For the past year, ASI has directed significant energy and resources to enhancing governance, including refreshing its board and introducing new policies and procedures to ensure the highest ethical standards. It now has a much stronger focus on best practice in corporate governance and on the triple bottom line, with accountability for social and environmental impact as well as financial return.
“After comprehensive, deep, and wide-ranging changes, there has been a sea change in the way ASI is governed, managed and operated” said Rachel English, ASI Acting Chair. “After a year when we decided not to tender for new business with DFID, ASI now looks forward to re-entering the competitive market for contracts that deliver Britain’s assistance and foreign policy priorities in some of the world’s most fragile countries.”
ASI’s programme of change and reform was undertaken to address weaknesses in governance, professional conduct and internal controls that came to light in 2016. Media reports alleged that ASI had fabricated testimonials from project beneficiaries as part of a submission in May 2016 to the International Development Committee of the House of Commons. The Committee later found, however, that it was not misled and did not find that testimonials were falsified. There were also media reports that ASI had sought to gain commercial advantage by improperly obtaining DFID country business plans. It was later found that the material, which was inappropriately circulated by a staff member in October 2016, provided no significant actual commercial advantage.
While the media reports proved to be largely incorrect or exaggerated, ASI recognised that its conduct had not been exemplary, and that it needed substantially more rigorous mechanisms in place to safeguard integrity and ensure proper behaviour at all times.
ASI therefore withdrew voluntarily from tendering for new contracts with DFID until it was confident that it had the necessary governance and controls to ensure that the issues underlying ASI’s conduct had been fully explored and properly resolved. During this period, ASI continued to implement its existing contracts with the UK government and all other clients to high standards.
“We have strengthened our governance, including board oversight, and our internal audit and ethics, legal and compliance functions,” said Ms English, who has worked on reforms with the board and staff across the company since her appointment to the board in September 2016.
In addition, she noted the enhancements to systems, policies and procedures, including a new code of conduct, an enhanced whistleblowing policy, and improved cyber security and IT governance. In parallel with triple bottom line reporting, ASI is pursuing certification as a B Corp, a standard requiring companies to meet social, environmental and accountability performance standards.
“This has been a thorough and collaborative effort that drew on the expertise and commitment of staff,” said Ms English. “We needed to recognise areas for improvement and to reshape ASI. “Reform doesn’t stop now. We are establishing an independent board to provide leadership and oversight and to ensure constant learning and change; our ambition is to set the industry standard for consistently high quality programme delivery that helps developing countries become safer and more prosperous.”
For media inquiries:
Brigid Janssen, Communications Adviser – Adam Smith International
Tel: +44 207 735 6660
Adam Smith International
ASI works closely with governments, civil society organisations, and the private sector to bring lasting prosperity to people in developing countries, through policies and programmes that underpin economic growth and governance reform. ASI has undergone fundamental restructuring since the founding directors left the board in early 2017. The company has transformed into an employee-owned company with a new code of conduct and enhanced governance and controls. ASI is committed to a triple bottom line, accountable for financial, environmental and social performance.