DFID 'should work more closely with private aid providers'

6 Mar 12
The Department for International Development should take a more hands-on approach to the provision of aid by private organisations, including appointing a dedicated official, MPs said today

By Nick Mann | 20 January 2012

The Department for International Development should take a more hands-on approach to the provision of aid by private organisations, including appointing a dedicated official, MPs said today.

In a report, Private foundations, the Commons international development select committee said concerns had been raised about the transparency and accountability of philanthropic organisations. The department’s current ‘ad-hoc’ way of working with these bodies did not do enough to address their potential for bypassing civil society groups and potentially skewing aid programmes in favour of single issue interventions.

The MPs urged the department to become more involved in training trustees within small, UK-based foundations to show them how to increase accountability and work more closely with donor countries’ governments.

Although officials would not be able to meet all small foundations on a one-to-one basis, the department should liaise more closely with them. The MPs recommend that a designated contact official for foundations should be established and a minister should hold an annual meeting with groups of smaller foundations.

Foundations were also urged to sign up to International Aid Transparency Initiative guidelines and be brought into global structures to ensure that they co-ordinate their work with other donors.

Committee chair Malcolm Bruce highlighted the work of world’s largest philanthropic body, the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, in combating malaria as evidence that ‘risk taking and innovation’ could produce outstanding results.

But he added: ‘While their efforts are to be welcomed, there is a danger that private foundations can bypass civil society groups in developing countries and skew aid programmes in favour of big hi-tech single-issue interventions.

‘The DFID should work with foundations to maximise their contribution and help them play a bigger part in global efforts to end poverty.’

International Development Secretary Andrew Mitchell said: ‘All aid agencies must be able to answer where their money is spent and how effective it is. Britain was the first nation to sign up to the International Aid Transparency Initiative and we urge private foundations to do the same.’

According to the DFID, its global partnerships department is a dedicated first point of contact for private foundations, although it noted that ‘many officials’ at all levels of the department engage with philanthropic bodies.

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