UK development consultants are protesting to get MORE aid money

UK development consultants are protesting to get MORE aid money


By: Aisha Dodwell
Date: 1 April 2016
Campaigns: Aid

img_0312_-_copyDevelopment consultants already get a pretty big chunk of the UK’s aid budget, so it was surprising to see them in Westminster protesting that they weren’t being paid enough. Members of the Association of UK Aid Consultants (AUKAC) were urging the department for international development (DfID) to spend even more of its aid budget through private consultancy companies instead of spending directly in the global south – as one banner brazenly put it “if you want to help the poor, then pay us more”.

In their press release, the chair of the association Hugh Janus said “Alleviating poverty is an incredibly difficult challenge, and if DfID is serious about it they need to pay market rates to make sure they have people with the right level of experience and expertise to do the job.”

Today is the 15th anniversary of the government formally ‘untying’ aid from UK commercial interests, so the timing of the protest is particularly distasteful.  The truth is that the lion’s share of DfID contracts are still won by a small group of UK contractors, and it remains rare for DfID to work through contractors from the global south.

Speaking on the Today programme this morning, Hugh Janus argued that the amount of money going to consultants was justified as, “civil society in the developing world lack the necessary insight into development practice to manage and implement projects that are in their best interests.”

Global Justice Now has been a long-standing critic of how aid money seems to increasingly go to UK-based consultants rather than directly to the countries that the aid money is supposed to be helping.  We recently published a report exposing how one consultancy company, Adam Smith International (ASI), receives an ever-increasing share of the UK aid budget. In 2014 alone, DfID spent £90million through the company, who witnessed a whopping £14million profit that same year, proving what a lucrative business international aid has become for some UK companies.

While it’s not clear if this morning’s protest will result in more money going to the consultants represented by AUKAC, it’s clear that the government is committed to seeing aid spending as an opportunity to create “new trade and investment opportunities for UK companies”. The money will, sadly, keep going their way.

UPDATE: So this protest was an April Fool’s joke. But sadly the fact that DfID is paying hundreds of millions of pounds to consultancies like Adam Smith International isn’t. Read more about it in our new report.