This afternoon the Secretary of State for International Development Priti Patel addressed the Conservative Party Conference in Manchester.
Central to her message were the steps the department is taking to ensure value for money and a tougher approach to supplier management.
The size of the UK’s Overseas Development Assistance (ODA) budget, which is set at 0.7% of GNI has long been the subject of ire in the right-wing press and among a not inconsiderable number of Conservative party politicians.
Patel’s initial attempts to lay to rest the criticisms of bloated and wasteful expenditures following her appointment last year failed to get off the starting block when concerns regarding the close relationships between DfID and some of its larger contractors were thrust into the media spotlight when leaked documents were allegedly circulated at contractor Adam Smith International.
Since then the Department has seen a number of internal changes, with permanent secretary of seven years Mark Lowcock leaving to take up a UN position and various internal reviews.
At party conference today Patel announced the conclusion of the department’s supplier relationship management review and the implementation of a new code of conduct for suppliers to include legal sanctions should companies be found to break the rules. A supplier league table focused on value for money was also announced and the Secretary of State placed a big emphasis on DfID’s efforts to open up procurement opportunities for smaller British firms.
The Minister’s comments follow various warnings in recent weeks regarding the status of UK aid funding of UN programmes. At the UN General Assembly last month Patel warned that unless the UK sees reform with a focus on measurable result then it will hold back funding for UN programmes.