ActionAid and Oxfam have branded the international aid system "unco-ordinated, self-serving and hypocritical" after it emerged that just a fifth of global aid reaches the poorest countries.
A report by the two charities also revealed that only half of this is spent on basic services, such as education and health. Most countries are not even given a say in how the cash is spent.
Billions of pounds are eaten up by administration costs, and the 80 official agencies handling distribution generate huge amounts of red tape.
ActionAid policy officer Patrick Watt said: "Our report tells a sorry tale of muddle and hypocrisy, dithering and stalling, with the world's poor cast unwittingly in the role of fall guys."
The report warns that without urgent reforms the pledge to halve global poverty by 2015 will not be met.