More transparency is needed in the aid budget

The Public Accounts Committee has released a widely covered report that makes several criticisms of the handling of humanitarian aid. Specifically it says that while the department is doing a good job overall:

  • “The Department does not have a good understanding of the impact on its wider business when it moves staff and resources from planned activities to support a major response to a crisis”
  • “The Department does not have a full and clear understanding of what constitutes success across its crisis interventions”
  • “For some complex crises, the Department’s support systems have hindered its establishment of a fully operational local presence”
  • “The value for money for the UK taxpayer of the Department’s funding of UN agencies is undermined by the overlapping remits of the agencies and inflexibility in their systems”

Obviously these criticisms are quite troubling.

It is vital that every penny of our aid budget is spent well, not only for British taxpayers but also those who are in need of help in crisis situations, and it is hard to draw this conclusion given the findings of the report.

Very few people will take issue with the UK spending on humanitarian aid, but the corollary of this is that it is spent wisely with strict reporting and success criteria. Humanitarian aid constitutes a relatively small part of our aid programme (just £1.3b of a total aid budget of over £12 billion) and so it is vital that taxpayers get value for money.

Perhaps the PAC’s conclusions are unsurprising given the focus on inputs that the 0.7 per cent aid target creates.