International Development Secretary Priti Patel has defended handing £5m to a five-member Ethiopian pop group, but hinted the decision could be reviewed.
She told a committee that the money, to be spent on a talk show for the group, was just “one component of a wider matrix” of foreign aid investment.
The new funding, reported by the Daily Mail on Monday, adds to a £4m UK investment in the group, uncovered in 2013, which sparked strong criticism from the Independent Commission on Aid Impact watchdog at the time.
Patel told the International Development Committee: “You can’t vacate the pitch when it comes to supporting women in some very, very substantial issues relating to their well-being, their rights, all the things that matter and should matter when it comes to living in a civilised society”.
“If I may say so, I think the British government and DfID leads the world quite frankly in a lot of the work we do around women and girls.”
But during the hearing Patel also hinted the programme could come under review in future, saying there are “many, many other ways” to get its work done.
“I think specifically when it comes to this programme, this specific programme, there are clearly many, many other ways in my view in which one can make sure we are making those advancements”, she said.
“UK aid in Ethiopia is, quite frankly, combatting forced child marriage, violence, teen pregnancies, all those really, really big substantial issues and we are doing a range of work there.
“That is just one programme, one project and I think it’s fair to say I keep all programmes under review.
“It is actually doing substantial work when it comes to combatting the issues that I’ve highlighted.
“But, at the same time, as I’ve said, all programmes are under review, and my objective is to make sure that the money to programmes in country goes to the world’s poorest but also delivering UK taxpayers’ value for money as well.”
The Government was criticised on Monday after it was reported the UK is “dumping” billions of Aid money into obscure World Bank trust funds.
The UK has committed to spending 0.7 per cent of Gross Domestic Product on overseas aid.