DFID and paying for the police: an appropriate use of aid? Part I

In February 2011, the Department for International Development (DFID) came under attack for using money intended for international development to contribute to the costs of Pope Benedict XVI’s visit to the UK the previous year. Defending the indefensible, DFID argued its contribution of £1.8 million, was in recognition of “the Catholic church’s role as a major provider of health and education services in developing countries”. Few were convinced.

Exactly what constitutes a ‘proper’ funding priority for DFID is, of course, much debated and disagreed over. Is the approximately £250 million spent annually on consultants in rich industrialised countries acceptable? What about linking development spending to broader security objectives, as in Afghanistan and Iraq? Whilst DFID’s funding of security for the Pope’s visit might be a particularly egregious example of a mismatch between DFID objectives and actual spending, there are other areas where the rationale for a particular programme or project is at best questionable.

Starting in 2006, DFID has been financially supporting police officers, support staff and other officials in the Metropolitan Police Service (MPS), City of London Police, and the Crown Prosecution Service. DFID is currently paying the salaries of 26 people in these public organisations, something that would normally be considered the province of the Home Office and Justice Department in terms of funding.

The International Corruption Group programme (2006-09) and the subsequent Enhancing International Action Against Corruption (EIAAC) programme (2009-14), run by DFID’s Governance and Social Development group, support the investigation of instances of bribery conducted overseas by British companies and nationals, money laundering, and the recovery of stolen assets in the UK.

Is this a problem? Is this another example of international development funding being diverted to programmes that might be better funded through other streams? Corruption is an international development issue: the stealing of public funds (whether derived from aid or not); corrupt business practices and procurement processes that increases costs and undermines quality; the hollowing out of the state as public resources are treated as private property by grasping greedy officials. But surely paying the salary of British police and officials in the British Crown Prosecution Services is the remit of domestic ministries, not a department whose objective is to focus on eliminating poverty, its causes and symptoms, and spending more directly on those who are the poorest and most vulnerable (see UK Aid: Changing Lives, Delivering Results, for example).

More on the Enhancing International Action Against Corruption programme in the next blog.


About Mike Jennings

I am Reader in International Development and Head of the Department of Development Studies at the SOAS, University of London. I research, teach and write on Africa, and the history and politics of international development in sub-Saharan Africa. Research areas include: - The history of development in Africa, from the late nineteenth century to the current day - Politics of East Africa (Kenya, Tanzania and Uganda) - the role of non-state providers (NGOs, FBOs and self-help groups) in welfare service provision - Social aspects of health, including HIV and AIDS, and malaria
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