Tuesday, 23 June 1998
Dáil Éireann Debate
132. Mr. Higgins (Dublin West) asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs if he will reconcile APSO's mission statement which is to contribute to sustainable development in the living conditions of poor communities in developing countries, and the White Paper of Foreign Policy commitment that Irish aid be targeted to the poorest people in the poorest countries having regard to the APSO programme in Poland, which is next in line to join the EU. [14846/98]
133. Mr. Higgins (Dublin West) asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs the percentage of the £28 million expended by APSO for each of the years from 1995 to 1997 which was allocated to assisting the defence of trade union rights or to support the development of independent trade unions in Lesotho, Zambia, Tanzania or other priority countries for bilateral aid. [14847/98]
134. Mr. Higgins (Dublin West) asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs the reason the concept of stakeholder in the APSO social audit was not extended to the people of the third world in receipt of Irish aid. [14848/98]
135. Mr. Higgins (Dublin West) asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs the criteria used to determine the suitability of people appointed to the board of APSO; whether a majority of the APSO board members, including the chairman, who are charged with supervision of the decision making relating to over £10 million annually of Ireland's bilateral aid programme, have no field experience; and his views on whether the APSO board members should have a minimum of field experience in Africa, Asia or Latin America. [14849/98]
136. Mr. Higgins (Dublin West) asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs if, when extending the contract of a person (details supplied), his attention was drawn to the fact that during the consulting process of the APSO social audit (details supplied) 70 per cent of the APSO staff were not satisfied that the APSO management team communicated a strong sense of direction of the organisation, that the particular person was appointed to the post without any record of field experience (details supplied) and that, in 1991, the APSO board, when appointing the person to the full time position, recommended clearly and unambiguously that he should not serve any longer than seven years and that this period has now been exceeded. [14869/98]
The APSO English language secondary teaching programme in Poland was initiated in 1994 in  response to the fundamental political and economic change in the countries of Central and Eastern Europe. The development of English language teaching was a priority for the Government of Poland and APSO agreed to supply a limited number of teachers up to 1998. From an initial deployment of 17 teachers in 1994 the number in post in 1998 is eight. APSO reviewed the programme in 1996 and it was found to be an effective and worthwhile intervention. However, the programme was always intended to be of limited duration and APSO's involvement will cease in July of this year.
APSO's programmes in the priority countries of Irish aid are not specifically aimed at the development of independent trade unions or the defence of trade union rights. APSO involvements include action in support of education, infrastructure-rural development, health care and civil society generally through the support of independent local organisations and NGOs. As with the Irish aid programme generally, the agency's programmes are developed on the basis of needs identified in conjunction with local partner organisations in developing countries.
The decision by the board and management of APSO to pioneer social accounting as a means of improving both the accountability of the organisation and the quality of service provided was an innovative, courageous, challenging and very positive initiative. The report identifies a range of stakeholder groups whose views were sought on the overall performance of the organisation. One of the primary stakeholder groups consulted was APSO's overseas partner organisations in developing countries, which gave a very positive judgment on the quality of the relationship with APSO. APSO works in association with organisations in developing countries, and the views of those organisations were sought in the Social Accounts exercise as representing the views of the communities concerned.
In appointing the chairman and members of the board of APSO, the Minister for Foreign Affairs seeks a broad range of skills which will include, of course, people with significant experience in developing countries. I am satisfied that the APSO has benefited greatly from the range of experience and skills which the current board has been able to bring to its work. Board members who may lack direct field experience in developing countries have the opportunity of visiting APSO supported projects overseas. The current chairman, Professor Anthony Clare, has visited APSO-supported projects in Africa and will shortly visit Central America.
The appointment of the chief executive is essentially a matter for the board of APSO. The current chief executive was appointed following a competitive interview and was deemed to be the best overall candidate. I am aware that the board of APSO recently decided to offer the current chief executive a new fixed term contract for three years when his current contract expires at the end of July. The board was fully within its  rights in doing so. The board and management of APSO have taken seriously the full range of comments expressed in the social accounts and are addressing these.
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