Examination of Witnesses (Questions 40
TUESDAY 4 DECEMBER 2001
40. Yes, that is what I want you to do?
(Mr Ireton) As an organisation, we have increased
the number of people in the field; we have to manage staff, we
have staff at certain times in their careers who do not wish to
work overseas, they wish to be in London, they have spouses, who
41. Quite understandable.
(Mr Ireton) They have children and schooling and all
the many things that you and I have to cope with, and have coped
with, at least, at some stage in our life. So we have to manage
that ourselves; and I can well imagine that in Brussels they are
facing exactly the same issue. If you bring staff into an organisation,
which fundamentally is concentrated in one geographical location,
and then you decide to change that, you are going to have a change
management issue, not only in terms of expertise but how do you
then manage these expectations of staff, do you lose staff, do
you have to bring in new staff, do you give additional incentives,
and so on. This is a real issue for DFID. So I am not making value
judgements about people in comfortable locations.
42. It was not a flippant comment, I hasten
to add, but it is a very real issue. Indeed, I note, in part of
the evidence we received from BOND, that, with the three, DG Development,
DG RELEX, the old SCR coming together into EuropeAid, it said,
with over 1,000 staff, it is clear that EuropeAid is more than
adequately staffed. Would that be the opinion of DFID as well?
(Mr Smith) I think we have recognised that the Commission
has been understaffed. I think the Secretary of State's particular
point of view, which was widely shared, was that the Commission
could not use understaffing as the exclusive reason, the excuse,
for underperformance, it was not, there are major structural issues
and policy issues that had to be addressed as well. Now that we
are in a reform process, we, the Secretary of State, the UK Government,
have supported the provision of extra staff, we supported it during
the budget process last year, and we have supported it during
the budget process this year, in the context of the reform process.
So we are providing for extra staff. And we have also encouraged
the Commission to do what they are doing, which is to provide
for more contracted staff, not permanent staff, which is an essential
element of all of our operations; you need mid career development
professionals who are able to go to a country for three, four,
five years and play a major role in that operation, and the Commission
have taken that on board and are doing it. So I think staffing
is being addressed, and the numbers in Brussels in EuropeAid are
set to go down, they have increased during this year, as it has
been established, but with deconcentration they will then be reduced
and pushed out to the field.
43. I am going to ask some brief questions about
Country Strategy Papers. I am rather keen on Country Strategy
Papers, there is a process that I can understand. How do the DFID
Country Strategy Papers relate to the EU Country Strategy Papers?
(Mr Ireton) Probably, we are going to see some generational
change here. Our own first flush of Country Strategy Papers were
fairly self-standing documents; although we consulted extremely
widely, both in this country and obviously with the government
of the country concerned, we set out a sort of broad analysis
of what we saw as the development challenge issues, what other
people were doing and then what we thought we could contribute
to that process. And, I guess, pretty much, Brussels is now doing
a very similar thing. The interesting thing for all of us is,
if countries, particularly poorer countries, go down the route
of Poverty Reduction Strategy Papers, a clear commitment to a
strategy, increasingly, whether it is Brussels or London, we shall
be buying into that, and then, if you like, saying perhaps somewhat
more succinctly, given the strategy, this is what we think we
can do best to help; and that is how I would like to see Brussels
going but also ourselves and others. It may be some time before
we get to this millennium, as it were, and, in order for those
papers to make any sense when they are published, they have to
be put in a context of a PRSP, and some judgement by ourselves
as to whether we think we have really got a solid basis for helping.
Within the European Union, there is consultation on the Country
Strategy process, we get involved at an early stage informally,
where we can, and we are formally involved towards the end when
they are agreed, and our own geographical staff, that is an important
point to make. The Commission's Country Strategy Papers are not
something which simply Anthony and his department worry about
and the rest of the department get on with their own Country Strategy
Papers and never the two shall come together, we very much encourage
our country-based staff, whether it is in Tanzania, or wherever,
to be involved informally with this process within the Commission,
and, indeed, to come and discuss these in Brussels at the relevant
meetings. So there is quite a number of ways in which these things
pull together. So we hope there is a considerable coherence.
44. At some stage, what would be quite helpful
would be just to have a note of which Country Strategy Papers
have been published so far, and the timetable for future Country
(Mr Ireton) Yes.
45. I am right in thinking, am I not, that DFID
Country Strategy Papers are actually published?
(Mr Ireton) Yes.
46. Are EU Country Strategy Papers published,
do I find them on the Net somewhere? I see nodding heads at the
back. Why are DFID Country Strategy Papers published and EU Country
Strategy Papers not published?
(Mr Smith) They have not been yet. We had the framework
established last year and we have started producing them this
year; this year, all of the ones for African, Caribbean and Pacific
countries will be produced, most of them, when I say this year,
it will probably go into January.
47. We have got 27 days left?
(Mr Smith) They have done a lot, and somebody in my
department spends all his time in Brussels, these days, going
through them. I believe that they will be published once they
are completed and approved etc. When I read the other submissions
which raised this point, it made me think I had better check this,
but certainly it was the intention at the time the new framework
was established, and I think there would be a lot of difficulty
around the Council if there were some delay with publications;
but I will check on them.
(Mr Ireton) It certainly would be our intention that
they should be published.
48. It is certainly very helpful, if you are
going to a country like Côte d'Ivoire, or somewhere, where
we do not have a large bilateral aid programme, and then we can
actually see what the Community as a whole is saying. In a couple
of sentences, can you just explain to me what the Inter-Service
Quality Support Group is, who is it, what is it, and what relationship
does it have to the Country Strategy Papers?
(Mr Smith) As part of the reform process, when the
Country Strategy Paper framework was established and EuropeAid
established, it was agreed that there was a need for a major effort
to bring the different departments together, RELEX, Development,
EuropeAid, and ensure that there was a common framework for working.
There is a history of Quality Support Groups around; there used
to be one that looked at projects, you would get a really poor
project designed, and then it would go to the Quality Support
Group who would have to redesign it and send it back. This Quality
Support Group is meant to vet Country Strategy Papers. It is chaired
by Bernard Petit, who is the Director for Development, in DG Development,
it has members of all of the other relevant Directorates General
on it, so there is somebody from EuropeAid, somebody from DG RELEX,
somebody from DG Enlargement, and Trade, as well, I think, and
it simply looks at them. It has established guidelines for Country
Strategy Papers, makes sure that they talk about complementarity
with other donors, have you restricted the number of sectors,
if a Paper comes in with four different sectors and activity,
it will send it back. So it vets them before they are finally
approved. That process has proved quite valuable, the Commission
has found, and they are using the Quality Support Group to promulgate
best practice, effectively.
Chairman: That makes a lot of sense.
49. What steps are the Commission taking to
evaluate their reforms and to learn from the evaluation, and do
you believe that the evaluation should be carried out within EuropeAid
or from outside?
(Mr Smith) They have not evaluated the reform itself
yet, though there is a schedule by which they will start doing
that towards the end of next year, once it has been in place for
about 18 months, or so. EuropeAid was established on 1 January
2001, so they want to give it a little bit of time before they
start looking at it. In terms of evaluating programmes, they have
an Evaluation Service, which carries out, I do not know, a couple
of dozen evaluations a year, or so, in different areas, and those
evaluations are, I think, fairly well-respected by their peers
around the EU. There is a group of evaluation experts that meets
periodically to talk about the evaluation programmes. Many of
the evaluations are carried out jointly, so, for example, there
is one at the moment on complementarity and co-ordination, which
is being led by the Dutch, DFID is involved, but it is a Commission
evaluation of their own programmes, so they are quite open about
it. As to whether it should be carried out from within or without,
I guess there are different models. The reform established that
the Evaluation Service, although it sits in EuropeAid, reports
directly to the Commissioners, so there is no intermediate management
intervention, and, while not independent of the Commission, it
has an independence within the Commission, within the normal structure.
I do not know whether that is considered to be a good model or
a bad one, it is, I suppose, similar to ours.
(Mr Ireton) Yes, it is not dissimilar to our own evaluation
system, which we generate internally but we use external consultants
and experts actually to do individual studies, or synthesise studies,
and, of course, we also publish those reports and they are put
in the Library of the House, however critical they may be.
50. Moving away from the evaluation of the reforms
to the evaluation of the EU programmes, am I right in thinking
that, within the UK, when we are looking at our programmes, the
DAC reporting mechanisms allow us to identify how much of our
aid spend is going on literacy and achieving the primary education
targets, how much is going on poverty relief, how much is going
in particular countries? Is it possible to say how much of the
9 billion spend goes on literacy and achieving the
primary education targets, for instance?
(Mr Smith) It is not easily possible at the moment.
The Commission do not have an electronic management information
system, they are developing one, which they say will be ready
in the middle of next year, but when Commissioner Nielson has
been asked this several times at Development Councils, and said
quite frankly that the position is unsatisfactory, he cannot say
what percentage of EC programmes go to, for example, education,
or health, or any sector you like. So it is quite unsatisfactory.
51. Will the Commission adopt the same DAC reporting
mechanisms as the Member States, so that comparisons can be made
about how far policy is being realised, in practice?
(Mr Smith) They have said that they will; this issue
has come up in discussion between the Commission and the Parliament,
particularly, over the budget, where some in the European Parliament
have pushed for an explanation now and a commitment to particular
levels of spending in different areas, linked to the DAC categories,
and the Commission have said they do not have that capacity at
the moment. But, in the course of that debate, they have realised
that they needed a proper management information system and have
told the Council that they are putting one in place.
(Mr Ireton) Though it is an input measure, we would
expect that, eventually, to be available in their annual report.
52. It seems to me that the single reform that
would do most to increase transparency and accountability of the
EU aid programme would be to have in place the same DAC reporting
regime as the Member States; would you agree with that?
(Mr Ireton) Yes, absolutely.
53. Why does the Commission not have output
targets in its annual reports at the moment, and what is your
Department doing to ensure that they do for the 2002 report?
(Mr Smith) If you take the position a few years ago,
when the DAC actually reviewed the EC programme, in 1997, a major
criticism of that review was that you could not tell what the
policy was, so there was no single statement of what its objectives
were; the Development Policy Statement was meant to achieve that.
In going along that road, we are pushing for objectives and targets,
and it all goes together. If you have a programme with completely
diffuse objectives, you do not have output targets, because it
is too complicated, it goes against what you are trying to do.
Now that we have a single policy, the Council as a whole has agreed
that the annual report should be the main vehicle for providing
objectives and measures of output and monitoring progress. They
completely failed in the first report to follow the Council's
request, it was made very clear to them, at the Development Council
meeting in November, that the second report had to follow that
model; the Commission said that they wanted to, and that they
will consult widely in preparing the second report. And a major
part of our department's work is going at the moment into getting
agreement on corporate level objectives, increasing literacy in
X number of poor countries, for example, as well as proper indicators
at programme and country level which will allow us to monitor
whether or not the programmes are being administered effectively
and achieving their objectives.
(Mr Ireton) And they will be incorporated in, say,
Country Strategy Papers, or the annual review of a Strategy Paper.
54. I think that is encouraging, but, like you,
I wait to see what appears in the report. Could you just say a
little bit more about how DFID works, through the Council of Ministers
and bilaterally, with European counterparts, to achieve the sorts
of reforms we have been talking about all morning; and how do
you think our Government and your Department and Members of Parliament
can work together better to drive this process forward?
(Mr Ireton) You might like to say something about
the actual mechanics, and then I will come back on the other thing.
(Mr Smith) We work through, as you can imagine, a
range of mechanisms, we work bilaterally, we go and visit Member
States or exchange visits and talk about objectives; we work with
the Commission, we have increased the number of DFID people in
our representation in Brussels, to ensure that we have more capacity
for influencing the Commission on its programme management. In
the past, we have had only one person who has just had to go to
working groups all the time, and basically not be more active.
55. Could you just let us have a note on the
numbers of people you have there now and the numbers that the
other main Development players have?
(Mr Smith) Sure.
(Mr Ireton) Yes.
56. Thank you. I am sorry to interrupt.
(Mr Smith) What we are trying to achieve, I think,
is two main things. We have been trying to build political support
for a poverty-focused development policy, and that started many
years ago and we worked through the DAC review, as an important
staging-post, and a global evaluation of EC programmes, which
we promoted, and finally got a policy last year, which came about
during the French Presidency. France has often been our adversary
in reform of EC development programmes, and it was extremely encouraging
that they produced a very good draft and encouraged a very good
final product during their Presidency; so that was, I think, partly
a result of the changing atmosphere in the international community,
but also reflected some of the conversations and discussions that
we had. We are also trying to get proper systems in place, so
that even if there is a new crisis with pressure for increased
spending in the near-abroad, or something like that, you will
have proper management systems in place which say, `okay, what
is most effective, where, and how can we ensure a long-term perspective,
so that development policy maintains its focus on poverty and
is not distracted and blown off course by changing events.' And
we do that partly by providing expertise to the Commission, we
second about 20, or so, DFID staff to the Commission at any given
point, partly by working with other Member States who are active
in the international development work in the OECD and other places,
to try to have a dialogue with the Commission about management
issues, and with other Member States to get acceptance of changes,
when necessary. So there is a variety of bilateral and collective
ways in which we try to reach a common understanding of problems
and develop ideas to solve those, and to convince the Commission
and other Member States to adopt them. I could come back in a
moment about ways in which parliaments could work together.
(Mr Ireton) The only thing I would add to that perhaps,
Anthony, is, in addition to that, we mentioned earlier, it is
very important that our people in a county have a dialogue with
Commission staff, one reason that we encourage deconcentration,
because one can influence policy from bottom up as well as top
down, so we see that as quite key. Also, very broad discussions
go on of a policy nature, for example, between various advisory
cadres and their opposite numbers in Brussels, so we can influence
policy towards a particular issue, whether it is education or
health or water, through those sorts of professional contacts
as well as actually having people seconded into Brussels to boost
the technical capacity.
(Mr Smith) Can I just follow up on the issue of working
with parliaments and others. I think this is extremely important,
because there can be a depressing tendency to live up to national
stereotypes, as you go round the Community, and you go to Spain
and all they care about is fish and the Mediterranean, or when
you go to Sweden, and they are brilliant multilateral advocates.
And to get many changes it is simply not enough to have a good
argument and get a few allies in the Council, you need broader
political support that comes through in national parliaments and
the European Parliament and in civil society, campaigns by civil
society on some key issues are extremely valuable. And any dialogue
about these issues which can take place between informed Members
of Parliament I think would be very helpful, especially between
those that might not see each other so much; we have to make an
effort, as officials, to go to some of the countries which are
not our traditional allies, the tendency is to speak to people
who agree with us more than to ones who do not.
57. Can I just ask a couple of idiot questions.
Before we started, we had a really esoteric discussion amongst
us about the difference between EC and EU. I do not want you to
answer this now, but could you just drop us a note as to what
you understand the difference is?
(Mr Ireton) Yes.
58. Secondly, I think, when we discuss all this,
we assume that we all know the mechanisms by which the UK pays
our subscription to the European Union; this is an Emperor's new
clothes question. I am not sure actually that we all do. And,
again, a note; because if we manage to extract more money out
of the Chancellor for development aid, do the Community proportionately
take more of it, or is it like an annual subscription, that once
you have paid your annual subscription to the European Union any
more that we can extract from the Chancellor for the Department
is actually more for our bilateral programme? And I think it would
be helpful to know that.
(Mr Ireton) The answer, broadly, to that, is the latter,
that we pay a share of the EC budget that goes to overseas aid,
and how much that is going to cost us depends on a whole range
of decisions that are then made about the external envelope, and
so forth; but once that has been made, and provided we can contain
that envelope, the other major charge to us is the European Development
Fund, which is not on the European budget, it is negotiated periodically
and we make a contribution, which is also negotiated, and we have
an expected share of that. And so both of those appear as a charge
against our own departmental budget, one of which is paid directly,
the European Development fund, we pay that directly from our voted
expenditure, which Parliament votes; the other is simply what
is called `attributed', our share of the budget is simply attributed
to our departmental expenditure limit, and that is paid by the
Treasury, it is sort of deducted from the top. But we can give
you a note to cover it more fully.
(Mr Smith) If DFID's budget goes up,
that share does not go up, so it is more available for bilateral
59. A good incentive then to try to get more
money for DFID?
(Mr Ireton) Indeed.
60. We are seeing the Secretary of State, I
think, in February, and one comment that colleagues made, before
you came in, is how does one get more information about the agenda
for the Council of Ministers meetings, and actually what is decided
at Council of Ministers meetings, because, clearly, within the
context of the European Union, this is where political decisions
are taken, and needs to have, I think, some better understanding
of which players are doing what. And if the Council of Ministers
meetings are a complete secret garden, you know, secret meetings,
it is very, very difficult to actually have some understanding
of which parties are playing what, and I think it is something
that we will want to ask the Secretary of State; so just giving
you notice of that, how do we make Council of Ministers meetings
more transparent, because, clearly, there is some political pressure
(Mr Ireton) Yes.
Chairman: Thank you very much for an
extremely interesting session, quite a lot of which is very
technical, and having given us some extremely full
answers, and much appreciated. Thank you very much.
10 Ev 16. Back
Ev 16. Back
Ev 16 and Ev 17. Back
Ev 17. Back