Coffee House

Can you help Andrew Mitchell?

10 January 2013

Andrew Mitchell, formerly of DFID, urgently needs Coffee Housers’ help. It seems he won’t believe DFID wastes money, unless he sees actual, concrete examples.

Last week, in the magazine, we ran a foreign aid special in which Jonathan Foreman and Justin Shaw  showed us how and why we waste so much on ineffectual aid. In principle of course aid is a wonderful idea, but it can also be a blight: propping up dictators and entrenching corruption in the countries that are struggling most.

We identified two major concerns:

  1. A lack of DFID due diligence
  2. The daft ring-fence around aid ­ 0.7% of GDP ­ which means the DFID has its work cut out trying to get rid of all the cash quick enough, and has an incentive to turn a blind eye to what happens to it on the ground.

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If you confront politicians about this, writes Jonathan Forman, they respond with sentimental guff about saving childrens’ lives as if that puts an end to the argument.

So here’s Mr Mitchell’s reply in this week’s magazine. It’s all about the children, he says (did he read Foreman’s piece?): How about the 11 million children in school? A child was vaccinated every two seconds and a child’s life saved every two minutes because of us. Ringfence? What ring-fence. He doesn’t address it at all.

So Mr Mitchell and Mr Cameron clearly need help. (We’ll let Greening off the hook for the moment, because she seems to understand the problem) They need to know just how much aid money is still wasted by DFID; that it’s not enough just to say: But we help children!

Spec magazine readers have written in with a number of examples of misspent aid ­ including even on worthy-sounding education projects. Patrick Crossley from Bexhill points to a 2011 report by the Crisis group, in which it was revealed that ALL our aid money to Afghanistan was largely ineffective; some even spent on bribes to insurgent groups.

Do Coffee Housers have any other examples? We’ll run the best ones in the magazine next week.

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Show comments
  • Hexhamgeezer

    I can see why Mitchell got the gig at DFID. Like him it is staffed by the biggest bunch of smug tossers in Whitehall. It is long overdue having it’s projects coupled directly to British interests (including commercial) as aid was in the old ODA days. As you point out he already knows there is evidence aplenty but him and the cabal will do nothing about this. As Noa above says, auditing serves only to conceal waste – the cabal at work again.

    Like with so much in Government the task of DFID reform would be a long and tedious and thankless one attracting little kudos within the cabal – indeed DFID management and the likes of Mitchell are cut from the same smug contemptuous cloth so there is zero appetite for reform anyway.

    Mitchells’ pusillanimous call for whistleblowing – because that is effectively what he is asking for – is one where only the plebs take the risk.

  • Patrick

    It’s not just what DFID spend directly which wastes money, it is shovelling money at 2 of the worlds most incompetent and wasteful bureaucracies, the UN and the EU that wastes money on a gargantuan scale because there is no means of monitoring or controlling where this money goes. As the articles state, if DFID can’t off load their loot on a corrupt and inefficient third world government, they direct it to the EU or UN and in the latter I include the World Bank. Why don’t they return it to the Treasury? There are projects out there saving children, usually small and underfunded but they are not glitzy enough for the panjandrums of DFID. As an example, read Aidan Hartley’s Wild Life column in the Christmas double issue about the Restart Centre in Gilgil, Kenya. Now there is something that really is helping vulnerable children but do DFID provide anything there?

  • Framer

    How about the £90 million grant last year by DfID to BBC Media Action (formerly the BBC World Service [can’t be questioned] Trust) which is designed to build “on development results already achieved through governance, health, and humanitarian programmes already funded by the DfID. For example, in Bangladesh, 60 per cent of people thought the “Question Time” programme had made politicians and officials more accountable. In Cambodia, the health programme increased the number of people using condoms, the number of women going to antenatal checks, and the number of people washing their hands. “Lifeline” programmes are reaching people in emergencies with information that is critical to their survival. A young woman’s comment on a Darfur programme was that “when you listen to this programme you feel that it is the only link between you and the outside world”.The existing programmes being rolled into the new grant are:a) “A National Conversation” focusing on governance in Tanzania, Angola and Sierra Leone; b) “Climate Asia” in seven countries across Asia; and c) a health programme in India.” (Lords Hansard)

    A complete and total waste of money that we had to borrow and then pay others to distribute.

  • ScaryBiscuits

    Mitchell clearly won’t listen to reason on foreign aid, so try this one:
    The reason nobody in his own party wanted to believe him over plebgate is because he had betrayed Conservative principles by adopting Labour policies, spreading benefit dependency and corruption around the world whilst posing as ‘compassionate’. What goes around comes around and he deserved everything he got.

  • MikeBrighton

    Dear Andrew Mitchell, look at the Mercedes Benz .com website. Do you think that the Merc dealership in Kigali, Rwanda for example (one of DIFIDs 16 African countries receiving the majority of bilateral funding) has it’s cars purchased by anyone from other than 3 groups.
    1) NGO staff having stolen aid money
    2) Locals having stolen aid money
    3) Criminals (see 1 & 2 above)

    If you believe otherwise then you sir are an idiot.

  • Bellevue

    I cant help but feel that we would be wasting our time trying to convince him that he is wasting OUR money.
    Perhaps, if he were to put HIS money where his mouth is, he might have an epiphany. So come on, Mr Mitchell, how much of your own money (from the taxpayer) are you prepared to give to Rwanda or India? This is a serious question and I expect an answer.

  • Andy

    There are so many thousands of examples. Go and waste half an hour reading through some annual reports on DFID’s website. It shows how self-absorbed and meaningless most of these projects are. The language is so thick with jargon it is virtually impossible to understand any of it.

    I looked at the ‘Strengthening Transparency Accountability & Responsiveness in Ghana (STAR)’ project, picked from the blue. A quick scan of the annual report reveals that it costs 27% of its entire budget merely to administer itself, that it may make things worse, that may all be poor value anyway. That one example costs £12mn of our money.

  • Noa

    The Lord helps those who help themselves.

    And he has a proud tradition of doing so. From 13p for Tippex to £19,000 for household maintenance at his east midlands home.

    And he has been selfless in his helpfulness to others as well. £16 million in aid to his old chum President Kagame of Rwanda may be a bagatelle to you and me, but its serious change for a man who needs to fund his expansion into the Congo.

    And foreign aid projects have been scrutinised as benignly as a Starbucks tax return.

    Yes, its fair to say that, one and all, as taxpayers we have all helped Andrew in our respective ways. Though he has helped himself best of all.

    • telemachus

      You distort deliberately Mitchell’s motives
      The one good thing he did was promote our influence in the third world thru the medium of our generous aid
      This brings the brightest and best back to our shores to stoke the economy

      • Noa

        A telemucus gram – the ultimate scowly face badge of cadre endorsement!

        If the purpose of international development aid is to help ‘the brightest and best’ develop their own countries why then do they use it to decamp to the UK at the first opportunity.

  • kyalami

    My local MP justified this to me on the basis that it helps keep Britain’s influence in the world and minimise the influence of unfriendly nations and groups. As we see so well in Afghanistan and Iraq, to name just two.

    Halve the budget now.

    • CharlieleChump

      cut it completely

  • MirthaTidville

    OK how about the largesse he poured into a dictators pocket the day before he left the aforementioned department. That should do for starters

  • Rhoda Klapp

    A man convinced against his will is of the same opinion still. Nothing you could say would make any difference And that pretty much applies to everybody, all the time.

    • Noa

      Depressingly true.

  • Archimedes

    Seems a little bit silly to be trying to have a rational discussion about something that is plainly irrational. It’s a branding exercise, so the purpose of any debate must be to make the substance of the aid target so toxic that the most delectable of modernisers would have to acknowledge that it’s pursuit would be a problem. Then you can have a rational discussion to provide these fruitcakes with a plausible exit strategy.

  • the viceroy’s gin

    Can I help Andrew Mitchell?


    First, for Ghia’s sake, get rid of that awful pink tie. It’s the surest sign of an unserious panderer.

    And that haircut. Awful. Simply awful. And the eyeglasses are its awful complement.

    Try some shoulder padding, as you’re a soft metrosexual dweeb, no matter all the biking. It might give you a bit of bearing of which your unserious demeanor is void.

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