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Saturday, August 27, 2005

BBC NEWS | UK | UK Politics | Government 'wastes' African aid

BBC NEWS | UK | UK Politics | Government 'wastes' African aid Government 'wastes' African aid
The government has been accused of wasting hundreds of thousands of pounds of African aid.

The BBC's Five Live Report said it found more than £700,000 spent on hotel bills and meals in Malawi for US staff.

The National Audit Office said it may mount an investigation into the use of consultants by the Department of International Development (DFID).

The DFID has yet to issue a response to the accusations, which will be aired in a programme on Sunday.

'Phantom aid'

One project in Malawi funded by the DFID has been accused of using international flights to fly in pens and notebooks bought in Washington DC.

The BBC report looked at several projects funded by the department in Malawi, which is considered to be the tenth-poorest country in the world.

Patrick Watt of charity Action Aid said: "(This is) another example of aid money not really getting down to people who most urgently need to benefit from it."

He said: "It's an example of phantom aid, when what Malawi needs is real aid."

US agencies which had been brought in as consultants included the National Democratic Institute (NDI), used on a project to improve the parliamentary committee system in Malawi.

The £1m donated to the project from US funds was used solely to pay for NDI staff there, the BBC report said.

Spending defended

Over the four years of the project, the DFID donated £3m to the project. Of that, £586,423 was spent on hotels in Malawi for the NDI staff. Another £126,062 was spent on meals.

An ex-staff member said computers, notebooks and other stationery had been bought in Washington DC and flown over rather than bought locally.

There are large areas of the aid system that are in urgent need of reform
Patrick Watt
Action Aid

An NDI spokeswoman defended the spending, and said the British department had never questioned the spending.

World Learning, a US group which had been brought in to distribute £4m of British money to strengthen Malawian society had to cancel the project after six months and a cost of £300,000. Dozens of local staff not face losing their jobs.

Mr Watt said the large amounts of money spent of administration and overseas staff meant "there are large areas of the aid system that are in urgent need of reform".

Malawian campaigner Rafiq Hajat said: "Where you have so-called experts who come from outside, charge exorbitant fees, live a five-star lifestyle and then go back having left a couple of reports mouldering on the shelf, that's how I would define phantom aid."

Story from BBC NEWS:

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