Last year was a significant one for Crown Agents when we achieved excellent results producing a profit before tax of £5.2 million, and developed our new strategy for the next five years. We continued to deliver sustainable change for clients, often in difficult circumstances. We made further investments in our processes, people and systems. This is all the more encouraging in a period of such economic difficulty and uncertainty, which continues to pose challenges for us in the year ahead.
In 2011 we benefited from our broad service capability, embracing consulting and project management, financial services, procurement and training. We were able to take advantage of our ability to combine and integrate these services in a manner which no single competitor can readily match and which delivers practical help, enhanced capacity and enduring change to our clients. Despite a tough global economic environment and fragile political circumstances in many of the countries in which we work, the demand for our services remains strong.
INCREASING VALUE AND EFFICIENCY FOR CLIENTS
As they search for better governance, greater efficiency, improved service delivery and better value for money, client governments and donors have continued to seek our services for central government financial reform, improved budgeting and capacity building. Governments in the developing world and in donor countries face convergent pressures. In the former, there is a rising and increasingly vociferous pressure for greater accountability, better services and the rooting out of corruption. In the latter, slow economic growth and domestic spending cuts make it essential for donor governments to demonstrate real value for money if aid budgets are to be protected. These convergent pressures require us to be constantly innovative and relentless in our drive for efficiency.
Reflecting the increasing concern of governments to promote economic growth, our work in trade facilitation continues to expand. It now extends well beyond the basic reform of customs services to focus increasingly on the task of creating a 'single window' environment in which all parties to a cross-border trade transaction can access the same information-base and systems and achieve substantial savings in both time and cost.
Demand for our procurement expertise remains strong. Our focus on health sector procurement combined with a concern to ensure both value for money and a secure supply chain underpin our success in this field. It has provided the basis for an expansion into broader aspects of health systems strengthening in which our wide set of competences is brought into play. As the target date of 2015 for fulfilment of the Millennium Development Goals begins to draw near the pressure on governments to demonstrate real progress in providing better basic services continues to grow and we expect this to sustain this aspect of our business over this period.
External recognition of the quality and impact of our work was marked by the receipt of a British Expertise Award for Development Project of the Year for a project that has helped to revitalise Zimbabwe's health system by providing a practical solution to the retention of health workers in a difficult economic environment. Members of our staff also featured in other award categories.
INVESTING FOR THE FUTURE
To seize the opportunities and meet the challenges ahead, we have continued to invest in our management and compliance systems, further enhanced our skills base and human resources and reinforced our governance.
During the course of the year Terence Jagger joined as Chief Executive and Derek McMenamin joined the Board as non-executive director in place of Francis Sumner who retired having served with distinction for many years, latterly as Senior Independent Director.
HRH Duke of Gloucester KG, GCVO, graciously accepted the invitation to become President of The Crown Agents Foundation and Francis Sumner has become Vice-President.
On behalf of the Board I extend our thanks to all our staff and partners for their contribution to a successful year, for their continuing commitment and willingness to embrace the change that will always be necessary as we work to meet the ever-evolving needs of our clients.
Paul Batchelor / Chairman