Report Slams International Aid Handouts as ‘A Waste of Money’

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.”


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