17. Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade the extent to which information is available in respect of links between major financial investment corporations or banking institutions with national or international aid agencies; if the agencies involved have been audited in recent times; if such links might indicate a conflict of interest; if there are other implications in the context of aid for trade; and if he will make a statement on the matter. (Question 11570/18 asked on 08 Mar 2018)
Minister of State at the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (Deputy Ciarán Cannon): I propose to take Questions Nos. 17 and 18 together.
There is a global recognition that greater volumes of finance are needed to eradicate poverty and to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals. This finance can come from many sources, including governments, international development NGOs, multilateral bodies, international finance institutions, philanthropists, and the private sector.
Regardless of the source, the Government position is that funding for international development should be transparent and used to improve the delivery of development results for the eradication of poverty. The OECD Development Assistance Committee, of which Ireland is an active member, has strict criteria for what can be counted as official development aid.
Ireland is a member of the International Aid Transparency Initiative (IATI) – a multi-stakeholder initiative that seeks to improve the transparency of aid, development and humanitarian resources in order to increase their effectiveness in tackling poverty. IATI publishes information on the financial flows of over 650 organisations, including international aid agencies, and as such is an important tool in mitigating potential conflicts of interests.
Ireland is committed to implement fully our international commitments on aid transparency, and to publish aid data in the internationally agreed format. In addition, Ireland is subject to regular peer review by the OECD Development Assistance Committee: this important quality assurance mechanism has consistently found Ireland’s commitment to continued untied aid to be exemplary.
Robust Irish legislation and guidelines assist in ensuring transparency and accountability standards in Irish Aid funded organisations, including making declarations on the source, amount and purpose of all other funding they receive, as well as the submission of annual audited accounts.
The Irish Charities Regulatory Authority has important guidance to prevent conflict of interest arising as a result of aid agencies receiving funding from major financial investment corporations or banking institutions. These include Internal Financial Controls Guidelines for Charities (June 2017), Guidance for Charity Trustees (June 2017) and Guidance for Charities on the Promotion of Political Causes (February 2018).
In addition, Dóchas, the umbrella body of Irish international development NGOs recommends that their members adhere to the Irish NGOs Code of Corporate Governance and the Dóchas guidelines for financial reporting. Dóchas members endeavor to comply with the Charities Statement of Recommended Practice, Accounting and Reporting (SORP) standard of financial accounting. SORP requires a high level of transparency in financial reporting and an in depth report on the charities activities by the Trustees.
All NGO partners in receipt of Irish Aid funding are also expected to be fully compliant with all relevant Irish legislation, including the Regulation of Lobbying Act 2015.
The Government will continue to promote transparency and accountability and work to ensure its partners adhere to the legislative guidance and frameworks governing international aid organisations.