Mor­daunt: We must jus­tify aid spend­ing

Bri­tish tax­pay­ers need to trust that we’re spend­ing their money wisely – and in the coun­try’s in­ter­ests

The Daily Telegraph - - News - By Christo­pher Hope CHIEF PO­LIT­I­CAL COR­RE­SPON­DENT

THE Gov­ern­ment’s aid depart­ment should feel it has to com­pete for cash like char­i­ties, Penny Mor­daunt, the new In­ter­na­tional De­vel­op­ment Sec­re­tary, says today.

Writ­ing in The Daily Tele­graph, Ms Mor­daunt says the Depart­ment for In­ter­na­tional De­vel­op­ment (Dfid) should jus­tify its spend­ing de­ci­sions like char­i­ties have to for their donors.

The ar­ti­cle is the first in­ter­ven­tion from Ms Mor­daunt since she re­placed Priti Pa­tel, who re­signed last week af­ter de­tails emerged of undis­closed meet­ings with Is­raeli gov­ern­ment fig­ures in Au­gust and Septem­ber.

Ms Mor­daunt says: “I be­lieve in aid. I be­lieve in the power it has to end dis­ease, hunger and ex­treme poverty, to build strong economies and to help the world’s most vul­ner­a­ble peo­ple live lives of dig­nity.”

Tax­pay­ers un­der­stand the ben­e­fits that aid brings to the UK and feel “a moral obli­ga­tion to help na­tions rife with poverty and poor health”, she says. But she adds this com­mit­ment is un­der threat if of­fi­cials can­not jus­tify spend­ing and wasted aid money. She sug­gests they con­sider whether peo­ple would give their money to the Dfid to spend in the de­vel­op­ing world if they had a choice.

She says: “The ques­tion we face is whether peo­ple would choose to do­nate to the Dfid, as they do to so many or­gan­i­sa­tions work­ing over­seas.”

The for­mer char­ity worker adds: “Peo­ple want to know: what are you go­ing to do with my money? How do I know you’ll spend it well? How will this im­prove the things that mat­ter?

“This is the level of clar­ity and trans­parency we must achieve. That is not al­ways easy: not least be­cause of the com­plex­ity of fund­ing re­la­tion­ships and the long-term na­ture of what we do. I will build on the work of my pre­de­ces­sor when it comes to value for money in aid. The Dfid has made a start on open­ing up fund­ing to a wider range of part­ners in­clud­ing smaller char­i­ties.

“And it has in­creased fo­cus on eco­nomic de­vel­op­ment and sus­tain­able pro­grammes.” The Gov­ern­ment is com­mit­ted to spend­ing 0.7 per cent of GDP on aid – worth £12bil­lion a year.

Ibe­lieve in aid. I be­lieve in the power it has to end dis­ease, hunger and ex­treme poverty, to build strong economies and to help the world’s most vul­ner­a­ble peo­ple live lives of dig­nity. Aid also al­lows us to in­flu­ence and shape the world around us. Along­side our world-class de­fence and diplo­macy, it pro­vides the great­est re­turn on in­vest­ment for the tax­payer’s purse: to head off trouble be­fore we have to in­ter­vene mil­i­tar­ily or to han­dle a cri­sis, and to cre­ate op­por­tu­nity, peace and pros­per­ity.

I be­lieve Bri­tish peo­ple know the power of aid, too. They un­der­stand the ben­e­fits it brings: how erad­i­cat­ing deadly dis­eases such as Ebola pro­tects us here at home, how the pro­vi­sion of ed­u­ca­tion and eco­nomic op­por­tu­ni­ties around the world can stem mi­gra­tion. And they feel a moral obli­ga­tion to help na­tions rife with poverty and poor health.

The Bri­tish peo­ple have a global out­look, they are gen­er­ous, and when they see suf­fer­ing and in­jus­tice they are mo­ti­vated to act. Aid work­ers I worked with in Ro­ma­nia were teach­ers from Big­gin Hill. A hand­ful of vol­un­teers from my lo­cal patch, the So­lent, are pro­vid­ing psy­chi­a­try ser­vices in Africa. Across the length and breadth of the UK – in char­ity shops, faith groups and com­mu­nity groups – peo­ple are giv­ing up their time to raise funds, sup­port refugees and al­le­vi­ate poverty.

So why is it still so im­por­tant to make the case for aid?

Peo­ple want to know: what are you go­ing to do with my money? How do I know you’ll spend it well? How will this im­prove the things that mat­ter? This is the level of clar­ity and trans­parency we must achieve. That is not al­ways easy: not least be­cause of the com­plex­ity of fund­ing re­la­tion­ships and the long-term na­ture of what we do.

But the bar­ri­ers must be over­come if we wish to main­tain the means to act de­ci­sively in the UK’S and hu­man­ity’s in­ter­ests. For it is not politi­cians and leg­is­la­tion that ul­ti­mately pro­tect our world-lead­ing com­mit­ment to aid. It is the trust of the pub­lic that their money is be­ing spent wisely.

Peo­ple can be proud of what Bri­tain achieves. UK aid is im­mu­nis­ing 80 chil­dren a minute against po­lio. It is get­ting food, medicine and shel­ter to peo­ple flee­ing vi­o­lence in Burma. With the Prime Min­is­ter’s lead­er­ship, it is tak­ing on the scourge of mod­ern slav­ery. And it is giv­ing Syr­ian chil­dren the chance to go to school. There are peo­ple who are alive be­cause of Bri­tish aid, peo­ple who can walk and see be­cause of our aid, and chil­dren who can read and write be­cause of aid. We are build­ing health sys­tems and help­ing coun­tries to grow so that they can stand on their own two feet.

These achieve­ments be­long to the Bri­tish peo­ple. They be­long to the tax­pay­ers who fund these life-sav­ing ef­forts, to our amaz­ing NGOS, and to the great Bri­tish hu­man­i­tar­ian heroes who risk their lives to help oth­ers.

But as well as pride in these out­comes, we must pro­vide the pub­lic with con­fi­dence in how we achieve them. The ques­tion we face is whether peo­ple would choose to do­nate to DFID, as they do to so many other or­gan­i­sa­tions work­ing over­seas.

So I will build on the work of my pre­de­ces­sor when it comes to driv­ing value for money. DFID has made a start on open­ing up fund­ing to a wider range of part­ners in­clud­ing smaller char­i­ties. And it has in­creased its fo­cus on eco­nomic de­vel­op­ment and sus­tain­able pro­grammes.

But we can go fur­ther still. We must har­ness the en­ergy of the UK sci­ence and tech­nol­ogy sec­tors, whether in the use of cut­ting-edge tech­nol­ogy to trans­form the way we do de­vel­op­ment, in cre­at­ing drought-re­sis­tant seeds to boost food pro­duc­tion, or in vac­cines to wipe out dis­ease. We must leave no-one be­hind, putting dis­abil­ity at the heart of our agenda.

We must also use our lead­er­ship to chal­lenge other na­tions to de­liver on their com­mit­ments. And as we leave the EU we must seize ev­ery op­por­tu­nity to cham­pion democ­racy and hu­man rights, ex­pand trade with de­vel­op­ing coun­tries and build com­pet­i­tive mar­kets to end poverty.

Our ob­jec­tive – help­ing the world’s poor­est while fur­ther­ing UK strate­gic in­ter­ests – will be achieved only by spend­ing 0.7 per cent of GNI well.

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