Global development aid money amounts to about £93bn and taxpayers who help pay for it deserve to know exactly where that money is going, says a UK-based lobby group.
Publish What You Fund also says people on the receiving end of aid in poorer countries also need more information, to make sure that money is wisely spent.
The group today (Tuesday) put out a transparency chart, scoring 58 countries on how open they were about the aid they give. It put the UK's Department for International Development, (DfID) at the top, along with the World Bank, the Global Fund, the African Development Bank, the Dutch foreign ministry, but said that overall the results were disappointing.
Major donors including the US, Japan and France rank badly on the index. And no donor countries rank in the top category 'good', which needs a score of more than 80 per cent.
"The UK performs relatively well in this ranking and should be congratulated for showing leadership on transparency," said Publish What You Fund’s Karin Christiansen.
But she added that: "overall, the results are very disappointing and all donors could do more. Lack of transparency leads to waste, overlap and inefficiency. It impedes efforts to improve governance and reduce corruption and makes it hard to measure results. At a time when overseas aid budgets are under pressure, transparency and accountability matter more than ever."
While the UK's main aid agency, DfID, did well in the chart, the UK’s main development financing arm, CDC (the Colonial Development Corporation) fares badly. The group has just appointed a new chief executive, Diana Noble, after a row over expenses and pay levels under her predecessor.
Some countries also gave alarming examples of how a lack of openness on aid money can give people the wrong idea about where money is spent, the group said. In the case of one of France's biggest aid beneficiaries, Ivory Coast, the only records held on funding covered a project marking 20 years of research into chimpanzees.
The report urges donors to sign up to and stick to the International Aid Transparency Initiative (IATI), the gold standard of aid accountability agreed at the Accra forum on aid effectiveness in 2008. The UK started publishing DfID's spending on this register in January. But IATI is one of the controversial topics issues on the agenda for the next high-level talks on aid effectiveness, being held at Busan, in South Korea, at the end of this month.