Quangowatch: A guide to those unelected quasi-autonomous non-governmental organisations that run our lives - No 2: Overseas Projects Board

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What does it do? Helps the Government to formulate export policy. Helps co-ordinate joint British bids for projects in the third world by providing 'expert advice' to the Department of Trade and Industry on how the UK can 'compete effectively for major projects overseas'.

How much does it cost? About pounds 1,000 a year. Mainly travel expenses.

Who is on it? Sixteen representatives of major British companies and an academic.

Who appoints them? Michael Heseltine, President of the Board of Trade, who described the members of the board as 'national champions' who promote British export overseas.

How many are elected? None.

How many Tories? Five of the companies represented on the Board have given money to the Conservative Party

recently, according to Labour research. Kleinwort Benson ( pounds 40,000 in 1992); Biwater ( pounds 25,000 in 1992); George Wimpey ( pounds 20,000 in 1991); Rolls-Royce ( pounds 60,000 in 1992) and GEC ( pounds 50,000 in 1992).

Why is it in the news? The Independent on Sunday revealed that five companies with close links to the Government and Conservative Party had picked up almost half of the pounds 1.4bn industrial overseas-aid programme since 1978. Three - Amec, Biwater and GEC - are on the board. GEC received pounds 17m from the aid budget for a power station in India; Biwater received pounds 62m for a water-supply project in Malaysia.

How accountable is it? Meetings are not open to press or public, but MPs can question Mr Heseltine and his ministers about its actions. Labour claimed last week that tens of millions of pounds of taxpayers' money had been spent on foreign-aid projects which the National Audit Office and overseas pressure groups regarded as unviable or poor value for money.

Is there a quango you would like to know more about? Write to us at Quangowatch, Independent on Sunday, 40 City Road, London EC1Y 2DB.

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