Select Committee on Public Accounts Minutes of Evidence

Examination of Witnesses (Questions 160-179)



  160. Why do you not just take your money back and spend it yourselves?
  (Mr Chakrabarti) Because it is budgetised and we have no control over it.

  161. You have no control over that £709 million?
  (Mr Chakrabarti) We do not have control over our share of that money.

  162. Agreement is reached with the Council of the Ministers that you will give that?
  (Mr Lowcock) The European Parliament with the Council of Ministers and the Commission have a budget every year. The bit of the United Kingdom share of that which goes on international development is a charge to the DFID budget.

  163. You pay it over basically?
  (Mr Lowcock) Yes.

  164. The European Union has its accounts qualified by the Court of Auditors every year because they lose £6 billion Sterling. Do you know how much of the lost EU budget is attributable to international development?
  (Mr Lowcock) I am afraid I do not have the budget share in my head. We can give you a note on that. The Court of Auditors study the area of international development and we have worked with them because we have exactly these concerns on some of the spending programmes.

  165. At the moment you are saying that even though you know—not think—that it is less effective than spending the money directly in the DFID-sponsored way, you have to spend it through this less effective EU way? That is what you are saying?
  (Mr Chakrabarti) Those are the rules of the game.

  Chairman: Could you send us a note on this and also one on fraud. It is quite an interesting subject.[4]

Mr Bacon

  166. If the note can be on both the mechanics of the payments and chapter and verse of how they are arrived at and why, and separately on the fraud.[5] On Page 41 in Paragraph 3.35 it says "Previous work by the Development Assistance Committee"—is that an UN Committee?

  (Mr Lowcock) It is OECD.

  167. "... failed to reach agreement on what constituted a good governance indicator." Could you explain why that is so difficult? I read something later on in the Report about the death penalty. Is that what it boils down to or are there other reasons for this? This is the bottom of Paragraph 3.35.
  (Mr Lowcock) I do not know the answer to that. I would have to check what the particular problems were.

  168. I was addressing this to Mr Chakrabarti.
  (Mr Chakrabarti) The OECD principles are all negotiated by the OECD members so we would have to go back and check what the particular issue was on that one and who was blocking the agreement.

  169. Right. On page 40 there are these seven key governance capabilities which seem fairly easy to agree upon and benign. It is very interesting to think that even at the level of agreeing what is good governance you cannot actually reach agreement.
  (Mr Chakrabarti) Yes. Different members of the OECD do have different views on this.

  170. If you were able to let us have a note on that, it would be very helpful.
  (Mr Chakrabarti) We will do that.[6]

Mr Gardiner

  171. Mr Chakrabarti, can I start by congratulating you on your appointment.
  (Mr Chakrabarti) Thank you.

  172. Can I say that I applaud very much the way in which your Department has started to focus very clearly on poverty and to work in partnership with governments and to focus very specifically on countries where poverty is most in evidence. I have some knowledge of the work that your Department is doing in India and I am delighted that the budget there is due to expand greatly because, of course, I think India now has 40 per cent of all the world's poor in that country.
  (Mr Chakrabarti) Yes.

  173. I think it is absolutely right that the Department has focused in that way. I think until latterly you have received an extremely rough ride from this Committee and I am sorry that has been the case on your first outing because I think there is a great deal that your Department should be able to tell us which is extremely positive about the way in which the change in working practice is achieving very real results for the world's poor. Can I start by asking you to turn to appendix 1 and to focus on the International Development Targets on Environmental sustainability and regeneration. You talk there of implementing national strategies for sustainable development by 2005, reversing the loss in environmental resources. Can you tell us whether you feel that target is on target to achieve that by 2005?
  (Mr Chakrabarti) You pick one of the targets where we do not actually have information as to whether we are on target or not. It has been changed slightly but you get the same answer, the target is now in the Millennium Development Goals, the environmental sustainable target. We do not yet have a comprehensive assessment of progress, unfortunately, but as soon as we do we will have to feed you the information on that.

  174. Thank you for that. You have identified rightly the next area that I would be focusing on would be goal number 7, and indeed target 9 of those. Do you recognise as a Department, or perhaps it is better that I should say how do you recognise at the Department that wildlife is a natural resource, the loss of which threatens to push some of the poorest communities in Central and Western Africa into food insecurity and deeper into poverty?
  (Mr Chakrabarti) Yes. I think as a statement I do recognise that and the Department does as well. One of the issues we are facing as a Department is how to get issues like that—which I think, frankly speaking, the development people have not thought very deeply about in the past—integrated into our strategy papers and so on. I see the WSSD—the World Summit on Sustainable Development—in Johannesburg as beginning to think about some of those issues and trying hopefully to get better integration. For example, in poverty reduction strategy papers, even the good ones, some of those issues are missed off at the moment. We need to try and work to get a better integration than we have had.

  175. Again, you have anticipated me in the direction of PRSP and what I want to ask you is what steps you are taking as a Department within your participating poverty assessments and the poverty reduction strategy papers to take account of wildlife resources, bush meat and so on in those because I think this is an area where we do not often see that taken on board in the PSRP that the Department provides?
  (Mr Chakrabarti) I think you are right. I think the new guidance will encourage our staff to take those sorts of concerns, and other environmental concerns as well, much more into account. You have been following very closely what has been happening in Botswana on the bush meat issue and if we had a large programme in Botswana—we do not, of course, it is now a much better off country—that is the sort of issue that would have to be integrated in the way we think about delivering assistance in Botswana. Similarly, elsewhere where we do have large programmes those sort of concerns come up and we need to do better and take them into account and use, also, all of our UK resources, not just the development programme resources, to try and tackle some of those things. In the case of the bush meat issues, for me it is quite interesting because I spent the first few years of my career in Botswana, how the Government of Botswana is tackling that and to what extent our high commission helped push them to take it more seriously as an issue. We need to work within the whole UK plc family on those issues.

  176. Absolutely. Can I perhaps turn to one of your country strategy papers, the strategy paper for Cameroon. If I look at Annex 2 there. I appreciate you will not have this in front of you, do not worry I do not expect you to have. In Cameroon the strategy paper identifies forestry as really the key thing.
  (Mr Chakrabarti) Yes.

  177. It is absolutely integral to the natural resource and wealth of that country and, therefore, it is the way development is going to take place within that country. It is the way in which that is being abused and exploited by the Gombe system that is stopping the real development growth. Quite properly that is the focus of this country's strategy paper. Annex 2 is the pre-programme targets. I think this meshes in very well with some of the things that the C&AG and the NAO have identified. One of those targets is to reinforce the protection of biodiversity. It says "Make the necessary means available for poaching control campaigns." Now, if I was being cruel to you I would say what criteria do you have for assessing whether you are achieving your pre-programme targets. In fact, I will not ask you that. What I would point out to you is that there is no set of criteria against which you are measuring the success of that target. Therefore, it is very difficult in what I think is an absolutely excellent country strategy paper to see that you can get beyond that pre-programme stage. These sort of things I think the NAO report has helped us to highlight.
  (Mr Chakrabarti) Absolutely.

  178. I would be interested to see the ways in which you feel as a Department that you can move on from there. It seems to me you have done extremely well on the focusing of the objectives of the Department, the real concentration on the less than direct aid pool, and you have set those objectives. Where I think we see the Department perhaps less effective is establishing the criteria for evaluating how it proceeds from basic stage to basic stage.
  (Mr Chakrabarti) I accept that. I think it is very fair and I think the NAO brings that out very well indeed. What we need to do is move away, if you like, from a somewhat flabby assessment criteria like that to much more sharper, more attuned criteria. The new guidance will help in that way but guidance only takes you so far, of course. What I think we need as senior managers to do is be pretty much on the ball, particularly in the first set of country strategy papers which appear after the guidance. If we get those right I think there will be a demonstration effect to many more staff that we need to move away from that sort of old fashioned criteria to much more clear precise criteria in the future.

  179. Can I ask you about the Environmental Impact Assessments that you as a Department conduct on some of the improvements. There is no reason why you should be aware but I tabled a series of questions to the Department, one of which was about the Environmental Impact Assessment that you conduct. In those assessments it is highly unusual. I would say almost never does the Department take account of the impact that your own work in the construction of a road or the construction of a major infrastructure project has on the local environment, with specific regard to the bio-diversity of that environment and the reliance of the communities in that area on that bio-diversity. This is an enormous weakness in the Department's own planning about its development interventions.
  (Mr Chakrabarti) If that is the case then we clearly need to do better. I am afraid I have not seen those environmental impact assessments so I cannot comment on the specifics, but on the generality you are right, we do need to take more account of the fact that bio-diversity is an economic asset for many of these communities. It is not in the full blood stream of the Department yet but it will be.

4   Ev 24, Appendix 1. Back

5   Ev 24-25, Appendix 1. Back

6   Ev 25, Appendix 1. Back

previous page contents next page

House of Commons home page Parliament home page House of Lords home page search page enquiries index

© Parliamentary copyright 2002
Prepared 1 August 2002