Conflict, Stability and Security Fund Contents

Conclusions and recommendations

Strategic impact

1.The CSSF represents a more ambitious approach by the Government to tackling the causes and effects of conflict, instability and insecurity overseas than existed under the Conflict Pool. We commend the Government on creating more coherent procedures to tie spending on stability and security in parts of the world that matter to the UK to our national security goals. A more strategic approach to the activity commissioned under the CSSF is certainly to be welcomed. (Paragraph 24)

2.The Committee also recognises the inherent difficulties involved in measuring the specific strategic impact of CSSF-funded activity, not least in a country or region where other Governments and organisations (including other UK Government Departments and agencies) are also involved. (Paragraph 25)

3.Nevertheless, the Government has failed to provide the Committee with the evidence that we need to assess whether the activity funded by the CSSF is as coherent as it could be or is sufficiently linked to the UK’s core strategic objectives. Significantly more information is required if we are to make a judgment on these points. At present, the Committee does not have access to a breakdown of expenditure beyond the regional level, the content of the NSC strategies, the list of CSSF-funded programmes or relevant summary evaluation reports. (Paragraph 26)

4.The use of CSSF funding in support of the more than 40 country, regional and thematic strategies created by the National Security Council dilutes its effect. The UK national interest would be better served by concentrating the bulk of CSSF funding in a smaller number of countries to achieve greater impact. (Paragraph 29)

5.The CSSF covers conflict prevention, post-conflict stabilisation and crisis response. Conflict prevention is extremely difficult. But successful conflict prevention provides more desirable outcomes and better value for money than reacting to instability after it has occurred. However, given both the inherent difficulty in measuring the success of pre-crisis intervention and pressure from Parliament, the public and the media on the Government to respond to events as they develop, we have heard that such preventive activity is a ‘tough sell’ for civil servants who must point to results and value for money. There should be ministerial support for enabling sufficient funds to be reserved for conflict prevention even if immediate results are not achievable. (Paragraph 34)

6.Multi-year programming provides the continuity that is essential to the stabilisation of countries that are at risk of becoming unstable or are affected by conflict. As such, it should be the norm for most of the activity funded by the CSSF, while some funding is held in reserve for responding to opportunities and crises as they arise. (Paragraph 38)

7.The NSC strategies guiding the use of the CSSF are inherently sensitive. Nevertheless, the Government should ensure the best possible service from its external suppliers by sharing summaries of its strategic objectives with the CSSF Framework Suppliers. This would enable them to tailor their programme and project bids to the Government’s wider goals in relation to the country or region in question. (Paragraph 42)

8.In the absence of a dedicated Whitehall policy team and a central, up-to-date articulation of policy, we are concerned that policy innovation and the ongoing development of a truly cross-government approach to building stability overseas will falter under the CSSF. This risks the UK’s international reputation for intellectual leadership in this policy area. (Paragraph 46)

Implementation

9.Running projects in fragile and conflict-affected states entails running risks. The Government must identify, assess and mitigate such risks before and during the implementation of CSSF programmes. As such, we welcome the Government’s recent guidance on how Departments can better work together in managing the human rights risks involved in CSSF security and justice programmes. (Paragraph 53)

10.CSSF Framework Suppliers told us that it is difficult to engage with the CSSF procurement process due to inconsistent processes and advice. The two procurement portals should be combined into a single procurement portal. And all NSC Departments and agencies should use common templates for procurement documentation such as the Invitation to Tender. The alignment of limited management resources with the funds available could be achieved by spending more money on fewer projects. (Paragraph 61)

Budget

11.Although the CSSF has a larger budget than the Conflict Pool which it replaced, this increase is not entirely accounted for by money newly allocated to programme funds. (Paragraph 63)

12.About half of the total £1.127 billion budget for the CSSF in 2016–17 is available to the Government to spend on discretionary programmes in regions and countries of strategic importance to the UK. The remaining sum has been earmarked by the Government for other conflict-related activity—such as a military contingency fund and ongoing support to Afghanistan—and for the UK’s assessed contributions to the UN and EU peacekeeping budgets. UN and EU peacekeeping budgets are not within the Government’s direct control, which means that CSSF discretionary programme funding might be used to make up any shortfall. (Paragraph 66)

13.To provide the stability necessary to allow strategic multi-year programming, the Government should ring-fence the annual allocation to the discretionary programmes budget. If it is necessary to increase allocations to non-discretionary CSSF spending—for example, on peacekeeping contributions—this should be met from the Treasury’s Special Reserve, as is already the case for significant military operations. (Paragraph 67)

14.The Government advanced the proposition that blending Official Development Assistance funding with non-ODA funding within regional and thematic programmes is a key strength of the CSSF. However, it is unclear how much non-ODA funding is available for regional and thematic programmes, given that the ring-fenced areas of ‘peacekeeping and multilaterals’ and ‘security and defence’ account for a large proportion of the non-ODA budget. It is therefore unclear how much of an advantage this potential combination of ODA and non-ODA funding within the CSSF truly confers. (Paragraph 70)

Effective oversight and scrutiny

15.There is no single Minister with responsibility for the CSSF. NSC Ministers engage formally with the CSSF only twice a year to agree the strategies that guide the use of CSSF funding and the delivery of programmes and to allocate funding to the regions and themes covered by the CSSF in accordance with the NSC strategies. The National Security Adviser, who is the Senior Responsible Officer for the CSSF, told us that he receives updates on the effectiveness and direction of the CSSF from the Deputy National Security Adviser only twice a year. The current official-led management of the CSSF means that it lacks ministerial direction and oversight, which is inappropriate given its size and scope. (Paragraph 74)

16.The CSSF should be under Cabinet Office control at both ministerial and senior official level, therefore placing it firmly outside departmental affairs. The budget should belong to the Cabinet Office, a Cabinet Office Minister should be politically accountable for it, the National Security Adviser should be the undisputed accounting officer and the Cabinet Office should be the focal point for relevant expertise. A rationalised structure would have the added benefits of making it easier for Parliament to scrutinise the Fund (see paragraphs 81–87) and giving the Fund itself greater autonomy and ability to respond rapidly and decisively to emerging problems. (Paragraph 75)

17.The CSSF is opaque. We accept the need for caution in relation to the security-sensitive aspects of the CSSF. And we note the Government’s plan to publish an Annual Report on the CSSF. However, there is currently no central public source of information about how the CSSF works, the criteria on which programmes and projects are funded, the impact of CSSF-derived activity, and who has responsibility for the Fund’s management. (Paragraph 80)

18.The Government must prioritise efforts to make the CSSF more transparent. Such measures should include establishing a dedicated webpage that sets out the essential details of the Fund, including the budget, the suppliers, the management process and the lines of responsibility and accountability within Government. The top priority is the publication of a detailed Annual Report, starting with the financial year 2016–17. This Annual Report should set out:

In drafting an Annual Report on the CSSF, the Government should consider DFID’s Annual Report, which provides a useful model of transparent and detailed reporting on objectives, expenditure and performance results. (Paragraph 81)

19.Parliament does not have sufficient access to the information we need effectively to scrutinise the CSSF. Without access to the NSC strategies that guide the use of the CSSF, information about the programmes and projects funded by the CSSF and a breakdown of CSSF expenditure, we cannot provide parliamentary accountability for taxpayers’ money spent via the CSSF. It is important that the Government now bring forward proposals on how the JCNSS might access this material while maintaining security. (Paragraph 88)





6 February 2017