International aid charities call for government transparency over cuts

Charities have accused the government of making decisions to cut international aid “behind closed doors without proper scrutiny or consultation”.

A group of aid NGOs is calling for greater transparency around decisions taken in Whitehall to slash funding for aid programmes.

The groups involved are Bond, Publish What You Fund and Development Initiatives.

Cutting budgets for aid “poses a serious threat to the world’s poorest and most vulnerable people”, says the groups.

It adds that “multiple requests” for details of aid cuts have been made, however, “little to no information is being made publicly available” and “parliamentary questions are routinely evaded”.

Also “private requests for information receive light responses”, the group says.

Bond policy and advocacy manager Abigael Baldoumas said: “Decisions have been and are being made without proper scrutiny, transparency or consultation with NGOs."

She added: “It is shocking both how little information is available about where these cuts will land and how much NGOs on the frontline have been excluded from decision making.

“The government needs to be transparent about how cuts will affect programmes such as girls' education, strengthening health systems to deal with future pandemics, peacebuilding and humanitarian work.

“Transparency is a precursor to making aid effective, as well as being accountable to the British taxpayer, and to ensure not a penny of public money goes to anything other than helping those who most need it.”

The groups say that anecdotally, a quarter of cuts have been made to large-scale programmes such as UK Aid Direct, which goes to grassroots development projects.

Organisations involved have been blighted with a lack of government information relating to delays and funding decisions being paused, say Bond, Publish What You Fund and Development Initiatives.

Many UK charities have been told to hand back funding they have been unable to spend during the pandemic, rather than being allowed to extend or adapt programmes, they add.

A report published earlier this year into public confidence in major institutions found that trust in NGOs globally is falling. This follows a number of high profile safeguarding scandals within the sector.

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