Monitoring development spending

The Netherlands takes great care in how it spends money on development cooperation. For example, it will only give direct budget support to countries that meet certain minimum conditions. They have to pursue anti-corruption policies, for instance.

Monitoring development funds

The Ministry of Foreign Affairs monitors whether development organisations and developing countries do not misappropriate the money they receive. The Ministry checks whether the organisation or country:

  • submits reports, as promised, on the progress achieved with the development aid;
  • meets the agreed performance targets;
  • uses the money for the agreed purpose.

There are penalties for misappropriating money. For example, development organisations may have their grants suspended until they fulfil their commitments, or they may have to return the instalments they have already received.

Evaluations of development spending and the results achieved

Dutch embassies and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs investigate whether money is being spent well, and is having the desired effect. They do so by means of evaluations and studies. The independent Policy and Operations Evaluation Department (IOB) is responsible for investigating whether foreign policy is efficient and effective. If that is not the case, it looks for the lessons the government can learn.

An example of an IOB study is the policy review of the Dutch contribution to drinking water supplies and sanitation in 2012. Between 2004 and 2011, the Netherlands spent €800 million on safe drinking water and basic sanitation. Poor women and girls benefited most, because collecting water now takes less time. They can use this time to work or go to school.

Measures to tackle corruption in developing countries

Countries guilty of corruption, misgovernment or human rights abuses are not eligible for budget support. The Netherlands also contributes in other ways to measures for tackling corruption:

  • Embassy staff are obliged to report any suspicions that Dutch nationals or Dutch companies have offered bribes to foreign officials.
  • In Zambia, the Netherlands is advising an anti-corruption taskforce.
  • In Macedonia, the Netherlands helped to pay for a whistleblowing line for the customs authorities. Several corrupt officials were found out and dismissed.

Evaluation of transparency of development spending

Corruption can in many cases be prevented if spending is transparent. The government therefore supports initiatives such as the Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative (EITI) which obliges companies and government authorities to publish information on the money flows generated by gas and oil extraction and mining. Everyone can then clearly see how much income the state receives, making it less likely that money will fall into the wrong hands.

The Court of Audit is now evaluating government spending on international cooperation and emergency aid to establish whether it is transparent and can be accounted for.

Not all development can be measured

It is not always easy to measure whether development goals, for example ‘more democracy’ or ‘a better position for women in society’, are being achieved. It can also be difficult to establish the impact of each euro the government spends on development cooperation. The Netherlands often works with other countries and organisations on specific programmes, for example the sex education programme for young people in Africa. In this case, it is impossible to prove that Dutch euros prevented a certain young person from contracting HIV.