Select Committee on International Development Minutes of Evidence

Examination of Witness (Questions 104 - 112)




  104. Director General, thank you very much for giving us your time this morning. As you know, we are a Committee of the House of Commons made up of all parties and we monitor and scrutinise the work of our Department for International Development. As a large chunk of that Department's budget goes automatically to the European Union, we always take a close interest in the workings of development policy here in the Community, and this is the fourth inquiry this Committee has undertaken over a period of about six years. We are very interested in EuropeAid and my colleagues have a number of questions which over the next hour I hope we will be able to put to you. Perhaps I could start by simply asking this, when we were looking at the briefing for this morning's meeting it says it has been suggested that while EuropeAid may look good on paper, in practice nothing much has changed. I wondered whether you would like to start off this session by giving us an indication of what you feel the changes may have been since EuropeAid came into being and in particular how you see the successes so far.

  (Mr Bonacci) Mr Baldry, first of all thank you for coming. I think this is a real opportunity for us to tell your Committee what is moving in the process of reform and which way the EuropeAid Co-operation Office, which was created one year ago, is starting to work. I had planned to give you a general presentation but of course if you have a large number of questions to pose, we can do it that way, I have no problem. You will be given a copy of the brief presentation, just to give you some elements of the ground which is clearly known to you and your colleagues. First of all, the Commission is involved in direct management of resources and these resources have been growing up quite dramatically, I would say, over the last ten years or so, in fact after the Berlin Wall broke down. As you know, there was a real problem in matching the ambition of these programmes with the existing resources. In a way, to address this issue in the last decade, the Commission had to put in place according to the priorities of the moment very special measures, sometimes just at the limit of the legality, I would say, just to have the resources. This was done in a structural set up which was, I would say, not cohesive, so there were different services in different Directorate Generals, different administrative set ups, responsible for different parts of the programmes throughout the world and there were problems with the different ambitions, the different scope and different concepts. We had the possibility to work with the external delegations and interacting in a way with some 150 organisations, countries, institutions, around the world and as far as 1997-98 there was a clear perception of the need to prepare, implement, a reform. This process in fact started by that time, but it started in a progressive way through successive adjustments. The external relation set up is a complex one where you have inputs from the various parties and therefore it was very difficult to put at that time a clear process of reform in place. There were indications, signals, and a first attempt which started with the creation of the so-called SCR, Service Commun Relex, and that attempt was the first one to make sure the financial and administrative implementation of the programmes, wherever they were managed, would be progressively harmonised. But, of course, that move created other problems because in fact to achieve that move it was necessary to cut in a way the project, the programme, cycle to different administrative entities, and this created another kind of situation. Therefore in 1999 and with the coming into being of the new Commission, an important effort was made to promote a more comprehensive reform. This reform was adopted in May 2000 and the aims of these reforms are comprehensive, in the sense at one side the reform implies a better grip of all the aspects of programming and policy orientation for the RELEX family to work, giving more cohesion to the process performed in DG RELEX and DG Development for the different parts of their work. In this specific area I think what is important is the shaping up of new tools to have better and harmonised country strategy approaches. This is something on which the services of DG RELEX are actively working. You will have an opportunity during the day to have more information on the process. This is extremely important because it helps in defining the framework into which our activity, which is in the EuropeAid Co-operation Office, which is related to the implementation of the programme, will function. Of course, if we have a clear conceptual and policy framework on a country by country basis, the more it is clear and well defined the better our work will be implemented. The other aspects of the reform process are related to the creation and the implementation of the full programme cycle in one single entity, and this is the EuropeAid Co-operation Office. Secondly, the dismantling of all the external parallel structures that were created in the last decade to overcome the difficulties in terms of resources the Commission had to implement a programme, what we call the Technical Assistance Office, which were contract based with a number of operational partners, consultants, in order to implement some elements. The third element, an important element, is a clear move to deconcentrate, devolve, the management responsibility of the Commission to our external delegations. Last, but not least, a set of energetic measures to improve, to cut, to sweep up, all the on-going projects sleeping around, or just implemented in the very old projects supposedly ended many years ago but for which the administrative practices to keep them out of the accounts were not yet implemented. So these were the major elements of the reform. The aims are very clear, the reform is, first, to make sure that the quality of the programmes and projects be improved; that the speed of implementation be significantly improved as well, and, thirdly, to make sure that the impact of the projects in relation to the benefits to be achieved in the target countries or target populations be improved, and also the visibility of the overall action. The EuropeAid Co-operation Office was created last year, and just to take over the biggest basis of the project programme cycle we received staff from the other DGs who were performing these functions there, and we had to get organised ourselves in order to take over all the responsibilities. When I say "taking over all the responsibility", you should be aware that the present portfolio of the Office is of the order of some 6 to 7 billion euros per year. Of course, I cannot be more precise because only one part of our portfolio is based on the normal budgetary system, which is normal. Another important part is based on the resources of the European Development Fund for the ACP countries, and therefore we can only guess what is the annual portfolio because the rules to implement those programmes do not follow the annual budgetary set up, but all in all our portfolio is between 6 to 7 billion euros a year. We had at the beginning of 2001 to ensure that while transforming our structure we would be able to continue the implementation not only of the annual portfolio or the annual new commitments and disbursement targets but also to improve the handling of the past activities, the backlog, let us say the cumulative backlog that we had to inherit from the structures which were responsible for that earlier. The Office has been able to perform these tasks and the multiplicity of these tasks in a reasonable way and the pessimism, or at least the challenge, everybody was mentioning at the time has gone but we still have a big challenge. However, I think we can say the first year has been successful because we have been able to go through a very heavy process of recruitment of staff, because in some cases we had an additional allocation for the budgetary authority, for staff to reinforce the Office, and in more general terms to sustain the process of reform of the direct system. Just to give you an idea, over the last year we had to recruit some 280 officials, to nominate some 17 or 18 heads of units, which is middle management of course, to fill up the gaps. We had to recruit some 260 auxiliaries, which is supporting staff, for the purpose of taking over the activities previously implemented by the Technical Assistance Offices, and we had to prepare the process of devolution to the external delegations. So in a way we had to create a new system, a new Directorate General, starting almost from scratch. This has been done at the same time taking account of the fact that we are not only implementing our reform of the RELEX family system but that we are also of course implementing the requirements of the overall reform of this institution of the European Commission. As you will certainly know, the reform ofthe institution is a very ambitious one, which requires a lot of work not only by the Commission but also interaction with the European Parliament and the Member States, because most of the key instruments of this reform require the backing up of decision at the level of the Council. Just to give you a general indication in this relation, there is a process of reform of the staff regulation and the process of reform of the financial regulation, which the Commission now has made a proposal to the Council about and which will have to be discussed and approved, and only at that moment will we have the benefits of some of the key elements in the functioning of this institution. In particular, in relation to the financial systems—as we are one of the major users of budget of the Union in terms of direct expenditure in a risky environment, because we are spending these resources outside the Union, so it is more risky than what we have in the Union—we have to implement all the requirements of the reform of the financial system which is now in application. Therefore, in last year's activity we had not only to comply with the requirement of the RELEX reform but also to adjust our system to the requirement of the overall reform of the institution. So in terms of input I would say the year has been very successful for the recruitment of the staff, but this has required between six months and one year of work to do this process. Therefore, those who expected results from the first day of a functioning EuropeAid cannot be satisfied, because I would say only during the second part of the year have we been able, and we are only now in a position to say that the transitional phase in terms of organisation of our system is over, because now we work under full capacity in terms of staff and in terms of systems. In spite of that, we have been able to achieve by the end of the year very positive results in terms of expenditure. I will provide you with some figures. We have a couple of tables. Let us put it this way, each time there is a structural transformation like the one we went through last year there is a clear cut-off, a negative trend in terms of results, but this has not been the case last year. We have been able to continue the change which had already started in 2000 in terms of increasing our overall disbursement capacity. As you can see from this table, (Ev 40), we have increased by 17 per cent, which is a significant amount, which shows that the machine is working in spite of these difficulties. This was one of the major queries by all those involved in reform, because they were working on the aspects of the budgets. We feel in the next few years this trend will continue, in particular in relation to the process of deconcentration on which I will tell you a little more. The second element which can give you an indication, although indirect, of the progress achieved is on (Ev 41), where in fact we have this indicator of the average duration to achieve full disbursement. Again, although there is some difference for the EDF and for the budget, you can see that the trend over the last ten years was rather a trend of increasing the average duration, which was increasing the backlog of projects in a way, showing the incapacity of the system to digest the resources we were asked to manage. For the budget, as from 1998 you can see a change in the trend with a progressive decrease in the average duration. This is because as far as 1998-99 is concerned, with the creation of the SCR, some more harmonised measures have been taken in order to keep a better control on the expenditure and to just close all the projects and improve the management of the so-called dormant projects. The same trend with some delay is now showing up for the EDF, although this is more recent and of course it is much more difficult to control. Why? Because on the budgetary expenditure the Commission is the only, let's say, responsible actor. We are managing the budget, we are managing the projects and programmes, leading to budget expenditure. In the framework of the Lomé Convention and the future of the Cotonou Agreement, EDF money is disbursed by, let us say, a sort of co-management with the ACP countries, and therefore it is much more complex to be in a position to change the trend, but still we feel we have good first indicators and we will sustain these efforts in the future. These are just a few elements I wanted to offer to you. Let me say a few words on the deconcentration process, because the real substantial point of the reform is our capacity to implement this devolution process to the external delegations, which is a difficult and complex one. We should not export to external delegations inefficiencies in management, so we have on the one side to make sure we are able to adjust the internal system to harmonise our method of work, our internal procedures here, taking into account the fact the procedures were different as developed by the different services in the past, so we have just to put the house in order. At the same time, we have to reinforce the capacity of our delegations and provide them with appropriate management systems so they can implement day to day co-operation with the partner countries while progressively our way of working is changed, which implies that we will not be the future day to day manager of programmes, but we will be manager of the system. The responsibility of presentation will be done by the external delegations, which is a new dimension of work here and it requires a lot of work from us in order to decide the right tools and the right instruments for the process to succeed. On the other side, the process of devolution has been designed to be implemented in three years' time. The first year was 2001, during which the concept was to implement devolution in a first group of 21 delegations, and we had to prepare the concept of devolution, what were we devolving to the delegations and what we were not devolving to the delegations, and then we had to estimate the requirements in terms of staff for the 21 delegations, and we had in the process to see what would be their requirements and which way we would be able to respond to them, and then we had to publish posts and go through the process of recruiting the right people for the job. We had also to define and design appropriate training schemes, models, in order to make sure that the people moving to the delegation could be sufficiently trained to start the job. An additional problem we have identified in the process was that many of the staff were coming from inside this Office, of course, because in this Office you have already good professionalism for the management of projects, so in one way we had to send the people in the delegations and at the same time continue recruiting here in order to cover the gaps. Just to give you an example, in the first year of devolution we had in total the possibility to send to delegations some 44 officials, out of the 44 half of them came from the Office, the other half came from other services of the Commission. At this point in time, the devolution has effectively started in, let us say, half of the 21 delegations, more or less, I do not have the last figures which are just being updated. The major difficulty we encounter is the difficulty in adapting the infrastructure of the delegations to the process, because the reality is that for the 21 delegations we recruited some 300 additional staff, which is an average per delegation of, let us say, 12 or 13 staff, and in some cases they had to go through a new process of expansion of the offices because they did not have the capacity immediately to house all these additional staff. That has been the major constraint and this requires something more than just recruiting somebody and training him and sending these people there. But right now the deconcentration work has started in half of the delegations and in the next couple of months it will start in all the others. Meanwhile, we are starting the same process for the second wave of the deconcentration, which is again very ambitious because this year we are preparing the deconcentration for some 26 delegations. So at the end of the year, according to this process, all the external delegations which are an important component in terms of the programmes, will be deconcentrated in all parts of the world. For the ACP, we will have deconcentrated by the end of the year 14 delegations, and the rest, the residual part, will be implemented next year. So this is the programme. We will see if we will be in a position to find all the staff that we need to send to the delegations because we might have doubts about the capacity or motivation of the staff to go to a delegation which might be in a difficult country. This is a common feature with all the services, all of the administration of work, to send people. Sometimes the incentives might not be sufficient for the purpose. Last year for the 44 posts we had, we managed to send the people. This year the programme foresees some 100 officials being sent and 300 to 400 supporting staff. The supporting staff we might find, but for the officials it might be more difficult with the present staff. I will stop there because otherwise you will not have the possibility to raise questions, but I wanted to give you this general presentation on what has been achieved so far.

   Chairman: Director General, thank you very much for that presentation. Thank you also for this briefing which we will take and publish as part of the evidence for our inquiry so it means that not only we but also other colleagues in the House of Commons and all those who read our report will be able to see it.

Tony Worthington

  105. I think you have answered a lot of the questions I had down and some others as well. Can I just ask some points of clarification. There are 49 Technical Assistance Offices and you have moved the work they did in-house, what has happened to those, basically, consultancies? Have they simply closed down or do they have to get work from elsewhere than Europe, or have you largely recruited from those Technical Assistance Offices?
  (Mr Bonacci) The programme was not to renew the contracts with those consultancy companies or those consultants at the end of their duration. They were expecting that in a way because this was planned for more than one year, and they have certainly been able to redeploy their own staff and to go for new opportunities. This is the way the consultants work, not only do they have contracts but they know that the contracts sometime may be reviewed, sometimes they may stop, and therefore they have a built-in capacity and flexibility to adjust to that. We took over the functions, all the functions, which were performed in those Technical Assistance Offices; they were taken over internally. We had been given the budget to recruit auxiliary staff to reinforce our capacity and to take over these tasks. Therefore we organised a system of recruitment, a transparent system of recruitment, without discrimination—positive or negative—for the people working there, in the sense that if they wanted to join here, to work internally, there was no limitation but they had to compete with other people from the market that wanted to come. However, it is true that this was not an easy mechanism because amongst the staff working in the Technical Assistance Office you had all kinds of staff, you had supporting staff, you had experts at very high levels. Unfortunately, we were unable to offer to these high level experts the same conditions that they had with the consultants, because the only possibility we had to offer to them was an auxiliary contract, which on the market is a good contract but for the high level one is not necessarily at the same level. Therefore we can say that the process of transformation from an outside structure to an inside structure has clearly led to some loss of expertise, I would say. This is partially compensated by the fact that these functions now are performed in-house and therefore under the not only direct but integrated control of the staff and officials working here. As we received from the budgetary authority both last year and this year an additional allocation of staff, officials, to reinforce our overall capacity and then later on to perform the process of deconcentration, sending the staff to delegations, we have been able to provide these auxiliary staff a better management capacity and therefore we feel all in all, although it is a little early to say, the decrease in the professionalism this process has automatically achieved will be compensated by our capacity for better management.

  106. You were working to a blueprint, somebody had drawn up a theoretical document, and all theoretical documents are wrong in some way. For example, in terms of relationships between various DGs or the allocation of roles, have there been areas where you have had to say, "We will have to change that because it will not work doing it that way?"
  (Mr Bonacci) In terms of our relationship with other DGs this is an area which is critical, of course, and everybody recognises that. It is difficult because although we belong to the same family, sometimes in families there are quarrels. What is difficult is that the people involved, both here in the Office, in RELEX DG and in Development DG, changed the way of working in a way because those who were accustomed in the past in DG RELEX and DG Development to be responsible for the project programme cycle from conception, programming, up to the moment where a decision was taken, have now adjusted to concentrate themselves on the strategic thinking and on the framework into which the operational activity will be implemented. This is sometimes difficult of course to accept. It requires time. It requires good co-operation. On the other side, here there was a tendency, which was the method of work of the SCR, to be involved only in procurement, financial issues, and let us say administration implementation, because this was the major scope of activity of the former SCR, and progressively the mentality of all the staff has to change, to be responsible from the conceptual work related to preparing the right projects and knowing that whatever is done on administrative grounds here is not done for the purpose of administration but for the purpose of achieving objectives which are set up by our colleagues in DG RELEX and DG Development but to have an impact on the population. So to rebuild a capacity in terms of responding to the challenge of the development co-operation work it has to be implemented here. This requires a lot of work, a change of mentality, and all those involved in the reorganisation and restructuring know that sometimes this is the most difficult part of the job. On the other side, we had to organise a sort of document clearly establishing for the various phases of the activities a clear relationship—who has to do what here or in DG Development or in DG RELEX—so this has been a negotiated document which clarified many of the issues. In some cases there are still some grey areas, of course, and we monitor the implementation of this process and we make sure that the grey area can be dealt with, just to try to reduce tensions and making sure progressively we can do that. So that in a way is not even new. Another area where maybe the reform, the blueprint, was very directed is the deconcentration or the devolution. To put it clearly, to say, "Within the next three years we will implement devolution", is a very strong commitment and we are implementing that and we will achieve that in terms of preparation, although we still have some doubts, as I mentioned earlier, we do not know whether we will be in a position to find all the staff needed. This year will be very critical because now we are proceeding with the identification of the resources needed, so we are publishing internally all the posts, and we will see. We will see if we can really find through the system 100 officials with the right profiles to go overseas. If yes, that is fine. If not, then we will have to see how to address the issues, at least for those countries which will be the most difficult ones, and therefore we will have to make some adjustments.

  Tony Worthington: Thank you very much. You have answered my next question as well.

Mr Robathan

  107. In this reorganisation, the provision of responsibilities and so on, what is EuropeAid's response with regard to the Country Strategy Papers? What progress is being made?
  (Mr Bonacci) The Country Strategy Papers, in the so-called Inter-Service Agreement I was referring to earlier, are clearly the responsibility of DG RELEX and DG Development according to their area of geographical responsibility. DG Development covers the ACP area and DG RELEX covers all the other countries in the world. Our role, the role of the Office, in the process is adjusted to participate in that and provide any help we might have from our own experience in terms of practical co-operation in order to feed the process, but this is done under the responsibility of DG Development and DG RELEX. To make sure that the Country Strategy Papers are consistently prepared, the RELEX reform created an inter-service quality support group, which in fact is an informal formalised mechanism to make sure that all the parties involved can participate in the production of better Country Strategy Papers, responding to the quality standard requirements that have been established, and of course we participate in that. Our aim is in particular to make sure this paper should have the right balance between strategy and operational approach, so that we can have our work done downstream in the best possible way afterwards, because after these documents are adopted they become our point of reference for the identification and preparation and implementation of the policy.

  108. How far are they in their preparation? Have they been published?
  (Mr Bonacci) Yes. I do not know if any of my colleagues have an idea. I think so far there could be some 15 of them already finalised and approved. All the others are at various stages of preparation. Some of them have been already discussed with the Member States in the appropriate committees and presented for final negotiation with the authorities of the countries in terms of an indicative programme, because with the Country Strategy Papers the aim is to have a more general indicative programme which establishes the orientation of all the activities of the Commission. Some others are still in the preliminary phase in terms of preparation. So this is a process that will be completed more or less by the end of this year I think, but you could check this point in your next discussion today because I do not have an up to date indication of that.

  109. One of the NGOs which gave evidence to us said that some of the Strategy Papers had been written in Washington, and the CSP for Bangladesh was mentioned. Do you happen to know if this is the case? What sort of input is there from the civil society in the countries involved, which was mentioned in discussions in our Committee?
  (Mr Bonacci) Put it this way, from an NGO it may be a bit provocative to say that it was produced in Washington.

  110. Of course.
  (Mr Bonacci) What is true is that these documents are co-ordinated as much as possible with the other donors. The idea is, and this is one of the key elements in terms of the effectiveness of our co-operation in the future, to make sure that more and more the donors can have a coherent approach. We are going to achieve that with the other major international institutions and with our Member States in order that everybody has the same blueprint for co-operation, putting emphasis on the role the government of each individual country has to play to be at the centre of the picture and not marginalised in any discussion which might take place with the donors. Civil society more and more has an important role to play in this process. In the World Bank in Washington they tend now to be more open to finding a way to consult the issue in society. In our system, at least in the Cotonou Agreement, there is provision for that, so there should be consultation of the civil society at the moment the discussions are prepared with the government, the administration, of the country. To what extent this consultation is really effective, I do not know, again it is a question you might raise with colleagues in DG Development in particular. It is clear that in some cases there could be a temptation to say, "Okay we have consultation, let's have a meeting" and that is it. The aim is a bit more substantial, but I am not sure the aim to involve the deep root of the civil society in the process can be achieved quickly throughout the first exercise which is done today. The situation will be certainly different in different parts of the world and in different countries even in relation to the way the government of the countries behave in relation to civil society and how civil society is also linked with the institutional side which is also the parliament; you do not only have civil society, you have parliaments. I expect, but this is rather personal, that when you have a Country Strategy Paper which is a document of a government of a country on the basis of which we will produce our own indicative programming, this document should in a way be approved not only by the administrative authority but also by discussion and dialogue with the parliament according to the rules and the procedures existing in the individual country. How far this can be done, I do not know, but certainly this is an issue which will have to be addressed more and more in the next few years.

Mr Khabra

  111. It was very interesting to hear your account of the reform programme and it means the Commission has been able to learn from its own mistakes which it made in the past. You talked about financial matters as well, one of the questions I want to ask you is, considerable progress has been reported as regards clearing the backlog of all dormant commitments, how has such progress been possible? Are large projects increasing for reasons of efficiency?
  (Mr Bonacci) The backlog is very complex. I would say there was a culture in the past—this is beside the RELEX system, it is general in the Commission as a whole—that there was a budget, you designed some projects or you have a project proposal come in according to some procedure, and then the preparation was done, the decision was taken, somebody was implementing the project, a contractor or whoever, and then you started again with the next cycle. So nobody tended to follow the nitty-gritty, day-to-day monitoring of whatever was to be done. Then a final payment was made, disbursement, and that was it. This was the past. This is changing, and this is part of the change in the process of reform, general administrative reform of these institutions. On the external front, if I may express myself so, that was the case quite often because the most visible part of the exercise was negotiating something with somebody and then deciding, having the visibility at that level, but at a level which was still virtual because it was before the operation started. Once the operation was implemented there was a tendency in cultural terms to say, "Okay, let's now move to something else." This is what created the backlog. In particular, if you apply that in a situation where you have movement of staff, you do not have a functioning system which keeps track of the status of the various project, that leads to a situation of being unable to have a real grip on the on-going projects. There were differences. In the various areas covered in the past by different programmes, there were different procedures, and in some cases there was good control but in some others there was less good control. The other point is that we have a variety of programmes. Sometimes we handle very big projects and sometimes very small ones. In particular with NGOs it is just to implement certain specific budget lines and we have an important fragmentation of small projects which are by definition difficult to monitor. Therefore in reality to have a better control of the backlog we have two kinds of work. There is the work on, let us say, controlling better the past, and another aspect is the one of developing new, harmonised procedures and mechanisms, which will help to take into account our managerial capacity, and therefore the requirements in those respects will be affordable. For instance, if you have a project of some 100,000 euros, which is a very small one, the cumulative cost in applying all the procedures to manage the project might be higher than the cost of the project if the harmonisation of the procedure is not done in such a way that it takes into account the requirement, therefore we are working a lot in terms of improving and harmonising the overall procedural side. Coming to the first aspect, which is how to manage the on-going backlog, we took as far back as 1999 a number of measures to identify all the projects, and we started by defining an old project as a project which started before 1995. So we went through all these projects and we tried to screen them and to see if there were good reasons for them to be still open, to be still active, or not. After that screening, we were able to close a large number of projects. This was for the old ones. Of course, the following year, in spite of the effort made to close down before 1995 we had one more year and had to consider an old project in 2002 as a project before 1996. Therefore, as every year there has been a tendency in the past to have increasing resources, so we have by definition increased the old backlog, and therefore this is a task to review the portfolio minus five years. It is becoming not a special measure but a normal way of handling the old files and trying to close them, or, in other words, keep alive only those for which there are very justified reasons. There are other issues relating to dormant projects. We have a definition that a dormant project is a project on which for two years, 24 months, there has been no movement in terms of disbursement for whatever reason. Then we identify all these projects and we go through them and try to see for what reason this has happened. Again that can lead to decisions to cancel or decisions to speed up, and this in a way has been the measure we have been taking in order to address the issue of the backlog. The other major issue is that now, with the Office as it is now organised, the key element is to make sure that here or in the devolved delegations all the projects being old, being dormant, or being currently active, will be clearly under the control of a task manager responsible for the project. Therefore we feel in the next couple of years the issue of the old dormant projects will be reduced to a normal level because all the projects will be under control. So if there were delays in old projects, that will not be any longer for reasons related to the capacity to manage this project but rather because of the reality. The reality is that sometimes a project has to be stopped because there is a problem with a partner, a problem in the reality of working, and that we have to accept. By the way, we have also to discuss a little more with some of our Member States to see how they deal with this situation themselves because the indication we have is that at operational level there is a lot of sympathy because both in the Member States and in other institutions the same problems are there in terms of implementation.


  112. Director General, I think we are out of time. Thank you very much for your time. We could go on asking questions, and I am sure you would be very willing and open to go on answering them, for a long time, but we have a fairly full programme so I shall get into trouble with the clerk if I do not keep us on schedule. On behalf of all of us, thank you very much for your presentation today and the way in which you have answered our questions. You are clearly half way through a process of reform. As you say, you had an enormous task in every way from staffing to procedures when you took over, and we certainly will watch with great interest the progress of your Directorate in the years to come, and of course as we travel around the world we will be looking forward to see how this deconcentration to delegations is working, we will be interested to see how the Country Strategy Papers are working and whether that whole process helps. I am sure this is an issue we will return to from time to time. Thank you very much to you and your officials for the care and time you have given us today.
  (Mr Bonacci) Thank you.

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