An independent watchdog will be set up to keep tabs on how the UK spends aid money and to make sure it is well spent. The new body will look at how well the Department for International Development's overseas aid projects work, so future spending choices can be based on fact ‘not guesswork.’ Speaking at the Royal Society in London, the new International Development secretary, Andrew Mitchell promised a fundamental change of approach to how aid is handed out. He said the new watchdog will help the Government to ‘squeeze every last ounce of value’ from its £7.3bn overseas aid budget.Mr Mitchell promised give people in the UK and the people the aid is for details of exactly where his department's cash goes under a new ‘transparency guarantee’.
The coalition Government has promised to keep to the UK's pledge to raise the overseas aid budget to 0.7% of gross national income, from 2013, despite its plans for severe spending cuts. "We will never maintain public support among hard pressed taxpayers for this vital and large programme unless we can demonstrate independently that when we spend £1 on development we are actually getting 100 pence of value,” he told BBC Radio 4's Today programme:Mr Mitchell said: “To the British taxpayer I say this - our aim is to spend every penny of every pound of your money wisely and well.“We want to squeeze every last ounce of value from it. We owe you that. And I promise you as well that in future, when it comes to international development, we will want to see hard evidence of the impact your money makes. Not just dense and impenetrable budget lines but clear evidence of real effect.” Richard Miller, UK director of the charity ActionAid, backed Mr Mitchell's promises. “It will hopefully establish a new standard of openness and encourage scrutiny by citizens in countries receiving UK aid, as well as assuring UK taxpayers that aid is reaching the poorest,” he said.
Oxfam’s chief executive, Barbara Stocking, said that the new watchdog will need to be properly independent of the Government for it to work for the British taxpayer and poor people overseas. "Ensuring aid is poverty-focused not politically driven and strengthens the public services poor people rely on are all vital to ensuring that it makes the biggest possible difference to the lives of the world's poorest."