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Evaluation and Audit in the Department of Foreign Affairs

What is evaluation?

Evaluation is the systematic assessment of the design, implementation or results of an initiative for the purposes of learning or decision-making. For the Department of Foreign Affairs, evaluation is used to assess its policies, strategies, programmes, projects and other initiatives which generate evidence that provides both accountability for public funding and learning to inform strategic and operational decision making. It also plays a central role in organisational learning.

The principle of independence is essential as it contributes to the credibility and legitimacy of the findings, recommendations and conclusions. Guided by the principles of independence and impartiality; credibility; utility and participation, evaluations serve two main purposes:

  • Accountability: To show and share the results of an investment with key stakeholders.
  • Learning: To support decision-making and improvements in policy, strategy, programme, and project implementation by uncovering what works, what does not work, and why.

Types of evaluative exercises and who commissions them

Table 1: Evaluation types and examples

Evaluation typeExamples
Centralised evaluations undertaken or commissioned directly by the Evaluation and Audit Unit. Usually for the Management Board or one of its Divisions and can involve a number of business units. High-level evaluation or review of a policy theme or approach, strategy, major programme or initiative.
Spending Reviews ordinarily undertaken by the Evaluation and Audit Unit and a business unit or division in the Department; in conjunction with the Irish Government Economic and Evaluation Service (IGEES) in the Department of Public Expenditure and Reform and in accordance with the Public Spending Code. Cost-effectiveness reviews, Value for Money reviews, Spending reviews of an area of expenditure.
Decentralised evaluations led by business units or missions. Decentralised evaluations and reviews may be commissioned by business units and missions regarding policies, strategies (including mission strategies), programmes and projects for which they have responsibility and oversight. Evaluation or review of smaller programmes, projects, outcome or output areas, or studies on niche business needs.

Undertaking an evaluation

An evaluation will typically be framed around a number of key questions for an intervention area of a business unit or mission of the Department. An intervention can be a policy, strategy, programme, project or other activity. The review questions are structured with reference to the six OECD-DAC Evaluation Criteria:

  • Relevance – is the intervention doing the right things?
  • Effectiveness – is the intervention achieving its objectives?
  • Impact – what difference does the intervention make?
  • Coherence – how well does the intervention fit?
  • Efficiency – how well are resources being used?
  • Sustainability – will the benefits last?

Evaluation Reports can be found in our Publication Section and Irish Aid’s Publications section.

Internal Audit

The mission of the Internal Audit function is to assist the Department in accomplishing its objectives by bringing a systematic and disciplined approach to examine and improve the effectiveness of the Department’s governance, risk management and control processes. Internal audit will conduct internal audit work in accordance with International Standards (“Standards”). In accordance with the requirements of these Standards, internal audit will adopt a risk-based audit approach. The Evaluation and Audit Unit provides the Secretary General of the Department, as Accounting Officer, with independent and objective assurance on the overall adequacy and effectiveness of the Department’s framework for governance, risk management and control.

Internal Audit will assist the Department in ensuring accountability for the use of public funds that are disbursed as grants. This includes examining value for money, relevance to mandate, used for the purposes intended, properly accounted for and in accordance with policies and priorities.

Internal audit has the authority to examine any of the activities of the Department and to access and examine the financial and non-financial records, supporting documentation, assets, personnel, financial and audit reports of all entities that receive funds from the Votes of the Department. These and other internal audit activities will remain free from interference by any element in the Department, including matters of audit selection, scope, procedures, frequency, timing, or report content.


The Evaluation and Audit Unit supports the Department in the implementation of its Counter-Fraud Policy. As set out in the policy, the Head of Evaluation and Audit is the primary contact to whom instances of suspected fraud must be reported.

All instances of suspected fraud, whether occurring within the Department or relating to grantee/partner organisations must be reported promptly. EAU will advise on how to proceed in relation to instances of suspected fraud and will undertake fraud investigations, as required, on behalf of the Department.

All staff of the Department are required to act honestly and with integrity, and are expected to be vigilant to the risk of fraud and to co-operate fully where any investigation of fraud or suspected fraud is being carried out.

Want to find out more ?

Read about the independent Audit Committee that oversees the work of the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade.