Charities have welcomed calls by MPs that the Department for International Development should remain as a standalone ministry and take stronger oversight of UK development spending.
A report from the House of Commons International Development Committee, published today, says the government should retain DfID as a standalone ministry in order to preserve the integrity of the UK’s spending on international aid.
The report says that when the committee began its inquiry in March a new government review of security, defence, development and foreign policy had led to speculation that DfID might be folded into the Foreign Office.
But the report says: “This committee advocates strongly for the retention of the current standalone, ministry of state model for international development, with a Cabinet-level minister.”
It says that if the government decides to make significant changes to the existing systems and structures for administering UK aid, it should, as a minimum, “present a statement to parliament setting out an evidence-led rationale for any change; quantifying expected costs and how intended benefits justify the costs; and showing how both will be measured and controlled”.
The report says the committee welcomes the government’s commitment to continue spending 0.7 per cent of gross national income on overseas development aid, but says it is not convinced that overseas development aid programmes administered outside of DfID are properly targeted towards poverty reduction or the most vulnerable people.
Stephanie Draper, chief executive of the NGO membership body Bond, said a strong, independent DfID would be crucial in helping to create a healthier, safer and more sustainable world.
“Bond has been calling for increased oversight by DfID of aid spending by other departments and cross-departmental funds for some time, so we fully support the International Development Committee’s call for stronger transparency, accountability and DfID oversight of UK aid to ensure it meets its primary purpose of contributing to poverty reduction and sustainable development,” she said.
“The Covid-19 pandemic has reiterated the importance of DfID and the Secretary of State for International Development, as well as the valuable role the department plays in maintaining the UK's international reputation and influence."
Sarah Champion, the Labour MP for Rotherham and chair of the committee, said: “We are not convinced that all overseas development aid programmes administered outside DfID are properly targeted towards poverty reduction or the most vulnerable.
“Given the size of the UK’s aid budget, it is particularly shocking that transparency remains a huge problem that government departments are failing to grapple."
She said work was paused on the government’s review because of the coronavirus pandemic.
“When work does restart, we urge ministers to recognise DfID’s world-leading reputation, commit to its continuation as a standalone department and get a grip on oversight for government overseas development aid,” she said.