By Lee Mannion
LONDON, Nov 8 (Thomson Reuters Foundation) - Britain is awarding ever more aid contracts to British firms ahead of suppliers based in developing countries, a watchdog said on Wednesday, despite pledges to favour local companies.
More than nine in 10 contracts awarded by the country's foreign aid department in 2016-17 went to suppliers registered in Britain, up from about three-quarters four years ago, according to the Independent Commission for Aid Impact (ICAI).
Only 3 percent of the 1.4 billion pounds spent by Britain's Department For International Development (DFID) on suppliers helping carry out global projects last year went to those in developing countries, falling far short of a U.N.-agreed target.
Britain was one of 20 donor countries that agreed at the World Humanitarian Summit in Istanbul to commit a quarter of aid funding directly to local and national organisations by 2020.
"This report clearly shows that the UK has some way to go in meeting this UN target," Melanie Kramers of Oxfam told the Thomson Reuters Foundation.
Kramers said it was crucial that government work with local partners, as they have greater insight on the ground, and hoped the watchdog's finding would increase pressure for change.
"We hope that the additional scrutiny will help to shift the balance," she said by email.
Suppliers - which include corporate accountancy firms, civil society groups and charities - help deliver aid programmes, from health projects to road building and the supply of power.
Britain is one of a small group of donors that award more than 90 percent of contracts to suppliers from its own country, said the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development.
The average is 39 percent among OECD members.
The International Development Committee (IDC), a parliamentary committee, said it was concerned about the "tiny proportion" of contracts won by suppliers in developing countries.
The IDC in April challenged DFID to explain how it would help more contractors from developing countries bid for work.
Britain in 2015 committed by law to spend 0.7 percent of gross national income on aid every year, and became the first G7 country to meet this United Nations target. It spends about 11 billion pounds ($14.6 billion) on foreign aid each year.
(Reporting by Lee Mannion @leemannion; editing by Lyndsay Griffiths. Please credit the Thomson Reuters Foundation, the charitable arm of Thomson Reuters, that covers humanitarian news, women's rights, trafficking, property rights, climate change and resilience. Visit http://news.trust.org)
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