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Burma: Corruption

Volume 461: debated on Monday 18 June 2007

To ask the Secretary of State for International Development what monitoring and auditing of UN Development Programme projects in Burma funded by his Department takes place to counter corruption and to ensure that funds do not end up in the hands of the regime. (142605)

All UN Development Programme (UNDP) work in Burma is carried out in compliance with guidelines established by its Executive Board. These stipulate that all UNDP assistance to Burma should be clearly targeted towards programmes having grass-roots-level impact in a sustainable manner, particularly in the areas of primary health care, the environment, HIV/AIDS, training and education and food security.

In order to deliver this mandate, UNDP has established the Human Development Initiative (HDI), funded by DFID and other donors, with the objective of meeting basic needs and alleviating poverty in some of the poorest areas of Burma. In accordance with the Executive Board restrictions, UNDP does not transfer funds to the Burmese authorities. However, like other international organisations operating in Burma, UNDP has been required to purchase items such as fuel and telecommunications services and pay rent for its premises, and the authorities remain the sole provider of such services.

UNDP has a network of approximately 1,500 national staff based in the 57 townships in which the HDI operates in Burma. These staff—at the state/division level, township level and community level—undertake extensive routine process monitoring for all project activities. They are involved in all aspects of implementation, verification of accounts and expenditures, review of problems, and provision of technical support to ensure effective implementation. Their monitoring is supplemented by national programme managers, which in turn is overseen by UNDP international staff who also regularly visit programme sites. No difficulty has been encountered in such monitoring on account of any Government control or restrictions. National staff can travel freely; they do not have to ask for travel permission and are not accompanied by counterpart or local officials in the performance of their project work. Internationals do have to ask for permission but there has been no case when permission has been denied. Furthermore, the formulation of the Operating Guidelines by the Government (February 2006) has not had any significant impact on UNDP’s ability to engage effectively in the field, or to abide by its Executive Board mandate, adhering to humanitarian principles.

On the basis of their programme monitoring, UNDP provides DFID with periodic written progress reports on HDI activities. This includes substantive information on activities, achievements, challenges/issues and recommendations as required, as well as budgetary information. A detailed financial report accounting for the previous tranche of support from DFID is necessary before the next tranche is provided to UNDP. Donors themselves carry out an annual joint assessment mission to review the HDI programme. Further ad hoc fieldtrips are made by donors to project sites—in DFID’s case, about four times a year.

Finally, in order to ensure compliance with the Executive Board mandate, independent assessments of the HDI are carried out regularly and reported to the Executive Board. The assessment teams include a team of external consultants who undertake 3-4 week field trips to prepare their report. The report for the period May 2006 to April 2007 is now being finalised and will be presented to the Executive Board in September 2007. The initial findings conclude that the HDI programme is in full compliance with the Executive Board mandate and addresses the needs of the poor and vulnerable in rural areas of Burma with humanitarian assistance. The 2006 Assessment—covering the period 2005-06—also echoes the conclusion of previous reports, namely, that the HDI programme effectively provides humanitarian support on a large scale and that

“all projects operate independently of the Government and target the village-level groups and needs described in the [EB] mandate.”

The full report can be found on the Executive Board website at: