Examination of Witnesses (Questions 40
TUESDAY 18 JUNE 2002
CB AND MR
40. These are all countries with very big programmes.
Look at Malawi. It is a small country, two million or something
of that order. A big programme. You have withdrawn budget support
but it still has a much, much bigger programme than much, much
(Mr Chakrabarti) I think it is more than that; it
is ten million in Malawi.
41. Ten million people?
(Mr Chakrabarti) Yes. The withdrawal of budget support
is not usually done by us alone. Do not forget there is a whole
international system; it is a collective effort. Other people
will also be doing similar things at the same time. That is quite
a big signal to send to each of these countries, I think.
42. Can I ask a question that follows on from
that? At present sectoral programmes are driven by country teams.
How appropriate is your staff skills mix in the country teams
for monitoring the effectiveness of the direct budgetary support.
As I think Tony was saying, DFID's project management skills are
one of its main assets. What is going to happen to these people?
Is the intention to shrink that resource at the time and what
is going to be the nature of DFID's involvement in recipient countries
given the shift of budgetary support. For example, in Ghana we
met the minister of education; clearly DFID has given a lot of
support for education in Ghana. Are you going to have someone
in the country working with the minister of education to see if
that programme is being delivered as you wish it to be delivered?
(Mr Chakrabarti) Yes, I think we will do that in each
of the cases where we provide that sort of support. We will certainly
be doing that. I think what it does is that it does not take away
the sectoral knowledge that we need, the professional knowledge
we needwhether it is education, health or other sectorsbut
it puts a much higher premium on a certain set of skills than
previously which is around influencing, around the policy dialogue
sort of skills. So our staffall of usare having
to learn those skills. We have had to learn them within Whitehall
in a sense to get ourselves established on the trade front and
debt front and so on where we have had a dialogue with other departments.
We are having to do that also now in country teams. I am sure
when Mark was in Nairobi he was having to get involved in a dialogue
in a way that when we were ODA we would not have done because
he was getting at the heart of the budget, the composition of
expenditure, things like that. So our people have to be slightly
different in the way they think about things, in the way they
behave, I think. Secondly, I think we have to be a bit more knowledgeable
about the politics and history of the country, perhaps, and ask
ourselves some questions as to whether what we sometimes describe
as irrational decisions are not actually quite rational given
the incentive framework which they were coming from. That may
be wrong, but understanding better why decisions are made helps
you also understand what you could do to try and make better decisions
or help the country make better decisions. I think that sort of
thought process is quite different from what we were used to in
(Mr Lowcock) Can I add one point on the skills mix.
This is a really, really important issue for us. Putting money
through budget does not mean that we are not interested in the
sectoral outcomes. On the contrary. So the nature of the role
of our education or health specialists is changing. What we are
asking them to do is look atfor their sector or for the
country as a wholewhether it is making progress towards
the MDGs. What we are not asking them to do so much is to look
at a relatively small project and whether that is effective. In
that sense what we are doing is scaling up; we are trying to look
to the horizon, not just in the little narrow thing that we are
financing. So there is a long and productive future role for our
sector specialists in this. Those are the areas where we are trying
to achieve outcomes.
43. My question is about budgetary support,
but in a sense is the opposite of Tony Worthington's question.
He asked where, in fact, DFID had withdrawn. Can I ask where,
in fact, DFID is providing direct budgetary support where other
similar ministries from developed countries have refused to do
so? Are there situations where we are going it alone in providing
direct budgetary support?
(Mr Chakrabarti) I do not think we are providing direct
budgetary support where other countries have refused to do so,
but there is one interesting case which is in India in Andra Pradesh
where we are providing budget support I think with the World Bank;
we are the only two doing so. That is simply because other donors
are in other states. That is the way the Indian government likes
the relationship to be, so we have Andra Pradesh and we focus
very strongly on that. We have to provide budgets for it with
the World Bank. That is not because other donors have refused
44. I have to press you slightly on that because
that is quite controversial in terms of support for the agricultural
programmes there. That is not for any other reason.
(Mr Chakrabarti) No, this is to do with public sector
reform, this budget support. It is not to do with the agricultural
side of it all.
(Mr Lowcock) Actually the Dutch Government are looking
at contributing to that programme as well. There are a number
of cases where budget support has been provided to countries initially
by quite a small group and then the group has grown. Many of the
African cases are like that, actually.
45. Would you ever go it alone?
(Mr Chakrabarti) It depends on the Government. I doubt
it, myself, because it is going to be part of a collective process
of discussion and the policy framework, the PRSP is collectively
discussed. So it is pretty unlikely that one would get to that
point I think.
46. Last October the DAC review team suggested
that the Department could do better on monitoring, evaluation,
and knowledge management. Does DFID accept those suggestions and
if so what are you doing to change things, to address those issues?
(Mr Chakrabarti) We do accept them on evaluation.
I think we touched on one earlier and the plan is we have to do
a lot more in this area than previously. On knowledge sharing,
one of the things about DFID of course is that there is a lot
of knowledge in the organisation. What we have probably been not
as good at as we would like to be ourselves is actually sharing
that knowledge round the department and the international system
in a more effective manner. We are looking at what we can do to
interact with the rest of the system and also internally how to
get lessons learned around between regions and between groups.
One of the things I am almost certainly going to do I think is
create a new post which is for a director of information whose
task will partly be to do this, to push this around the system.
I think it is going to be a much higher objective in our hierarchy
47. How, though? That is the question. I can
see there is a clear commitment to improve, but what sort of things
might you do to improve and then make use of it?
(Mr Chakrabarti) One of the things I found when I
first came back last Autumn was when I went round the country
offices and I found the same questions quite often being asked
by the same country managers, I said, "Why is it that you
cannot find the answers to this since you are all asking similar
sorts of questions?" They found there was nothing on the
system that allows them access. The way they get knowledge at
the moment is through personal networks, retreats, things like
that, where they can get together with other people who have similar
questions. I want to use our IT systemand our IT system
has a very important role in this because we are scattered over
so many locations round the worldto try to produce knowledge
products which are more easily accessible than some of our literature.
Some of our literature has been a bit too theoretical and not
enough about how you can actually do something on the ground.
If you were a programme manager in Tanzania and you wanted to
know what is the best practice in DFID about engaging the EC,
for example, there is not something that tells you on the system
at the moment. We are developing that. We have now written what
is called a "How to" note which helps that programme
manager and any others to go and get that immediately. We want
to do more of that, I think. One of the tasks of this new director
post will be to develop that system much more.
48. Are you aware that it is the view of many
NGOs working in the reproductive health field that reproductive
health has fallen off the DFID agenda? I wonder why you think
they have that perception. Is it a fair comment? Is it a fair
(Mr Chakrabarti) I am a bit surprised they have that
perception. I think I had better go and find out why they have
that perception because it is a worrying one; it is not one we
think is fair. The current Public Service Agreement has a target
on maternal mortality. We use births attended by skilled attendants
as a key indicator of that, that is an internationally accepted
proxy. There is also a target on reproductive health using contraceptive
prevalence as a key indicator. Although we are in discussion now
with the Treasury about the new PSA so we do not know quite where
we will come out, I am pretty certain that reproductive health,
maternal mortality indicators will be part of the judgments by
which we decide whether we have succeeded under the new PSA or
(Mr Manning) It is possible that some of their concerns
come from the fact that the Millennium Development Goals do not
include an explicit goal for reproductive health, whereas the
International Development Targets which the DAC produced in 1996
did do so. That comes down to the views put forward by a group
of states including the United States and a number of other countries
who objected at the Millennium Development Assembly to the inclusion
of such a goal. As you will be well aware there has been a long
history of international debate around this issue. We have made
clear the fact that it is not a headline goal in the MDGs is neither
here nor there as far as we are concerned and we will continue
to take this as a very important part of the overall portfolio.
49. I am interested in your comments because,
according to MSI submissions that we had the 1999 to 2002 PSA
on maternal mortality was not in fact met, even though it is,
as you rightly say, a Millennium Development Goal (in fact I think
it is number six, so it is quite high up). The submissions suggested
that maternal mortality is not actually mentioned as an objective
in the current PSA. Can you clarify that?
(Mr Lowcock) It is the case, as we recorded in the
annual report, that maternal mortality is one of the Millennium
Development Goals that we are most concerned about for exactly
the reason you give, that even in Asia where generally progress
on the Millennium Development Goals has been good, on that particular
one it has not been. Our team working in Asia has been thinking
about what more we, as an organisation, ought to do there to address
that issue. There areas the NAO picked up when they looked
at our set of PSA targets and indicatorssome technical
difficulties with the measurement of maternal mortality because
the data tends to be available even more slowly than for many
of the other indicators we have. It tends to be many years after
an intervention where we actually see whether something has changed
or not. That is the reason why this proxy of whether a high proportion
of births are attended by skilled people has been developed by
the International System. The purpose of that proxy is not intended
to imply that we are not interested in maternal mortality; on
the contrary, we are trying to find better ways of understanding
what is going on in terms of maternal mortality. I think this
is a dialogue, as Suma said, we should pursue with MSI.
50. I do not think it is just MSI. I think there
are many groups working in this area. I think they would be interested
in having a dialogue with you on these issues.
(Mr Lowcock) We would be very happy to.
51. Going back to reproductive health and access,
there are no specified targets for that. Is there a particular
reason why that is the case?
(Mr Chakrabarti) I thought we had a specific target
on reproductive health on contraceptive prevalence. I am pretty
sure they do although I do not have them to hand.
(Mr Lowcock) We certainly collect data on this and
we have been measuring an increase in prevalence of contraception
used. I think you are right, it is the case that we do not have
PSA targets in this area at the moment.
52. With respect, it is quite a different thing
to be collecting data and actually having targets. I would suggest
that it is such an important area in terms of sustainable development
that access should be something that we do have targets for and
I would like to think that the Department would look at that extremely
carefully. Given the huge fall in donor funding of which we are
all aware is quite enormous nowmy understanding is that
it has gone down from about $68 million to $40 million in the
last couple of yearshas DFID made an assessment of the
need that there clearly must be? Further to that in your view
is it possible for sustainable development and, indeed, the elimination
of poverty if there is not an increase in funding and an expansion
of reproductive health education in services, which takes me back
to the specific targets because it would seem to me that it is
very important that we do have those.
(Mr Lowcock) The Department has done quite a bit of
analysis around these topics. I am afraid I do not have this material
with me. Would it be OK if we offered you a note on that?
53. I think members would all be appreciative
of a note on what is clearly a very important area. Just to widen
it a little bit would you agree that whilst DFID has strengthened
the gender specific part of its gender mainstreaming programme,
there does need to be much further progress in areas such as economics,
engineering and rural livelihoods?
(Mr Manning) Yes, I do not think that anyone can be
at all complacent about this. We took the decision several years
ago that rather than try and run a separate gender unit we would
try and get this fully mainstreamed into our programmes and as
we were reminded in a similar debate about the environment you
have to keep working at it to enable us to achieve good results
across the board. We are trying to monitor what is happening in
PRSPs which are a very important part of this and we have worked
with the World Bank and others to try and ensure that gender considerations
are given their proper weight in the PRS framework. We are, of
course, contributing to some of the key international agencies
such as UNIFEM. We are, I must say, pleased with the way in which
our cooperation with UNIFEM has developed over the years, although
of course it remains a fairly modest programme.
54. Turning to something Mr Manning said, where
he said that good reproductive health was not explicit in the
Millennium Development Goals. I would quarrel with that. I think
they are absolutely explicit: reduce child mortality; improve
maternal health; combat HIV/AIDS. Those are impossible to achieve
without good reproductive health. Totally impossible.
(Mr Manning) I certainly do not disagree with that
at all. What I am saying is that in the list that the DAC invented
in 1996 there was an explicit goal on reproductive health which
we tried to get into the Millennium Development Goals but were
unable to because of a coalition of forces against us.
55. The facts are, as Chris McCafferty was saying,
that in 1996 global assistance for reproductive health was $68
million. In 2000 it was $40 million. That is why people feel they
are falling off the map.
(Mr Manning) I think both those figures sound extraordinarily
low to me. I think we will need to research them and come back
to you with a note on that. Even $68 million in 1996 sounds surprisingly
56. But there is a present crisis in this area
and it is linked with the United States. I have just come back
from the United States looking at what is happening there. The
United States is easily the biggest donor to reproductive health,
to maternal health measures. They are now holding up the disbursement
of funds under what is called the Mexico City Policy. There are
grave doubts about whether the $5 billion that Bush promised is
going to go in an acceptable way to maternal health. We had to
step in last year with extra supplies of condoms because of a
shortage. I must say I am disappointed by the response of DFID
in this area because we have targets that are nowhere near being
metparticularly in sub-Saharan Africaand where funding
is decreasing there are great doubts about the future, but I get
no sense of concern from this report about something that is absolutely
fundamental to reduction of poverty.
(Mr Chakrabarti) Can I just reiterate, chairman. We
do have a target on maternal mortality in the current PSA. We
talk about the skilled birth attendants being an internationally
accepted proxy because of the difficulties of measuring otherwise.
We do also have a specific target on reproductive health using
contraceptive prevalence in the current PSA. The target is to
increase the proportion of couples using contraception from a
base line of 32 per cent. The latest figures are at 35 per cent
so there is progress being made. That does not mean we do not
think this is an important issue; we do. We will come back with
a note on what we are doing and what the figures actually show.
As Richard said, we ought to research the figures because I find
those a bit low as well.
Chairman: I think that would be helpful
and we can then come back to you. Piara, you had a question that
you wanted to ask.
57. Going back to the question of direct budgetary
support, I am a bit sceptical about this policy because I consider
that DFID will not be able to play a role in it and will not be
able to monitor the allocation of funds for particular projects
and how those projects will be monitored. Also, in view of the
fact in a country like IndiaI know that particularlythe
money is always used and directed towards projects and areas where
there is no need at all, for political purposes. How will the
Department be able to cope with this situation?
(Mr Lowcock) In deciding whether in a particular country
we should provide budget support or notand at the moment,
as has been said, there are 17 countrieswe ask ourselves
at the beginning a number of questions. Is this a poor country?
Is there a credible strategy for reducing poverty? Are the fiduciary
risks acceptable? In answering those questions we look very closely
at the recent progress the country has made. In fact, in most
of the countries where we are providing budget support it is the
case that the Governments there have shown that they can deliver
outcomes in the areas that we care particularly about (primary
health, primary education, water and so on). We gave the example
of Uganda earlier about how increases in aid and public spending
had led to better outcomes. This is a policy that we are very
keen to evaluate as we implement it. In fact, we have commissioned
the Overseas Development Institute to conduct an evaluation for
usindependently; it will be a published reportto
test whether in fact the benefits we hope and expect will be available
from budget support will come to fruition.
(Mr Chakrabarti) On the India example, we very carefully
selected four states which met those criteria, the first two of
those criteria which were: Do they have lots of poor people in
them? And, is the state government committed to change? The states
we picked were based on that: Madhya Pradesh, Andhra Pradesh,
Orissa and West Bengal. They have all moved in that direction;
Andhra Pradesh is probably the leading reformer of the four. So
we do apply these tests in quite a tough way, actually. We do
not just go into any old Indian state unless it meets those tests.
58. Could I turn to the reform of multilateral
institutions. Multilateral aid is now over 50 per cent of the
budget delivered through multilateral agencies. The Secretary
of State in the past has been very forthright in her comments
on the need for reform, particularly about the EU. We have recently
looked at EU reform and we came to the conclusion that was going
reasonably well. But in terms of the UN I know that there is a
policy to push more money through UN institutions to bolster those
institutions and to back their reform. Could I ask you first,
are you doing anything to assist UN internal reform practically
and are you happy with the progress there?
(Mr Chakrabarti) I could give you a blow by blow account
of each UN agency but that would take hours. Maybe I could offer
a note on that. Let me give you the highlights as I see them.
DFID has produced what are known as Institutional Strategy Papers
for the reform programmes that we are supporting immediately.
These are public. What we are doing within those is providing
technical assistance to each of the major UN agencies to try to
get them to reform and become more effective. We have action plans
which are not published because they contain details of how we
might build coalitions with others to try to get reform. It is
a very big initiative, a very big push to change the UN system.
There are two highlights, I think, of what we are doing. The first
one would be UN Development Group Office. This was created to
try to get more coherence in the UN system and we all welcomed
that. We have been supporting the UNDGO (as it is known) in a
number of ways. I will give a couple of examples. We have helped
provide a training and resource programme for UN country teams
to make much quicker progress towards common services. They all
do the same things but through different organisations. They actually
try to get some economies of scale on the ground. We also provide
training for UN staff, including the resident coordinators on
the ground, to help strengthen poverty analysis in each country
through what is known as the UN Development Assistance Framework.
Again, that is to get some common approach within the UN system
at country level. Those have been big efforts, I think. The other
example I will give is UNDP because that, in many ways, sets the
tone, if you like, for the rest of the UN system. I think there
has been a serious reform effort here under Mark Malloch-Brown
which we have been supporting. Two examples within that are that
we, together with others, have pushed very hard for the thinning
down on the number of sectors UNDP are in. Mark Malloch-Brown
has been pushing in the same direction. He felt the UNDP were
too widely spread, not focussing on their comparative advantage.
We have also provided technical assistance to develop what are
known as competency frameworks for resident representatives of
UNDP. They have been, frankly, of very variable quality in many
of the countries and therefore UNDP has not been as effective
as it should have been, just part of the general dialogue. The
UNDP is now trying to improve the quality of these resident representatives
and we have helped in that process by working out the competency
frameworks, by helping with the selection process and so on. This
is quite a major shift in the way we engage with the UN compared
with five or ten years ago.
Chairman: It is very interesting because
it is a huge area and I think you get an organisation like the
World Food Programme which one feels is delivering well; on the
other hand, there is a question mark on what actually was achieved
at the FAO last week. Also, I think, how can we stop UN agencies
putting forward more and more initiatives? My impression is that
none of us are now holding our breath for anything to be happening
at Jo'burg simply because there have been almost too many UN conferences
this year. The capacity of sherpas and others to actually work
out the policy for this is very difficult. In a sense one felt
that now the policy has settled the Millennium Development Goals,
we now look at the UN agencies delivering on that rather than
everyone just rushing round the world having lots more conferences,
dreaming up more and more targets and initiatives because it actually
takes the focus off, so I think a paper might be very helpful.
59. Various NGOs have raised the issue that
they are now going to the UN to get disbursement of funds rather
than, as previously, to DFID. With mine clearances that has been
dealt with through UNMAS. But it is wider than that, I hasten
to add. What they complain about is that the UN system remains
bureaucratic, cumbersome and very slow to disburse funds. Also,
I think I am right in saying, they generally take 13 per cent
administration fee on top, which is hugely expensive. First, what
evaluation are you going to do of the disbursement of funds through
UN agencies which is increasing under the Secretary of State's
policy? Second, what would persuade you that it was not working
and you should be diverting money back or reverting to the previous
system, direct bilateral aid to India?
(Mr Chakrabarti) I do not know. We have not thought
through the criteria for what would persuade us to go back. At
the end of the day, is this a more effective channel than the
previous way of handling things and are the transaction costs
lowered by working this way than through bilateral donors like
(Mr Manning) At the start of your intervention you
described our policy in terms which I would not personally have
described it. We do not have a policy of seeking to put more funds
through the UN for its own sake. What we are seeking to do within
the UN system and indeed more generally internationally is to
make harder choices between the better and less well performing
parts of the system. We should be ready to reward good performance,
but equally we should take a hard-headed view if we do not see
a good performance. That is the Secretary of State's general policy
on that. We can have a discussion about the specifics of why we
went down a particular route on mine clearing, but I do not think
you should see that as part of a general policy of seeking to
transfer previous bilateral activities through UN agencies as
a matter of routine.
Mr Robathan: That is certainly the impression
the Secretary gave me and I would not dream of criticising her
for not being hard-headed enough. But I certainly think that is
what she said to me, actually.
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