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Parliamentary Scrutiny

Hugh Bayley: To ask the Secretary of State for International Development what steps his Department is taking to promote parliamentary scrutiny in developing countries of the terms and conditions of aid agreements entered into by the governments of those countries. [15717]

Hilary Benn: DFID recognises the important role that parliaments in developing countries can play in the scrutiny of the management of public resources, including aid agreements entered into by the respective governments.

However, DFID has not provided support specifically for parliamentary scrutiny of the terms and conditions of aid agreements but we are currently working with many African countries to support and strengthen parliamentary oversight bodies, e.g. Public Accounts Committees and Supreme Audit Institutions such as National Audit Offices. These are the key links in the formal system of financial accountability in most countries.

This support includes assistance in Malawi for strengthening the institution of parliament to have powers over state spending, the budget and taxation. In Zambia, a new multi-donor public financial management reform programme, to which DFID is contributing, includes a component to enhance a parliamentary oversight of public resource management. In Uganda, together with other donors, DFID has supported the Office for Parliamentary Development, which has helped to strengthen the parliament, including by the provision of training for parliamentarians.

Hugh Bayley: To ask the Secretary of State for International Development what steps his Department is taking to promote parliamentary oversight of the World Bank and International Monetary Fund by parliaments in developing countries. [15718]

Hilary Benn: DFID recognises the importance of the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and the World Bank being transparent and accountable to parliaments in developing countries. Clearly, such accountability needs to be at the heart of their relationship.

The main means by which parliaments should engage with the World Bank and the IMF activities is through the Poverty Reduction Strategy (PRS) process. This is a national strategy for development that sets the agenda, which donors, including the World Bank, should follow in each country.

In the past, parliamentary engagement in the PRS process has often been weak. However, over the past two years, DFID country offices have begun to support
 
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stronger involvement of parliamentarians in the PRS process. DFID is providing support for parliamentary engagement in Malawi and Tanzania, where an independent monitoring group was established to oversee the joint commitments made around the PRS.

At board meetings, DFID encourages the World Bank and IMF to engage with parliaments as much as possible. We also actively push for them to make more of their documents public and will continue to pursue this both at board meetings and in discussions with staff. In fact, in March this year a new World Bank disclosure policy was approved which, among other things, makes board minutes public. The World Bank is now working closely with parliamentarians in some of its borrowing member countries to involve them in the design and implementation of its lending programmes.

The World Bank Institute has a major Parliamentary Strengthening Programme. A key objective is to strengthen the capacity of parliaments to scrutinise the allocation and use of public funds, and oversee the PRS. Since it began in 1996, it has held workshops in a range of countries including Bangladesh, Cambodia, Ghana, Kenya, Indonesia and Uganda to raise awareness among parliamentarians.

The World Bank Institute has also supported the African Parliamentarians Network Against Corruption (APNAC) and the Global Organization of Parliamentarians against Corruption (GOPAC) to encourage parliamentary scrutiny and action against corruption.

Outside the PRS, the main means of oversight is the Parliamentary Network on the World Bank. This provides opportunities for parliaments to scrutinise the World Bank and engage more deeply in development policy issues. The independent network has some 450 members from over 90 countries and facilitates direct dialogue between parliamentarians and the World Bank to achieve greater transparency of policies and practices.

Uganda

Mr. Drew: To ask the Secretary of State for International Development what support the Government are providing to the peace initiative in northern Uganda led by Betty Bigombe. [15539]

Hilary Benn: The UK, in partnership with others, has provided technical, logistical and financial support for Betty Bigombe's efforts to mediate between the Lord's Resistance Army and the Government of Uganda. In total, UK financial support for Bigombe's peace initiative has so far amounted to £210,000.
 
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Mr. Drew: To ask the Secretary of State for International Development for what reasons allocated development aid is being withheld from the Government of Uganda. [15540]

Hilary Benn: In December 2004 the UK agreed a new poverty reduction budget support (PRBS) arrangement with Uganda which provides a grant of up to £145 million over three years to support the implementation of the Uganda Government's poverty eradication action plan (PEAP). We indicated at that time that £40 million would be set aside as PRBS in the financial year 2004–05.

The arrangement links budget support to reforms detailed in the PEAP. It includes criteria on Uganda's political transition to multiparty politics, which will help maintain the stability required to make progress in reducing poverty, alongside criteria relating to macro-economic and sector policies and management. All the indicators are drawn from the PEAP and are designed to ensure our support is transparent and predictable. When our last release of budget support fell due in March 2005 we were concerned by several aspects of the political transition, including that insufficient progress had been made towards establishing a fair basis for a multi-party system. We, therefore, decided to withhold £5 million out of the total of £40 million for the financial year.

Mr. Drew: To ask the Secretary of State for International Development what steps the Government have taken to facilitate economic regeneration in northern Uganda. [15546]

Hilary Benn: The conflict in northern Uganda severely disrupts normal economic activity and for the moment constrains economic recovery. Over 90 per cent. of the population in the districts that are most affected are currently displaced and dependent upon humanitarian relief. We are providing substantial humanitarian support in response to this need. In 2004–05 we provided over £11 million of emergency assistance which was channelled mainly through the World Food Programme, UNICEF and the Red Cross. In 2005–06 a further £3 million for emergency assistance has already been committed and more is planned. The UK and other donors are discussing with the Government what assistance will be required to support economic recovery in the north once the security situation has sufficiently improved.

Mr. Drew: To ask the Secretary of State for International Development what funding has been allocated to education and training programmes in northern Uganda in each of the last three years. [15550]

Hilary Benn: In recent years, we have provided resources for UNICEF's humanitarian programmes in northern Uganda, which includes support for emergency education provision and vocational training. In total, we provided £650,000 for UNICEF's work in northern Uganda in 2002–03, £1.62 million in 2003–04 and £1.37 million in 2004–05. It is not possible to disaggregate how these resources have been used.

In addition DFID's poverty reduction budget support (PRBS) helps the Government provide access to education and training, especially free primary education, across Uganda including in the north.
 
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DFID's PRBS expenditure in Uganda was £17.5 million in 2002–03, £30 million in 2003–04 and £35 million in 2004–05.

Venezuela

Andrew George: To ask the Secretary of State for International Development how much (a) financial, (b) material, (c) personnel and (d) other aid the UK Government (i) pledged, (ii) committed and (iii) delivered to Venezuela following the floods in 1999. [15557]

Mr. Thomas: The UK Government's response following the floods in Venezuela in December 1999 wasin the form of financial assistance only. £780,000 was committed to the relief exercise, of which £771,000 was delivered in the form of vouched expenditure. The funds were used to support the assistance provided by the World Health Organisation (WHO), the United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF), the Red Cross and the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs.


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