Dáil debates

Wednesday, 21 March 2007

Other Questions

Overseas Development Aid.

3:00 pm

Photo of Dinny McGinleyDinny McGinley (Donegal South West, Fine Gael)
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Question 86: To ask the Minister for Foreign Affairs the number of five year funding partnerships entered into by Irish Aid with non-government organisations; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [10419/07]

Photo of Conor LenihanConor Lenihan (Minister of State, Department of Foreign Affairs; Dublin South West, Fianna Fail)
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The Multi-Annual Programme Scheme, MAPS, is an Irish Aid funding scheme which helps the larger Irish non-governmental organisations, NGOs, to strengthen their development programmes and planning through flexible and predictable funding.

The five MAPS partners Concern, Trócaire, GOAL, Christian Aid and Self Help Development International, SHDI, who participated in the first phase of MAPS from 2003 to 2006, were invited to participate in a second five-year MAPS programme to run from 2007 to 2011. Irish Aid has entered into a five-year funding partnership with Concern, Christian Aid and Trócaire under our MAPS programme. Consideration of GOAL's MAPS II proposal is ongoing and a decision will be conveyed to the charity shortly. Due to the recent well publicised difficulties encountered by SHDI in relation to its governance, that organisation has been allocated €3 million for 2007. The position is being kept under review and consideration will be given later this year to a multi-annual allocation for SHDI.

Under the first MAPS scheme, from 2003 to 2005, and including the transitional year of 2006, the five partners received the following funding: Concern, €60.5 million; Trócaire, €49.1 million; GOAL, €44.7 million; Christian Aid, €7 million; and Self Help Development International, €9.9 million. Under the MAPS II scheme, 2007 to 2011, the funding for the partners already agreed will be as follows: Concern, €148 million; Trócaire €116 million; and Christian Aid, €17 million. The Department has replaced the three-year MAPS programme with a five-year programme, a change which accounts for much of the large increases apparent in the figures.

Photo of Bernard AllenBernard Allen (Cork North Central, Fine Gael)
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I welcome the Minister's positive initiative to extend the length of the MAPS programme as it allows the organisations in question to engage in longer-term planning and apply funding more effectively. What is the reason for the delay in allocating funding to GOAL? When will negotiations with that organisation be finalised?

Photo of Conor LenihanConor Lenihan (Minister of State, Department of Foreign Affairs; Dublin South West, Fianna Fail)
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In some cases, organisations receive allocations at different times. Some organisations develop their programmes and have discussions with my officials earlier than others. I do not become deeply involved in these matters and officials generally submit proposals to me to be signed off. I signed off on three such proposals but did not sign off on the Self Help Development International allocation. Discussions with GOAL are ongoing.

Given the large sums of money being advanced to non-governmental organisations and for reasons related to how the Department audits and assures itself that funding allocations will be appropriately and properly spent — matters raised by Deputy Allen in an earlier question — the Department does not enter into a pro forma process. Deep discussion takes place and the Department and Irish Aid hire external contractors or consultants to evaluate proposals submitted under multi-annual funding schemes. Considerable negotiation takes place on the proposals. I am confident we will be able to make an announcement regarding GOAL shortly, subject to agreement being reached between the charity, on the one hand, and my officials and the consultants who evaluate the various proposals, on the other.

Three out of five allocations have been made and a fourth is, I hope, imminent. As regards the fifth proposal from Self Help Development International, the Department may examine it towards the end of the year. SHDI is carrying out an intimate internal governance review of its structure and organisation following the row and feuding which took place early in the year. The organisation will probably seek multi-annual funding to complete the MAPS II, which runs from 2007 to 2011, towards the end of the year but will first satisfy itself that its governance structures are in order.

Photo of Bernard AllenBernard Allen (Cork North Central, Fine Gael)
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How extensive is the Department's use of consultants to assess projects? Is the Minister of State satisfied that the views of consultants are in line with the philosophy and mission statement of the Department? I witnessed the disastrous effects of one such consultant's report when I visited the University of Bethlehem. The report had recommended a substantial reduction in the level of funding for the college.

Photo of Michael D HigginsMichael D Higgins (Galway West, Labour)
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It did so on very narrow grounds.

Photo of Bernard AllenBernard Allen (Cork North Central, Fine Gael)
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Yes, the grounds related to midwifery courses. Is the Minister of State satisfied the consultants hired by the Department reflect its mission statement when making their reports?

Photo of Conor LenihanConor Lenihan (Minister of State, Department of Foreign Affairs; Dublin South West, Fianna Fail)
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The Department typically spends €50,000 or €60,000 on the consultants and contractors it employs. These are small amounts when compared with domestic spending on consultants, which is frequently much higher. In addition, consultants tend to be employed on a short-term basis for a specific purpose. For instance, they are commissioned to assess and carry out proper due diligence on the MAPS proposals from an independent perspective. If the Department were to perform this function, it could decide to fund an organisation because it loved what it was doing. The commissioning of consultants ensures assessments are carried out properly.

While I do not wish to avoid the Deputy's question regarding the University of Bethlehem, I am not aware of the full details of the case. In my experience in Irish Aid, no other project has been the subject of as much lobbying as the University of Bethlehem, about which I have received numerous representations from members of all parties.

Photo of Bernard AllenBernard Allen (Cork North Central, Fine Gael)
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The reason is that a delegation visited the hospital and saw the problems it is experiencing at first hand.

Photo of Conor LenihanConor Lenihan (Minister of State, Department of Foreign Affairs; Dublin South West, Fianna Fail)
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The Department must operate in a nuanced way when assessing projects. If there is strong parliamentary support for a project, I will make no secret of it. If a large number of people are lobbying me about a matter——

Photo of Bernard AllenBernard Allen (Cork North Central, Fine Gael)
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I ask the Minister of State to provide an update on the position regarding the University of Bethlehem.

Photo of Conor LenihanConor Lenihan (Minister of State, Department of Foreign Affairs; Dublin South West, Fianna Fail)
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I will have a note issued to the Deputy because I do not have the full details of the case on hand.