UK foreign aid

Britain is paying professional aid staff up to £1,000 a day to work in developing countries as part of a spending "frenzy" to meet a government target, a new report suggestst.

Spending on consultants has doubled in the past four years to £1.4bn with the bill for outside help now eating up more than 10 per cent of the aid budget. The figures prompted anger among MPs, who described the practice as a "grotesque waste".

"When people think of overseas aid they think of people who have had their homes damaged by an earthquake, a hurricane or a tsunami — they don't expect to be lining the pockets of consultant fat cats, " Philip Davies, the Tory candidate for Shipley, told The Times newspaper. "This is what happens when you are judged only by how much you are spending. How you actually spend the money becomes immaterial. It leads to grotesque waste and overspending."

All three main parties support Britain's legal commitment to devote 0.7% of GDP to overseas aid. It has meant the budget soaring to £12bn in two years, and led to a rush to spend all the money.

Ukip and some Tory backbenchers, however, hav demanded that foreign aid be cut or stopped and the funds be used at home.

An investigation by The Times found that hundreds of "team leaders" on aid projects earn at least £120,000 a year when accommodation, security, travel and expenses in poor countries are taken into account. Part-time daily rates of £800 to £1,000 are common.

'Jolly lucrative business'

International Development (Dfid) relies on outside companies because it had too few staff.

"It's a jolly lucrative business, believe me," said another former overseas aid official who is now a consultant. "Two areas did well out of the recession — development aid and pawnbrokers — both of whom are supposed to help the poor." he added.

"DfID's obese budget means it has to get the money out of the door as quickly as possible and the easiest way to achieve this is to have a few large programmes managed by a few suppliers. All of these features are going to contribute to a feeding frenzy among the consulting companies."