Ireland’s public spending watchdog has recommended a number of measures for Irish Aid to ensure better oversight of aid funds overseas.
In a report published Thursday (March 21), the Public Accounts Committee recommended the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade appoint a chief financial officer that will be tasked to manage its budget, including €498 million ($643.6 million) for Irish Aid. This emerged, in part, as a result of the fraud case in Uganda that involved some €4 million of Irish Aid funds.
That money was returned in January, but the discovery was seen as a “wake-up call” for Irish Aid to strengthen its own controls. Now, PAC also argues the need for the department to revise its oversight and financial management code.
In addition, the report underlines the need for Irish Aid to use some of its budget for Mozambique — one of only two countries receiving budget support from Ireland — to build the capacity of the Administrative Tribunal, which is responsible for the external audits of public institutions in the country. This is seen as a precautionary measure by the committee.
In a letter dated Jan. 31, included in annex to the report, Foreign Affairs Secretary General David Cooney told PAC Chair John McGuinness that some €350,000 of Ireland’s €37 million budget for Mozambique will be used to strengthen the tribunal’s audit function. The money is in addition to Ireland’s €600,000 of support for Mozambique’s Ministry of Planning and Development. Details of the program, however, are still being finalized.
The report is based on the aid review conducted by the committee in December 2012, wherein Cooney voiced the challenges of tracking aid spending as a result of a hiring freeze on civil service and salary limits in Ireland.
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