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 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.