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With the UK’s aid budget now exceeding £13bn, and over a quarter of that spent by departments other than the Department for International Development (DFID), there are questions about how the Government ensures this money is well-spent, and how it is balanced with Department’s domestic objectives. CGD is exploring the legal, policy and governance framework around “overseas development assistance” to help ensure aid is well-spent.
Aid is amazingly good value for money. For the same money the government willingly spends to save a life in a developed country such as the UK, we save around 100 or even 1,000 lives in the developing world.
When Sir Tim Lankester defends the aid programme against charges that it can sometimes be misused for other things, he knows what he is talking about. He
was the most senior civil servant in Britain’s aid ministry (then called ODA, now known as DFID), and in 1991 he bravely blew the whistle on a project to
finance a dam in Malaysia because it was not a good use of development money (and indeed turned out to be connected to agreements to buy British arms).
Yesterday I was excited to see that the UK Independent Commission for Aid Impact (ICAI) had a report out on UK Department for International Development’s (DFID’s) anticorruption activities. It was a great topic for independent analysis by a group that didn’t need to worry about the politically correct thing to say, and could get beyond sloganeering (‘zero tolerance for corruption’) to a careful, evidence-based analysis of how corruption impacts development, what the role is for donors, and how DFID’s existing portfolio stacks up. My excitement didn’t last long—this report is not that analysis. I feel like a kid who got empty wrappers in his trick or treat bag.