Objective, operation and achievements of Fund ‘opaque’.
The annual budget for the Conflict, Stability and Security Fund is worth more than £1 billion of taxpayers’ money. Launched in April 2015, it offers a more ambitious cross-government approach to tackling the causes and effects of conflict and instability in countries of strategic importance to the United Kingdom.
However, the Report says the objectives, operation and achievements of the Fund are 'opaque'.
The Committee hoped to examine the rationale, working and results of the Fund, which can be accessed by Government departments and agencies to commission projects intended to prevent conflict, stabilise countries or regions, and respond to international crises.
But Government failed to provide the Committee with sufficient evidence to judge whether the Fund was reaching its potential.
Without access to the National Security Council strategies for the Fund, information about the programmes and projects it has funded and a breakdown of expenditure, the Committee cannot provide parliamentary accountability for taxpayers’ money spent via the CSSF.
More transparency of fund needed
Chair of the Committee, Dame Margaret Beckett, commented:
"There is some evidence that the CSSF is doing a better job than its predecessor, the Conflict Pool. With multi-year programming, it is a flexible way of delivering support to fragile countries of strategic importance to the UK.
However, it is impossible for us to tell whether the Fund is meeting the Government’s goals or having the intended impact on the ground. This is because Government failed to provide sufficient evidence for the Committee to carry out any evaluation.
There is no central source of information to explain how the Fund works. There are no published criteria on which programmes and projects are funded. There are no published measures of the impact of CSSF-derived activity. And who has responsibility for the Fund’s management? No single minister is responsible – or accountable. The jury is still out.
This Fund has great potential. At the very least, Government must appoint a Cabinet Office minister to take responsibility for this £1 billion fund. If not, a lack of collective responsibility risks degenerating into no responsibility at all.
While we appreciate the need to maintain security, Government must bring forward plans to make the Fund more transparent. The publication of a detailed Annual Report for this financial year would begin to answer some of our questions."