Foreign office criticised for lack of aid transparency

20 Jun 18

The UK foreign office scores poorly on aid transparency, lagging behind its international counterparts, an index released today has revealed.

Non-profit humanitarian organisations called for the government to improve aid transparency to the same standards seen at the Department for International Development, which was put near the top of the list.

Publish What You Fund’s Aid Transparency Index ranks 45 donors spending more than $1bn on aid against a range of indicators.

It named the Foreign and Commonwealth Office as one of the least transparent, putting it at 40 on the list of 45 and giving it a rating of ‘poor’. It only provides information on 39% of the indicators in the index.

Catherine Turner, director of advocacy at Publish What You Fund, said: “This is a wake-up call to the foreign office to up their game when it comes to aid transparency.

“Such a low ranking raises questions about how seriously the FCO is taking their commitment to improve standards.”

DFID, by contrast, received a ‘very good’ rating and was put third on the list for aid transparency, just below the Asian Development Bank and the United Nations Development Programme.

Indicators used to rank the development finance agencies include information over five components: the organisational planning and commitments to aid transparency; finance and budgets; project attributes; performance; and joining up development data, such as with country budgets.

The only other European organisation included in the ‘poor’ category with the foreign office was the Spanish Agency for International Development Cooperation.

Japan’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the Chinese Ministry of Commerce and the United Arab Emirates’ Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation were in the ‘very poor’ category. They all make very little information publicly available, despite being among the largest international donors.

Non-profit organisations warned that, because the UK is highly respected as a donor, Whitehall must ensure its aid programmes are supported by the highest standards of transparency.

In 2015, the UK Aid Strategy pledged that all government departments providing aid would be ranked ‘good’ or ‘very good’ on the index by 2020.

Romilly Greenhill, UK director of the ONE Campaign said government departments other than DFIF needed to up their game on aid transparency.

“Being able to track aid every step of the way is absolutely crucial in telling the story of the work the UK does to support the world’s poorest people.

“Without transparency we risk undermining public trust in our life-saving aid.”

Over the last four years, the government has delivered all the increases in UK aid outside DFID.

In 2017, 11 other government departments accounted for just over a quarter of the total UK aid, equivalent to £3.8bn.

Simon Wright, director of international development policy, advocacy and campaigns at Save the Children, said: “Urgent progress is needed to ensure that every department meets the same standards as DFID, so that the impact of all UK aid is equally clear, and taxpayers can have faith that it is delivering for the most deprived and marginalised children.”

The index called for the FCO to publish performance-related information, include further details on budgets and finances in its publications and to publish information monthly, or at least quarterly.

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