Fixing foreign aid through transparency

23 Oct 17

The announcement of funding for the UK’s development finance institution last week should have come with a commitment to transparency about how overseas development money is spent, argues Baroness Shas Sheehan.

The announcement last week of new funding for the Commonwealth Development Corporation, the UK’s development finance institution, for investment in creating jobs in some of the world’s poorest and most fragile countries is welcomed by the Liberal Democrats.

However, the announcement makes no mention of how the Department for International Development will monitor whether the money is being effectively invested and that taxpayers are getting value for money – despite issues of transparency and accountability that have long dogged the CDC.

What a shame. Regular attacks by the tabloid press and other right wing media organisations will no doubt use this lack of oversight to launch further attacks on the 0.7% of UK GNI that is to be spent on Overseas Development Assistance approved projects to alleviate the suffering of the poorest people in the world.

Given that this announcement follows hot on the heels of the Supplier Review, it is astonishing that the announcement of an additional £3.5bn spend over five years by the CDC is not accompanied by a commitment to transparency.

The Secretary of State must acknowledge that lack of transparency by the UK’s development finance institution undermines her pledges to improve aid accountability.

A culture of transparency and accountability must also be replicated throughout government departments. Increasingly, UK ODA is being spent by other departments.

It is time that these departments apply the same level of transparency as DfiD does to its ODA spending. Given the increasingly large amounts these departments spend on ODA, this situation must be rectified.

These loopholes in ODA funding transparency must be comprehensively addressed. The public deserve a clear picture of how their money is being used and how UK aid works.

The Conservative government may well have their hands full with Brexit and it is no secret that Patel is wedded to a hard Brexit.

However, it is vital that this distraction does not come at the expense of accountability and transparency standards.

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