Aid spending needs to be more transparent

The TPA has long criticised aspects of foreign aid spending and particularly the commitment to spend 0.7 per cent of GNI. However for the countless words that are written about this absurd policy nothing demonstrates its poor value for money like a few revealing statistics.

Fortunately, that is what has been provided for us in today’s Times. Here are some highlights:

  • £12,000 for a six page note on disaster resilience
  • £30,000 for a further discussion paper
  • £26,000 to hire a newsreader
  • £14,000 to hire a different newsreader
  • £10,319 to write a blogpost– although this was later negotiated down to just £4,765
  • Consultancy companies receiving almost £1.5 billion over the past five years

I could go on, but I won’t as you can read the full gory details at your leisure here. But there are a few further points.

Given the lawful requirement to spend over £12 billion a year, it is hardly surprising that there is waste in the system. And it is no surprise that development consultancy companies can afford to pay junior salaries at more than twice the going rate and senior salaries are comfortably being pushed into six figures.

This is not to say that all consultancy work done for the government is inherently useless and wasteful, but when the reported spend on consultancy work has doubled since 2012 to £1 billion a year it suggests that costs are not being controlled quite as they might.

The Times has analysed over 72,000 transactions over five years which reveals the bloated scale of our international aid industry. While this data is free to download, there is a lot of it. It takes a dedicated team to dig through it and unearth the truth - kudos to the Journalists for doing so and delivering greater transparency.

The government’s response to order a full review of contracts seems sensible and it is great that thenew Secretary of State, Priti Patel MP, is keen to take action. Let’s hope that future spending delivers value for taxpayers’ money.

To do so will require even greater transparency - perhaps including extending Freedom of Information to the companies that receive taxpayers’ cash. There is much wrong with the way we approach international aid and especially so when we continue to run such an enormous deficit.

Today’s headlines leave a lasting impression that politicians are happy to spend money without worrying whether it is being put to good use. Just imagine if that money had been left in people’s pockets instead?


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