UK to tighten controls on aid spending

10 Oct 12
UK International Development Secretary Justine Greening has outlined plans to tighten ministerial control over how the UK’s ring-fenced aid budget is spent.

By Nick Mann | 10 October 2012

UK International Development Secretary Justine Greening has outlined plans to tighten ministerial control over how the UK’s ring-fenced aid budget is spent.

Speaking at the Conservative Party conference yesterday, Greening said the government’s commitment to increase the UK’s development aid spending to 0.7% of national income next year was ‘the right thing to do’.

It was also ‘the smart thing to do’, she said, because it was in the UK’s interests for countries to be stable and secure, to have healthy and educated populations and to offer trade opportunities for British businesses.

‘I want Britain and our development budget to be a real force for good in the world,’ Greening explained. ‘So it’s right that next year, for the first time ever, it will be a Conservative-led government that meets the target for 0.7% of national income to be spent on development.’

But, she added, ‘the quality matters just as much as the quantity’. She said the UK Department for International Development would speed up work begun by her predecessor Andrew Mitchell, who reduced the number of countries receiving direct aid funding from 43 to 28. Mitchell also stopped funding to multilateral bodies that ‘didn’t deliver value for money’.

‘We should focus our efforts on helping countries that are less able to help themselves, and on countries where our work can really speed up economic development,’ she said.

‘We should also recognise that, as countries get richer, we need to be responsible about how we transition in our relationship with them from aid to trade,’ she added, citing discussions the UK government was having with India as evidence of this.

Stressing the importance of obtaining value for money for UK taxpayers, Greening said she would focus on making sure money spent on aid via the European Union ‘better matches our priorities’.

She added: ‘I don’t think it’s right that the EU still gives money to those countries higher up the income scale, when we’ve taken the decision to target the poorest.'  Greening will meet the European Commission and EU development ministers next week to discuss this issue.

To ensure the UK aid budget is spent ‘wisely’, new financial controls will also be introduced. Greening, who was appointed to her current position last month, said she had already reduced the level at which aid programme spending decisions needed her approval from £40m to £5m, as well as commissioning work on the use of consultants.

‘I will go further … bringing in a package of changes in the DFID to give ministers far greater oversight and control of spending decisions [and] working with my department to get the most out of the development budget we have.’

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