International Development (Official Development Assistance Target) Bill — Report

Part of the debate – in the House of Lords at 1:45 pm on 27th February 2015.

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Photo of Baroness Northover Baroness Northover Baroness in Waiting (HM Household) (Whip), The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for International Development 1:45 pm, 27th February 2015

My Lords, I thank the noble Lord, Lord Collins, for his support. I think that we all agree that independent evaluation of the value for money of our ODA is essential. That is why the Government have significantly strengthened external scrutiny and accountability mechanisms for UK aid, including establishing ICAI. I thank noble Lords for their tributes to it.

ICAI has a key role to play in evaluating the department’s work, and I emphasise that it is likely in practice to be the main body through which this part of the Bill is delivered—I agree here with my right honourable friend Desmond Swayne. However, we do not agree that tying the function of independent verification entirely to one particular organisation, and enshrining that organisation in statute, is the right step to take. We do not want to limit the current range of scrutiny options that are available.

ICAI is an independent scrutiny body that reports not to the DfID Secretary of State but to Parliament through the International Development Select Committee. The IDC has a specific sub-committee which is responsible for overseeing the work of ICAI, approving ICAI’s work plan and taking evidence in public hearings following the publication of each ICAI report. It holds an inquiry into ICAI’s annual report. Noble Lords have emphasised their respect for what ICAI is doing.

The Bill asks that the Secretary of State include in each DfID annual report a statement as to how he or she has complied with the duty to ensure that there is independent verification of development assistance. As I have said, it is likely that that would be done for ICAI. The annual report is subject to scrutiny by both the National Audit Office and the IDC. Clause 5 of the Bill thus ensures that the Secretary of State will be answerable, including to Parliament, through the IDC, on whether his or her choice was of an independent and suitable body. It also allows transparent reporting on the full range of independent evaluations, and allows for scrutiny of whether the spread of arrangements in place effectively examines value for money. We believe that Clause 5 strengthens the current framework in such a way that adds value, increases accountability for programmes and projects and ensures that the value for money of our work is independently evaluated, but it does not enshrine a new body in law.

The whole thrust of this Parliament’s policy has been to bear down on the creation—