True transparency requires more than patchy numbers

After analysing over 72,000 transactions by the Department for International Development (DfID), The Times has got some interesting details about Britain’s aid spending.

Every transaction from April 2011 to April of this year was downloaded and analysed by the specialists. Altogether, DfID had spent about £3.4 billion on 300 companies specialized in consulting, as well as other 270 firms that are connected to consulting, technical, and advisory fields.

The transactions are being published by DfID in a standard form since 2011, after it became the first institution to provide public with the information according to the International Aid Transparency Initiative.

The trouble is that some information is difficult to analyse, like the comparison of the payments to the institutions in Britain and overseas. It’s also difficult to learn what amount of money goes to non-profit organizations and educational establishments comparing to the consultancy services.

Our database, which is available on the Times website and tablet editions, classifies more than 1,000 recipients by where they are based and by type: universities, consultancies, non-profits and government bodies. This allows for the recipients of aid to be examined as never before.

However, our work only covers five years of data. If Dfid is really committed to transparency, it needs to provide more detail on the recipients of foreign aid spending in future.