Wed, Sep 21, 2011 - Page 6 News List

UK wants transparency from recipients of its aid

AP, LONDON

Britain might withhold future aid from countries that fail to detail how they spend international funds, a senior minister said ahead of talks yesterday aimed at promoting government transparency.

British Cabinet Office Minister Francis Maude said new conditions would be attached to parts of Britain’s £8.4 billion (US$13.2 billion) annual aid budget to encourage openness in developing nations.

British Prime Minister David Cameron has pledged to increase Britain’s overseas aid spending over the next four years, even as he drives through a deficit-shredding program of £81 billion of spending cuts.

Maude said he would present Britain’s plans to tie some aid funding to transparency initiatives at a meeting yesterday in New York of the Open Government Partnership, a new grouping of countries pressing for increased government openness.

Britain will push for greater openness from nations who receive aid money, donors with poor records of disclosing where taxpayers’ cash is spent and NGOs carrying out work funded by donor nations.

“Transparency in government helps accountability, it is the enemy of corruption and it can help to save lives,” Maude said by telephone from New York on Monday.

Despite some domestic criticism, Britain’s coalition government has pledged to honor a commitment struck at a G8 summit in 2005 to increase international aid spending to 0.7 percent of gross national income by 2013.

Cameron has repeatedly insisted it is vital to abide by the pledge.

“When you make a promise like that to the poorest people in the world, you should keep it. And I am proud of the fact that Britain is doing just that,” he said following a G8 summit in May.

Maude said that Britain would consider whether a country is making progress on transparency before it approves budget support. Countries will need to show they are working on plans to release government data, introduce or implement freedom of information laws and disclose details of how foreign aid is spent.

“We will be making a judgment on how far they are making progress against that,” Maude said.

Nations including Afghanistan, which received £133.4 million in bilateral aid from Britain in 2009 and last year, and Pakistan, which was given £140.4 million in the same period, have previously been criticized over poor transparency standards.

Maude said greater accountability is necessary as Britain’s aid spending comes under increasingly heavy scrutiny, allowing taxpayers a better understanding of where their money goes.

Britain’s International Development Ministry already publishes details of projects funded by UK aid money since 2009. Other departments are scheduled to soon begin disclosing details of their aid spending.

The Open Government Partnership was first announced in July by US Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton.

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