A British peer has complained that the degree of monitoring, auditing and evaluation of projects funded by the British government under its international development programme was grossly over the top because of its fear that its aid is being stolen or wasted.
Lord Stunnell told the House of Lords last week that he had experienced an example of this when he visited one of the donor-funded projects in Zimbabwe in 2010.
Britain, he said, was the largest donor of international aid to Zimbabwe but it did not want its taxpayers to know this, neither did the Zimbabwe government want its people to know either.
“It is a well-kept secret that the British government are the largest donor of international aid within Zimbabwe. I do not think that our government particularly want to let people know that, and the Zimbabwean government certainly do not want people to know that,” he said.
“None of that money is spent via funding of government institutions or through government services in Zimbabwe. It is all channelled through NGOs.
“I wanted to mention one particular visit that we made while in Zimbabwe. As ever with Select Committee visits, it was designed to see whether the projects were value for money and were being properly run and administered, whether the objects for which they had been set up were being fulfilled, and to give a report to the House of Commons with recommendations.
“We visited a particular project—an allotment in a field belonging to a widow. It had a fence with a vegetable garden, and the paths between the vegetable beds were surprisingly wide. That turned out to be so that she could get round her allotment in her wheelchair. She is a disabled widow, and we were brought in to see this project.
“United Kingdom taxpayers had paid for the wheelchair, which seemed like a pretty good investment to me. She was going round her vegetable garden with her wheelchair and looking after her ducks. The British taxpayer paid for six ducks. The ducks lay eggs, the eggs are sold at market and she has a cash flow. Occasionally, no doubt, duck appears on the table as well.
“On the point about stealing and wastage, we did bring back some criticism. In Whitehall, they know how many wheelchairs and ducks they have supplied to Zimbabwe. Not a wheelchair is rolled, not a duck clucks, without them knowing in Whitehall.
“Our comment was that the degree of monitoring, auditing and evaluation was grossly over the top. It is a wheelchair and six ducks, for goodness sake! I hope that the Secretary of State will understand that good results and outcomes can be achieved with very modest inputs, and that to fret too much about a lost duck or a punctured wheelchair is not good value for money in itself.”-Insider