The amount of taxpayers’ money being spent on emergency humanitarian assistance trebled between 2010-11 and 2014-15 to more than £1 billion, and the aid budget risks being strained by being drawn into protracted crises, a watchdog warned.
The National Audit Office (NAO) found that since 2011 the Department for International Development (Dfid) responded to more than 30 crises, including the Ebola outbreak and the aid response to the Syrian war, spending £1.29 million of its £9.52m budget on humanitarian assistance in 2014-15.
The spending watchdog raised concerns about the department’s ability to decide how to end funding after a crisis.
It “does not have a comprehensive set of criteria which underpin whether, and then when and how, to exit from crises”.
The report said: “Of the 32 crises that the department has responded to since 2011, it has designed programmes to support continuing involvement in 21.
“On an individual basis the department’s teams have plans for moving from a crisis response on to the next phase of its interventions. But the department does not have a view of how its involvement across all of its crises might impact on the availability of funding for other purposes.”
NAO chief Sir Amyas Morse said: “The Department for International Development is choosing to take action in an increasing number of crises in complex and dynamic environments, and is spending over £1bn a year in doing so.
“Interventions of this type can last for several years and our international experience suggests that it is ‘easier to get in than get out’. It follows that this type of crisis action is likely to represent an increasing proportion of DfID’s budget, assuming that interventions continue to be initiated at the same rate as they have been.”
The report said that while the department has “forged good working relationships with other government departments” the relief effort in Nepal involved spending £3m on deploying military helicopters which were never allowed into Nepal, with the cost falling on the DfID budget.
The government was unable to get the necessary clearances for the three Chinooks to land in the earthquake-stricken Himalayan country and they were diverted to India and played no part in relief efforts.