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British MPs criticise UK aid to Pakistan, PM May defends programme: media reports

British parliamentarians flayed the United Kingdom government for spending its taxpayers’ money on aid for Pakistan, London’s Daily Mail reported on Tuesday.

UK Prime Minister Theresa May, however, defended both the programme and the foreign aid budget.

As much as £300 million of the UK aid budget is being spent to fund the Benazir Income Support Programme (BISP) in Pakistan, a scheme that has been “dogged by claims of corruption”, the news website stated.

UK’s support to BISP helped over 235,000 families across the country in 2012, which could increase to 441,000 families by 2020, The Daily Mail further reported.

The revelations prompted conservatives who demanded the British government to cancel its “commitment to spend 0.7 per cent of UK’s national income on foreign aid”.

According to The Daily Mail, Nigel Evans, the conservative Tory Party MP who sits on the Commons’ International Development Committee, demanded an investigation into the cash handouts.

The website quoted Evans as saying: “Normally this sort of aid is only given in a crisis or emergency when it is the only way to give help.

“It only should be a temporary measure, but it seems like we’re exporting the dole to Pakistan, which is clearly not a clever idea.”

He said the cash transfers were “clearly open to fraud”, calling on the International Development Secretary Priti Patel to urgently examine the process “to ensure that there is proper accounting for how this money is being delivered”.
Theresa May defends funding BISP

Theresa May, however, strongly defended both the programme and the foreign aid budget, The Independent reported Tuesday.

May said British taxpayer-funded foreign aid to Pakistan’s income support programme will continue because it helps “those who need it most”, the online newspaper quoted the UK prime minister as saying.

It further added that Downing Street “refused to order a review” after Evans and The Daily Mail bashed the programme, hinting at the “fierce attacks” from conservatives to reduce domestic spending cuts.

A spokeswoman for the PM told a Westminster briefing on Tuesday that there were “robust systems in place” to protect UK’s “aid investments” and ensure the funds for BISP are not “exploited for fraud and corruption”.

“One of the things that is being introduced at the moment is making sure there are more bio-metric payment systems to make it one of the most secure programmes in the world,” the spokeswoman said.

The Independent reported that government officials believe offering cash directly to the programme’s beneficiaries removes the middlemen from the process, thereby “reducing the risk of fraud”, adding that only the recipients can best prioritise their needs such as food, rent, education or medicine and spend the money accordingly.

May’s spokeswoman said, “In the last four years cash transfers supported by UK aid have helped almost nine million of the world’s poorest people to buy food, medicine, and clean water.”

“These are cash transfers that are focused on making sure that aid is targeted at those who need it, when they need it,” she said.

“The effectiveness of such transfer schemes has been recognised by the Public Accounts Committee and the National Audit Office who have spoken about the clear, immediate benefits of this system.

“We would only pursue such an option where we were clear that results had already been achieved and verified. So, for example in the case of Pakistan, the programme there, we are providing a small contribution to a much bigger programme run by the government of Pakistan, where there are already proven results,” she maintained.

Further reiterating UK’s support for the aid budget and rejecting criticism, May’s spokeswoman said, “The prime minister has made it clear that our aid budget is an investment in our security and national interest, and that it is right to honour the commitments that we have made.”

courtesy : dawn news

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