A report released today by the Lords’ Select Committee on Economic Affairs called on the Government to scrap its 0.7% target for aid and to focus on value for money and reducing corruption. However, the report fails to scrutinise available aid information in its evaluation of the impact and effectiveness of the UK’s development aid.
There is now a greater quality and quantity of aid information available than ever before, due in part to the UK Department for International Development’s (DFID) global leadership in the International Aid Transparency Initiative. Despite this, the Lords’ report fails to use or even cite these data sources or acknowledge DFID’s participation in international transparency processes in forming conclusions about accountability and corruption in UK aid. In place of statistical evidence, the report relies on anecdotal views, such as that of Michela Wrong:
“Aid and corruption always go hand-in-hand, because aid is essentially seen by those entrusted with it as “free money”, whose loss will go unnoticed by the giver and whose appropriation is nothing like as morally reprehensible as appropriating local tax revenue, for example.” (P.27, para. 48)
The report dismisses DFID’s claim that £1.2m of their £7.7bn budget is lost to corruption as “an implausibly low proportion” (p.50, para. 138) but presents no evidence to counter the claim.
In addition, the report asserts that “staff cuts seems to risk weaker monitoring of programmes and less rigorous vigilance against corruption” (abstract, para. 26). This claim is made despite DFID’s recent implementation of IATI which improves the quality and timeliness of financial and non-financial data, which will reduce the burden of data collection on staff. This development means staff time will also be freed from data collection in favour of evaluation, in line with the Government’s prioritisation on results.
It is of great importance that reports such as this use all the information available to them, in order that the conclusions they reach are as well informed as possible. It is disappointing that this report fails to use the valuable source of information which has been welcomed in the Lords’ chamber and by the Prime Minister only last year.