OTTAWA—Canada is quick to provide humanitarian aid for natural disasters, but support for more complex crises often lags behind, according to the fall report from the auditor general.
Auditors examined 43 humanitarian aid projects with a total value of $171.8 million between 2011 and 2013.
The audit found that 72 per cent of projects responding to natural disasters were developed and approved within 30 days of the incident. Funding for other crises, such as the ongoing conflict in Syria, took much longer — 83 per cent of those projects took between 30 days and 11 months to roll out.
“To some extent this reflected the complex and evolving situation in these crises, but the response time for the 18 sample projects from these kinds of crises varied considerably,” the audit report reads.
“There were several causes of the longer response times, including lengthy decision processes, obtaining approval for additional funding, and conducting additional due diligence to ensure that Canadian funds could not be used to benefit terrorist groups.”
Overall, the audit gave good marks to the Department of Foreign Affairs, Trade, and Development for its response to humanitarian crises. The department is now solely responsible for the distribution of aid since it took over the responsibilities of the Canadian International Development Agency (CIDA), which was responsible for a number of the projects auditors examined.
But the audit recommends Foreign Affairs tighten its monitoring of the timelines of aid money, to ensure assistance makes it to people when they need it most.
“Longer funding response times did not have an impact when, for example, funding was to a multi-donor project to which other donors had already contributed funds. However, in other instances, delays in funding contributed to delays in the delivery of assistance to the affected population,” the report noted. “For example, one project to help restore health care services started five months later than planned by the partner.”
Two programs aimed at assisting refugees fleeing the conflict in Syria, for example, experienced delays of more than a year. Grant agreements signed in March 2013 with international partners had not been substantially acted on at the time of the audit.
The audit noted the original purpose of the funding — part of $200 million the Canadian government has committed to aiding those affected by the Syrian crisis — was to support urgent needs for food and livelihood assistance.
Foreign Affairs agreed with all of the auditors’ recommendations.