built infrastructure such as embankments, water storage ponds and irrigation channels. It also provided loans and grants to the poor for community-based businesses. The project saw DFID work with the Government of India and local communities.
The project influenced the Government of India in its development of national guidelines. It influenced the design and operation of the £2 billion National Watershed Management Programme implemented in 27 Indian states and led to the delivery of projects helping the poorest to improve incomes while managing operations at a state level.
Locally, £20.4 million of funds were transferred directly to beneficiaries or disbursed through loans. Beneficiaries were paid wages for work on the project providing incomes. There was also community based accountability based on full transparency for beneficiaries in villages which was reinforced by detailed record keeping, controls and audits.
These two examples, in Burma and India, show how mutual accountability with government; communities and donors can deliver value for money and genuine impact for intended beneficiaries. In Burma, DFID has started to work with the government to build a more effective health structure and in India we have seen livelihoods improve through partnerships with government and local communities.