CIDA to Decentralize Operations this Year

CIDA President Margaret Biggs. Photo by: International Development Research Center

The Canadian International Development Agency will begin moving more staff out of its Ottawa headquarters and into the field as soon as this summer, according to its top official.

At present, only 163 of CIDA’s 1,500 staff members are stationed in the field, a CIDA spokesman told the Toronto Sun.

“We are taking action beginning this summer to move more of our staff into the field so that we can again be more effective on the ground,” CIDA President Margaret Biggs said during a hearing of the Commons Public Accounts Committee.

“That ratio will shift noticeably … in that a smaller proportion of the total staff [will be] at headquarters and a larger proportion in the field,” she was quoted by the Vancouver Sun. CIDA is “examining every program to determine which functions and employees would be best working in Canada or abroad,” the paper reports.

The recommendation for the move of the CIDA staff into the field came from Hugh Segal, chairman of the Senate Foreign Affairs Committee, in 2007, as well as a report by Auditor General Sheila Fraser that raised alarm bells about CIDA management and aid effectiveness.

“If they move [staff] out [into the field] and don’t reduce staff numbers at head office, does that mean they’re reducing the amount for actual programming for the necessary projects around the world?” Segal asked.

Segal estimated that the cost of keeping staff in the field amounted to around 300,000 Canadian dollars, including travel expenses, living costs and salaries, per year per person in 2007.

Paul Dewar, a New Democratic Party member of the Canadian Parliament, said the move was admirable but that he would like clarification on the amount of decision-making power field staff would have while in the field.

Dewar said: “That’s a critical question. What powers are you giving them when they’re sent off to other places in the world where they can engage?”

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  • Eliza Villarino

    Eliza Villarino currently manages one of today’s leading publications on humanitarian aid, global health and international development, the weekly GDB. At Devex, she has helped grow a global newsroom, with talented journalists from major development hubs such as Washington, D.C, London and Brussels. She regularly writes about innovations in global development.