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UK failed to keep tabs on tsunami aid - Watchdog

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LONDON, Mar 1 (Reuters) Britain failed to keep adequate tabs on more than 50 million pounds (87.35 million dollars) sent to alleviate the affects of the Asian tsunami, the country's spending watchdog reported today.

Following the December 26, 2004 disaster, which killed about 275,000 people, Britain initially allocated 75 million pounds -- later reduced to 64.1 million pounds -- of which more than 50 million was set aside as grants to be paid to third parties.

But a report by the National Audit Office said some projects handled by these third parties, such as United Nations agencies and charities, were delayed. The result was that unspent grant money was held by the grant recipients.

''It remains important to keep control over the 50 million pounds paid in grants to other organisations and to know how it is spent,'' John Bourn, the head of the NAO said.

However, while accountability was too lax over the spending of the grant money, the NAO did praise the speed of Britain's official response.

''The speed of DfID's (Department for International Development) response after the tsunami was impressive, and demonstrates the importance of planning for disasters,'' Bourn said.

Edward Leigh, chairman of parliament's all-party Public Accounts Committee said he also welcomed the rapid response, but he was concerned about the lack of follow-through.

''One year on from the disaster, (DfID officials) don't know where that money went. They don't know if it was used where it was needed or if it's just sitting idly in a bank account,'' he said.

''That is not good enough''.

Reuters PV BS1433

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