An independent body which scrutinises the UK’s international aid payments has concluded that they are ‘a waste of money’.
The report by the Independent Commission for Aid Impact (ICAI) criticised the Department for International Development’s “weak management” and “poor supervision” of the projects which are funded by British tax payers, the Times reports.
The review of UK Development Assistance for Security and Justice marked the overall effectiveness of projects as ‘amber-red’, meaning the programme performs relatively poorly overall against ICAI’s criteria for effectiveness and value for money. Significant improvements should be made.
It stated that the £95 million budget for improving security and justice, often in fragile states, needed a significant overhaul.
“While there are pockets of success, there is little sign that its institutional development work is leading to wider improvements in S&J outcomes for the poor,” its findings reported. “DFID does, however, have a good base of programming on community justice and for women and girls, on which it can build.
“Overall, we are concerned that the portfolio suffers from a lack of management attention, leading to unclear objectives and poor supervision of implementers.”
It gave an example of where a ‘bigger is better’ mantra ruled over the handing out of money and contracts, something backed up by the report’s leading commissioner, Diana Good, who said “We were told the only way to get ministerial approval or funding for a programme is to big it up.”
Researchers said they found that money was also spent according to UK Government pressure on strategically important areas. They detail the case of a design team in Libya who were repeatedly asked to “increase its level of ambition and expenditure to match the UK Government’s commitment to supporting the country’s transition.”
“Through successive iterations, the planned programme was scaled up to £62.5 million, making it the UK’s largest ever S&J programme. Its comprehensive, top-down, capacity-building approach, however, had little prospect of success in such a difficult environment. In the end, the programme was significantly scaled back and realigned in the face of deteriorating security conditions.”
It is another blow for the department which has been heavily criticised for the spending spree it went on at the end of 2013 in order to get through their billion pound budget. Reports indicate that staff were desperately looking for projects and in the last few months of the year, spending £60million a day. It has led to some Conservative MPs questioning David Cameron’s commitment to spending 0.7 per cent of the country’s GDP on overseas aid particularly given the budget deficit and the cut backs for the Ministry of Defence.
The report also criticised the use of a small number of large contractors rather than use NGOs with on the ground experience to deliver projects. It also said that large contractors were rarely challenged on performance, with one department employee saying, “Weak results data and over-optimistic reporting are routinely accepted,” adding “Nobody applauds you for noticing things that go wrong.”
The report concluded by saying, ‘We are concerned that the portfolio suffers from a lack of management attention, leading to unclear objectives and poor supervision of implementation.’
A spokesman from DFiD defended the department, saying “Security and justice are the most challenging sectors we work in and Dfid focuses on countries with the biggest potential for improvement. We have made good progress in helping women and girls gain access to justice, but where concerns about human rights and instability become too high, we have no hesitation in shutting programmes down.”