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Budget cut to taxpayers’ value for money foreign aid watchdog

28 May 2021

The Chair of the International Development Committee, Sarah Champion MP, has condemned a budget cut to the Independent Commission for Aid Impact (ICAI), a watchdog body which ensures UK taxpayers get value for money from the foreign aid budget.

The issue is set out in a letter from the Foreign Secretary, Dominic Raab MP, and another from Sarah Champion MP. The two letters are published on the website of the International Development Committee today.

  • 28 May – Sarah Champion MP, Chair, International Development Committee, to Dominic Raab MP, Secretary of State for Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Affairs
  • 24 May – Dominic Raab MP to Theo Clarke MP, Chair, Sub-Committee on the Work of the Independent Commission for Aid Impact
  • 30 April – Theo Clarke MP to Dominic Raab MP

On May 24 the Foreign Secretary wrote to a Sub Committee of the International Development Committee that deals with the taxpayers’ watchdog to say ICAI’s 2021/22 budget for scrutinising the foreign aid spend would be cut by approximately 15%, from £3.29m to £2.8m.

ICAI exists to make sure that the UK aid budget is spent on programmes that deliver value-for-money for the UK taxpayer and tackle poverty. It looks closely at aid programmes and uses its expertise to award them with green, amber or red ‘scores’. This helps the International Development Committee fulfil its democratic role of scrutinising aid spending.

Today, May 28, the Chair of the International Development Committee, Sarah Champion MP, wrote to Mr Raab saying she was extremely dismayed by the cut. She said that the independence of ICAI was crucially underpinned by the fact that it had a four-year agreed budget which allowed it to prioritise over the years, according to its own expertise, the programmes which it analysed. But that budget was now cut, meaning the independence of the body was also threatened.

Ms. Champion pointed out that the Foreign Secretary had backed this independent role in a letter he wrote to the Sub-Committee Chair, Theo Clarke MP, on 1 April 2021:

“The Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office”, Mr Raab’s 1 April letter said;

“is committed to ensuring that ICAI is providing independent evaluation and scrutiny at the highest possible standards.”

Today’s letter from Sarah Champion MP asked how and why the decision to cut 15% of the watchdog’s body had been made and, crucially, what Mr Raab expected ICAI not to do in the absence of the money. She asked what scope there was for revisiting the decision to cut the budget.

Sarah Champion MP, the Chair of the International Development Committee, said:

“This government has already made drastic cuts in headline aid budgets, breaking promises to the United Nations and to people living in poverty around the world.

“My Committee condemns those cuts. As every day passes it becomes more apparent that this was a bad decision and a poor judgement call.

“It is now more important than ever that every penny of the reduced budget is spent wisely, to give the UK taxpayer the best possible value for money.

“As the Chair of the International Development Committee I must speak out on this most fundamental of issues. Cutting the budget of the very body that helps UK taxpayers get value for money from the aid budget is a worrying new development that must be robustly challenged”.

Further information

Image: ICAI