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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.

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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


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