Foreign aid spending comes under fire

Department accused of overpaying consultants

Updated: 
Relief for Ebola center in Sierra Leone
Britain has spent £1.4 billion on foreign aid consultants in the last four years, with some charging as much as £1,000 a day.

Department for International Development (DfID) spending figures published in the Times have caused anger amongst Conservative politicians.

According to the paper, some team leaders are earning as much as £120,000 a year - although this figure includes the costs of their expenses, security and accommodation.

"When people think of overseas aid they think of people who have aid their homes damaged by an earthquake, a hurricane or a tsunami. They don't expect to be lining the pockets of consultant fat cats," said Philip Davies, Conservative parliamentary candidate for Shipley.

The DfID is accused of spending wildly in order to hit government targets on overseas aid. A recent report from the National Audit Office (NAO) concluded that the department went on a £1 billion spending spree over eight weeks to hit its spending commitments. As a result, said the NAO, it may not have got the most for its money.

"This is what happens when you are judged only by how much you are spending," said Davis. "How you actually spend the money becomes immaterial. It leads to grotesque waste and overspending."

But the DfID says it's largely solved the problem already.

"DfID has slashed spending on external consultancy and advisory services by 98.9% since 2009, down to just £200,000 last year, but we rightly continue to use the private sector where it delivers aid projects on the ground that are effective and the best value for money," a spokesman told the Daily Mail.

According to new figures from the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), the UK is the second largest aid donor in the world, after the US.

Last year, Britain gave $19.4 billion, making it one of only five member states to have met the UN target of 0.7% of national income for overseas development aid.

"Governments first promised to deliver 0.7% of their national income to support poor countries when Richard Nixon was President of America and the Beatles were topping the charts. In the 45 years since only a handful of countries have delivered on this promise," says Claire Godfrey, senior policy advisor at Oxfam.

"Yet with some one billion people still living in poverty and climate change posing huge new development challenges, the need for overseas aid is greater than ever before."

She points out that, amongst other successes, overseas aid saved around three million children aged under five from dying of malaria between 2000 and 2012.

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