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Andrew Mitchell promises independent assessment of UK aid spending

UKAIDAndrew Mitchell, the Secretary of State for International Development, has today said that his department - DFID - is by far the best development group in the world but that taxpayers deserve independent assurance that the £7.3bn budget is being spent wisely.

In remarks to a conference hosted by Oxfam, Mr Mitchell said:

"Development is good for our economy, our safety, our health, our future. It is, quite simply, tremendous value for money: the best return on investment that you’ll find anywhere in government. British aid pays for five million children in developing countries to go to primary school every day. That’s roughly the same number as go to primary school in Britain yet it costs only 2.5 per cent of what we spend here. That’s real value for money...

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.”

To this end he is setting up an independent aid watchdog.

In line with the Coalition's wider commitment to transparent government the Development Secretary announced an 'Aid Transparency Guarantee':

“The UK Aid Transparency Guarantee will also help to create a million independent aid watchdogs – people around the world who can see where aid money is supposed to be going – and shout if it doesn’t get there.” 

One of his first acts as the Coalition's aid minister was to scrap "frivolous" DFID-funded projects in the UK; including a Brazilian-style dance group in north London which uses percussion and martial arts.

In terms of maximising the value of UK aid spending Mr Mitchell has already promised to end UK assistance to China and this morning undertook to refocus UK aid to India. India is currently the biggest single beneficiary of the DFID budget.

He defended the UK's aid programme to Afghanistan and said that British citizens could be proud that they have played a part in schooling two million girls in that country.

Tim Montgomerie

> Listen to Mr Mitchell talk to Jim Naughtie on Radio 4's Today programme.

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