MPs can’t afford to ignore the millions we waste on aid

Published by The Times (29th March, 2017)

Can you guess the big problem with Britain’s aid spending? It is not the appalling waste, the insidious corruption, the persistent theft of taxpayers’ funds. Nor the cash creamed off by charity and private sector fat cats, let alone all those daft projects that corrode democracy in poor countries, fuel highly-destructive conflicts and prop up bloodstained dictators.

No, the key issue is that our government – with its swollen army of public relations officials – fails to publicise its good works properly. This is the laughable conclusion of MPs on the international development committee (IDC), who are meant to be holding ministers to account on behalf of beleaguered taxpayers. It comes in their risible new report into Britain’s £12bn aid spending in which they deny much aid money is wasted, focusing instead on attacking journalists for damaging headlines.

It is always easier to shoot messengers rather than rectify your own mistakes. Sadly this latest report reveals only how the political establishment closes ranks in defence of its most self-serving policies, ignoring the welter of evidence of waste in aid spending and surging criticism in Britain. It follows the BBC’s biased promotion of aid through the toe-curling Comic Relief telethon and the prime minister praising spendthrift policies that concern some of her most senior staff.

Typically, the report defends the ridiculous decision backed by all mainstream parties to give away 0.7 per cent of national income based on a flawed and outdated target. Never mind even Labour peers said this is so stupid an idea it might have been designed to undermine aid, nor that Britain’s most recent Nobel prize-winning economist points out the absurdity of spending based on size of our own economy rather than needs abroad. Inevitably, almost all the inquiry witnesses were beneficiaries of aid defending generous Westminster paymasters.

The Department for International Development focuses on pushing torrents of cash out the door, with a terrible record at tackling corruption or supporting whistleblowers. It struggles to find worthy causes as global poverty plummets thanks to capitalism, consumerism, technology and improved governance, so ends up shovelling cash into faddish schemes and fragile states where it is swallowed up by warlords.

Sadly all this report exposes is how MPs have little real interest in rooting out abuse, preferring to pat themselves on their backs for their generosity with other peoples money.

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