The Chair of the UK’s parliamentary International Development Committee (IDC), Sarah Champion, a Labour Party member of parliament, has accused the UK’s Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office (FCDO) of consistently providing "dodgy information" on its official development assistance (ODA) spending, in a practice she has labeled as "arrogant".
The remarks follow an exchange of letters between Champion and Philip Barton, the FCDO’s permanent Under-Secretary, around unpacking the FCDO’s future spending plans on ODA for 2021-2022. The FCDO outlined key spending areas, but what is included in the spending areas was unclear and incomparable to ODA spending in previous years. For example, one single budget line called 'Strategic priorities and other programme spending' covered three separate budget lines when compared to previous years. Champion noted that the strategy lacks clarity, making it extremely difficult to provide effective oversight and scrutiny of government decision-making.
Champion’s comments came at the same time as the UK’s independent assistance watchdog, the Independent Commission on Aid Impact (ICAI), released a report criticizing the FCDO for declines in transparency. The report noted that it had been challenging at times to get information from the FCDO on ODA spending and that this was in stark contrast to the ICAI's more open exchanges with the Department for Business, Energy & Industrial Strategy and the CDC Group (a UK development finance institution), both of which are also responsible for parts of UK ODA spending