When aid officials agreed a £17.7 million grant to a London-based think tank in 2012, its fees appeared more suited to a global investment bank than to a non-profit organisation receiving taxpayer funds.
The International Institute for Environment and Development (IIED), a registered charity focusing on climate change research, promised to provide the British government with advice for four years on areas including promoting “green growth” and “low carbon development”.
It quoted £10,319 to write a single blog post, £10,283 to host a webcast, £26,530 to put on a conference and £26,223 to write a policy brief, government documents seen by The Times show.
While aid officials noted that the institute’s costs were high, they calculated that “global aid efficiency” would have to rise by only 0.0062 per cent for the project to break even.
On this pseudo-scientific basis, the Department for International Development (Dfid) concluded that the grant represented value for money and approved the funds.
A later annual review showed that Dfid managed to negotiate the average blog post cost down to £4,765. A spokesman for the think tank said that the original quotes were “preliminary” and that costs were subsequently re- appraised and reduced.
He said that 146 separate blog posts had been written for Dfid and that the cost included research and analysis. The IIED, however, is far from the only institution to benefit from overseas aid. […]
Last night a Dfid spokeswoman said that the department would no longer enter into broad contracts with think tanks to provide advice over a number of years and would “move towards new competitive funding processes which will drive down costs”.