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Department for International Development Tsunami: Provision of Financial Support for Humanitarian Assistance

The reaction of the Department for International Development to the Indian Ocean Tsunami was both rapid and impressive Sir John Bourn, head of the National Audit Office, reported to Parliament today. The first of many cargoes of relief supplies was airlifted to the affected area within 24 hours. However DFID need to strengthen their financial monitoring to establish how much of the £50 million paid in grants to other organisations actually reached the victims of the disaster, and how much remains in bank accounts waiting to be spent.

In January 2005 the Prime Minister pledged £75 million in immediate humanitarian aid to the victims of the tsunami in addition to the existing development programmes. In the months that followed, the extent of the generosity of governments and the world community became clear – sufficient resources had been made available to the victims to meet their immediate and short-term relief requirements. There was therefore no need for DFID to spend all the resources they had pledged. In the event, £64.1 million was spent, £7.5 million has been reallocated to DFID’s disaster risk reduction programme, with the remaining £3.9 million in reserve for unexpected costs.

The NAO was able to confirm that the £64.1 million spent on tsunami-related projects represented additional resources and was not a substitute for development assistance already earmarked in existing country assistance plans.

Of the £64.1 million spent, grants totalling over £50 million were paid to third parties, such as United Nations agencies and Non-Governmental Organisations (NGOs). Monitoring undertaken by DFID showed that delays were occurring in implementing some projects and this meant that unspent grants were being held by the grant recipients. DFID is now following up these unspent balances looking at plans for how they might be used and requesting refunds where appropriate.

One year on from the disaster the emphasis has now shifted to meeting the rehabilitation and reconstruction needs of the victims.  DFID are actively engaged in this programme and have allocated £65 million of new funding to meet these needs.

"The speed of DFID’s response after the tsunami was impressive and demonstrates the importance of planning for disasters. The scaling back of expenditure against the £75 million of immediate humanitarian assistance promised was justified, given the generosity of other governments and people from around the world. But it remains important to keep control over the £50 million paid in grants to other organisations and to know how it is spent.”

Sir John Bourn

Notes for Editors

  1. This review by the NAO focuses on how the Department for International Development (DfID) met the pledge of providing £75 million of immediate humanitarian assistance to the victims of the tsunami. It does not examine the value for money achieved from those grants, nor does it examine how the £300 million donated by the UK public to the Disasters Emergency Committee (DEC) appeal has been spent. The NAO published on 24 November 2005 its report on how the Government provided support to British Nationals who were directly affected by the disaster. In addition, the NAO will be publishing a separate report focusing on the experiences of individuals affected by the Tsunami. It has commissioned the Zito Trust to undertake a survey of British Nationals affected by the Tsunami, to inform the report.
  2. Press notices and reports are available from the date of publication on the NAO website at Hard copies can be obtained from The Stationery Office on 0845 702 3474.
  3. The Comptroller and Auditor General, Sir John Bourn, is head of the National Audit Office, employing some 800 staff. He and the NAO are totally independent of Government. He certifies the accounts of all government departments and a wide range of other public sector bodies; and he has statutory authority to report to Parliament on the economy, efficiency and effectiveness with which departments and other bodies have used their resources.

PN: 15/06