Parliament Members Voice Concern Over New UK Aid Focus on Fragile States

U.K. Secretary of State for International Development Andrew Mitchell meets with Somali officials to discuss aid to the country. Photo by: Roger Heath / DFID / CC BY-NC-ND

The U.K. government risks exposing its aid budget to increased potential for corruption and fraud with its new focus on fragile and conflict-torn countries such as Myanmar, Pakistan and Somalia, the public accounts committee of the U.K. House of Commons has warned.

The U.K. Department of International Development is shifting its focus on fragile states as part of the new U.K. national security policy and based on the results of the government’s recent review of its multilateral and bilateral aid programs.

In a report released Oct. 19, the public accounts committee warned operating in such environments poses “higher risks in terms of poor security, delivery capacity, measurement of costs and outcomes, and leakage of funds through fraud and corruption,” the Guardian reports.

The committee also called DfID’s attention to the department’s plans to increase its contributions to multilateral organizations such as the World Bank and the European Commission.

“The department plans to increase the proportion of its funding spent via multilaterals but does not have the same visibility over the cost and performance of multilaterals’ programs as it does over its bilateral programs,” the report says, according to the Guardian.

This echoes a call from the development committee of the House of Commons, which has urged DfID to draft and implement a more “systematic approach” to monitoring U.K. contributions to infrastructure projects managed by multilateral development banks.

The public accounts committee report also targeted what it describes as DfID’s “poor understanding” of the potential levels of corruption and fraud in the aid programs it funds.

Commenting on the report, U.K. Secretary of State for International Development Andrew Mitchell noted that the committee failed to take into account the sweeping reforms made to the way DfID manages its finances and the department’s “zero tolerance” policy to fraud and corruption.

A senior official of a U.K.-based non-governmental organization, meanwhile, stressed that donors should not deter from helping some of the world’s poorest and most fragile countries.

“We must not let the difficulty of delivering aid in war zones and in fragile states lead to donors choosing the easy option of focusing on the most stable countries,” Save the Children’s Brendan Cox said, as quoted by the Guardian. “Many of the children most in need of help are in the most difficult to reach places. Risk should be managed, not avoided.”

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About the author

  • Ivy Mungcal

    As former senior staff writer, Ivy Mungcal contributed to several Devex publications. Her focus is on breaking news, and in particular on global aid reform and trends in the United States, Europe, the Caribbean, and the Americas. Before joining Devex in 2009, Ivy produced specialized content for U.S. and U.K.-based business websites.