The UK’s Independent Commission for Aid Impact’s (ICAI) report published today (Friday 6 December) is the first giving an overall red rating. (ICAI is the independent body responsible for scrutinising UK aid.) Despite supposed recent improvements in the TradeMark Southern Africa (TMSA) programme and initial concerns from DFID that problems were exaggerated, a second review confirmed to ICAI that the red rating was still appropriate. The red flag means that the programme performs poorly overall against ICAI’s criteria for effectiveness and value for money, and that immediate and major changes need to be made.
The review and findings of the report covered two programmes: the 5-year £100 million TradeMark Southern Africa (TMSA) and the £9 million regional component of the Mozambique Regional Gateway Programme (MRGP).
The ‘serious concerns’ that an official press release from DFID earlier this week referred to included ‘serious deficiencies in governance; financial management; procurement; value for money; transparency of spending; delivery and impact, as well as its failure to use DFID’s body of knowledge in trade and poverty’ according to this new report. The quality of some activities was found to be poor. DFID’s management and supervision of the initiative was weak. The timetable was too ambitious. The project was not seen to be based on or encouraging continuing assessment of the needs of the poor. TMSA was told to undertaken too many different activities resulting in distraction and underachievement. Quite a damning list!
Following a first round of trips to DFID Southern Africa, ICAI informed DFID of concerns six months ago back in May. The programme has now been closed, announced 4 December, but how much money was ‘lost’ during that period of investigation? Also, it would be useful to hear from DFID what will happen to the reclaimed £42 million? And how about those working for TMSA – what happens to their jobs?
The report provides four key recommendations:
- Recommendation 1: DFID should continue to take swift action, as it started to do when we raised our concerns, to ensure effective management of TMSA, including financial oversight, procurement, target setting and monitoring.
- Recommendation 2: DFID should urgently work to raise awareness of the results of TMSA’s recent economic modelling to countries of the Tripartite, undertake further analysis and support poorer countries to address the potential negative impacts of trade growth.
- Recommendation 3: If DFID decides to continue with its support to regional integration in Southern Africa, it should identify a more suitable mechanism to deliver technical assistance to the Tripartite, with a focus on accelerating progress and drawing, as appropriate, on international expertise.
- Recommendation 4: As a prerequisite of any future trade development programme, DFID should undertake comprehensive analysis of the impact on trade and the poor both at the outset and throughout implementation; and build in mitigating actions to alleviate.
This is not the only programme of this nature that DFID supports. Other trade mark initiatives have been hailed as great successes for economic growth and regional integration. Trade Mark East Africa has received positive evaluations on several programmes such as the one stop electronic trade clearing system in Rwanda. But how will these findings impact on the wider Aid for Trade sector?
Is this a co-ordinated publicity stunt for Justine Greening (UK Secretary of State) to demonstrate her robustness on value for money? DFID recently won the UK Parliament’s Public Accounts Committee award for the most improved government body. Or are ICAI beginning to show their teeth? Despite on-going Cabinet Office reviews of all NDPBs, we here at Aid Leap encourage ICAI to keep challenging. Failures should be acknowledged, lesson learned and challenges overcome in a transparent manner.