Parliamentary Committees and Public Enquiries
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Aid watchdog must maintain independence

The Independent Commission on Aid Impact (ICAI) is performing well, but more effort is required to guarantee its independence during a challenging year ahead, warn MPs   

Launching a report examining the performance of ICAI over the past year, Sir Malcolm Bruce, Chair of the International Development Committee said,

"ICAI got off to a slow start in 2011 but has become an increasingly effective scrutiny body for the Department for International Development (DFID), issuing 12 excellent reports over the past year.

Significantly, it has proved willing to challenge the Department – most notably by uncovering major failings in a flagship DFID trade programme for Southern Africa.

Contracts for the current ICAI commissioners, contractor consortium and staff all end in May 2015. We are worried about the future of this important scrutiny body and the future continuity of its work. DFID must put effective transitional arrangements into place."

Commenting further, Fabian Hamilton MP, Chair of the IDC’s sub-Committee on ICAI, said,

"ICAI scrutiny of DfID represents excellent value for money to the taxpayer. It is crucial to protect the independence of this body which reports to Parliament via our Committee. This accountability must not be compromised so we question plans to relocate ICAI to sit within DfID itself."

MPs also express concern that DFID is spending very large sums of money on self-evaluation, including £200 million from central budgets alone. Sir Malcolm Bruce adds,

"DFID’s huge spending on self-evaluation might be justified if the lessons learned were widely diffused through the organisation, but it appears that they are not. Moreover, ICAI’s recent finding that DFID staff often feel afraid to discuss failure is of great concern to us."

The Committee also notes ICAI’s assertion that DFID’s agenda to improve its corporate results is distorting programming choices, and pledges to follow up this and other concerns during forthcoming inquiries this autumn.

The Committee will hold a pre-appointment scrutiny hearing for the Government’s preferred candidate to become ICAI’s new Chief Commissioner in November.

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