EMERGENCY AID: THE KOSOVO CRISIS
Managing the Department's grant giving
35. To facilitate a swift reaction, the Department
apply streamlined procedures for approving aid proposals for humanitarian
emergencies. Nevertheless, their procedures recognise the need
to be satisfied that the project is relevant to their objectives
and is likely to succeed. The National Audit Office examined 42
projects and found considerable variation in the extent to which
the Department had documented the basis for their decisions. It
was not always clear what evaluative criteria the Department had
applied in specific cases, what had been done to test the robustness
of the project proposal, and how the Department had reached a
judgement about the amount of money to award.
36. Asked about their assessment of grant applications,
the Department told us that they had published guidelines requiring
applicants to set out in detail the purposes for which they were
seeking a grant, their qualifications, and the outcomes they were
trying to secure. They acknowledged that applications had not
gone through a structured process, but the Department had looked
carefully at all the data they had received to reach a judgement,
and they had taken decisions at the appropriate level of delegated
authority. However, they had concluded that it would be sensible
to structure more tightly their assessment of grant applications,
and they had now prepared a checklist for officers to go through
before taking a decision, which in future would be on file as
part of the audit trail.
37. To ensure that their funds are used as intended,
the Department recognise the need to monitor project progress
against the agreed timescale and budget. The Department's reporting
requirements are normally for grant recipients to provide interim
progress reports at quarterly intervals and a final report at
the end of the project.
In the very first phase of the crisis the agencies funded by the
Department had been extremely busy implementing actions on the
ground. Because they had relied on agencies that had a track record
of working in such situations, they had been able to accept that
as long as the work was progressing and monitoring indicated that
this was the case, the paperwork could catch up later. We asked
about the use of local agencies and whether the Department were
happy that monies had been used for the purposes intended. They
said that the field offices had been required to carry out detailed
appraisals of local organisations, and they had not advanced the
whole grant until the service had been delivered and inspected
by their staff. There had been cases where the Department had
been dissatisfied with the results and the grant had been terminated.
38. In two cases in Macedonia, the Department recovered
unspent grants totalling about £16,000 as a result of field
office visits to the projects.
Asked about the recovery of unspent grants, the Department told
us they were very confident that would recover unspent balances.
They required project completion reports, which included an accounting
for the grants, and had received 93 per cent of these.
39. A major component of the Department's contribution
to the relief effort has been to provide funds to support specific
projects run by other organisations. It is important that they
deal quickly with requests for funding, while being able to demonstrate
that decisions are properly made. The Department assured us that
decisions were made on the basis of detailed proposals, and within
delegated limits of authority, but did acknowledge that applications
had not gone through a structured vetting process. In future they
will provide an audit trail by completing a checklist to support
40. The Department require completion reports to
record what projects have achieved and to account for the grant.
These reports are the Department's principal means of identifying
and recovering any unspent grants and it is essential that they
follow-up any that are outstanding. We note that the Department
have now received 93 per cent of final project reports from grant
recipients. They need to pursue those that remain outstanding.
41. The Department's monitoring of progress on some
local projects against agreed timescales and budgets had prompted
them to terminate grants where they had been dissatisfied with
the results. In view of its size and complexity, we recommend
that the Department review their experience of grant-giving during
this operation, to see what lessons can be learned.
32 C&AG's Report, paras 3.3-3.4, 3.6-3.7 Back
Report, para 3.10 Back
Qs 24, 77 Back
Report, para 3.12 Back
Qs 103-104 Back