Irish Aid transparency rated ‘poor’ for fourth time in six years

The Department of Foreign Affairs has defended its overseas aid programme, after an international ratings body ranked its transparency levels as ‘poor’ for the fourth time in six years.

Irish Aid transparency rated ‘poor’ for fourth time in six years

The Aid Transparency Index places Ireland 38th out of 46 major donors. The index takes in individual countries and agencies and collectives, such as the World Bank, United Nations agencies, and the European Commission.

Irish Aid has had a budget of €600m a year since 2010, yet this is the fourth time since then that its performance has been rated ‘poor’ on a scale that includes ‘very good’, ‘good’, ‘moderate’, ‘poor’, and ‘very poor’.

Only those who are ranked ‘very good’ are considered to have met the requirements of an international pledge to make all aid transparent by the end of 2015.

Twice, in 2010, when the index was first published, and in 2014, Ireland’s rating improved to ‘moderate’. In 2015, a limited assessment did not include Ireland.

Irish Aid supports the International Aid Transparency Initiative (IATI) and submits reports to it, but it has repeatedly been found to fall short on detail, regularity of data-provision, availability of information to the public, and details of its plans.

At all times, the programme’s commitment to transparency is recognised, but, in 2010, the comment was made: “Its practice has yet to catch up with its intentions.”

In 2011, it was remarked: “Disappointingly, some donors, often perceived as leading on issues of aid effectiveness or transparency, score particularly poorly.”

That remark referred to countries including Ireland, Australia, Canada, Finland, and Norway, who all scored poorly. All but Ireland and Finland improved their ranking in the current index.

In response, the Department of Foreign Affairs said: “Ireland places a strong emphasis on aid transparency in its development programme. We prepare a comprehensive annual report, which is available to the public, and we publish expenditure and budget data, related to our programme activities, on our website. These financial files were first published in June, 2014, and updated fully in December, in 2015.

“Our low score in the Aid Transparency Index, despite this progress, is due to the relatively lower frequency of update and the narrower range of data published.

“Quarterly publication of a broader range of data is required to score higher in this particular survey, and it’s the aim of the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade to improve the frequency of our reporting and range of data we publish.”

Just 10 donors received a ‘very good’ rating in the current index, published in recent days, but eight of those are international agencies, while Britain and Sweden are the only countries. Together, they account for 25% of all donor aid in 2015.

The Index authors said it “recommends that all publishers [of data] should recognise the right to information enshrined in the SDGs [Sustainable Development Goals]. Publishers should improve the quality and comprehensiveness of their data to provide a full picture of all development flows.”

Foreign Affairs said that, in addition to the IATI, it also provided detailed statistical reports on its aid programme to the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development, which, in its last report, had praised Irish efforts towards transparency.

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