The five year, £100m TradeMark Southern Africa (TMSA) programme was reviewed by the Independent Commission for Aid Impact (ICAI), which gave its first ever ‘red’ rating to the programme and immediately alerted the department to its findings.
ICAI found that £67m was placed in a trust fund in 2010 to catalyse investment in infrastructure, but the money hasn’t been spent or attracted any finance. ICAI criticised “weak” financial monitoring, “excessive” expenses, little or no competition for awarded contracts, and exaggerated performance statistics.
Lowcock told the Commons’ International Development Committee yesterday: “I think the report is a fair summary of what’s gone wrong, and I’m sorry those things have gone wrong. We need to fix them and ensure there isn’t a recurrence.”
International development secretary Justine Greening said: “I was appalled when I read the ICAI report, and incredibly angry”. On receiving the commission’s draft report, she felt the findings were “so grave,” she immediately shut the project down.
Lowcock has commissioned an investigation into the project, and declined to say who was responsible. The department has also strengthened its internal auditing processes, recruiting more staff and increasing the frequency of audits.
ICAI said that DfID’s internal auditors initially rejected the red rating given by ICAI on its draft report, suggesting it was “overstated”. But Lowcock said: “It’s not my view that the red light was wrong.”