Canadian Consulting Engineer

Auditor General finds lack of direction in CIDA

November 23, 2009
By Canadian Consulting Engineer

Canada is the fourth largest exporter of engineering services in the world, and traditionally a large portion ...

Canada is the fourth largest exporter of engineering services in the world, and traditionally a large portion of that work has been in developing countries, sometimes  on behalf of CIDA, the Canadian International Development Agency.

However Canada’s Auditor General Sheila Fraser recently criticized CIDA, saying the government agency lacked direction and consistency with its goals. She also noted that there was little follow-up to make sure that projects were meeting the goals.

Her Fall 2009 Report to the House of Commons, “Matters of Special Importance,” relating to chapter 8, included the following comments:

“We note that in the absence of a comprehensive strategy to guide the aid efforts of the Canadian International Development Agency (CIDA), plans and priorities often change before they are fully implemented.


“CIDA’s 2002 Policy Statement on Strengthening Aid Effectiveness commits it to principles of aid effectiveness adopted by the international donor community: align efforts with recipients’ needs and priorities; harmonize activities with those of other donors; and use new forms of aid known as program-based approaches, in which donors coordinate support to the budgets of recipient governments or local organizations for a development program delivered using local systems and procedures. The international donor community has agreed that applying these principles improves the effectiveness of aid.

“In the countries we examined, we found that CIDA is working with other donors to apply the principles of aid effectiveness. We were told by donors and by officials of recipient governments that CIDA staff in the field are highly regarded and their efforts are appreciated.

“In examining corporate management processes, however, we found that while some action was taken to align programming with the principles of aid effectiveness, the actions were selective and not guided by a comprehensive strategy. In some cases, initiatives were begun but not tracked to completion. In other cases no action plans were developed at all. There is little evidence that senior managers systematically reviewed the implementation of the 2002 Policy Statement. Shifting priorities and a lack of clear direction and action plans led to a situation in which donors, recipient governments, and CIDA program staff are unclear about the Agency’s direction and long-term commitment to specific countries or regions.

“The international donor community has recognized that the long-term nature of international development requires stability and predictability of programming. In our view, frequent changes in policy direction and substantial turnover of senior personnel in recent years have posed significant challenges for CIDA’s aid effectiveness agenda.”


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