MPs have demanded to know why £1.85 million of foreign aid funding was spent on the Pope’s recent visit to the UK.
An influential Commons committee called on ministers to explain how diverting development cash to subsidise the trip, which included a visit to Birmingham, met global aid rules.
The “somewhat surprising” transfer to the Foreign Office (FCO) was queried following a detailed investigation of the annual accounts of the Department for International Development.
Initial figures published in November put the cost to Whitehall departments of the four-day state visit in November at £10 million.
Malcolm Bruce, who chairs the international development select committee, said voters would struggle to understand why DfID money was involved.
“Many people will be as surprised as we were to discover that UK aid money was used to fund the Pope’s visit last year,” he said.
“Ministers need to explain exactly what this was spent on and how it tallies with our commitments on overseas aid.”
The committee also warned that the higher priority being given in aid spending to war-zones and other fragile states would make it harder to be sure taxpayers’ cash was being well spent.
Aid spending is under closer scrutiny than ever after the Government protected it from swingeing spending cuts elsewhere.
The committee welcomed the concentration on fragile states - which are generally the most poverty-stricken, but cautioned that it would lead to “severe difficulties in ensuring every pound is well spent in war-torn environments with corrupt and incompetent governments”.
Well-run countries where the money might prove more effective were also bound to lose out, it said.
The committee also warned against being over-zealous in cutting administrative costs.
“The savings set out in the spending review should make it one of the most efficient development organisations in the world - with fewer back office and more frontline staff - provided they do not undermine DfID’s ability to do its work effectively,” Mr Bruce said.
Thousands of worshippers visited Cofton Park in Birmingham last September where the Pope held an open-air mass to beatify Cardinal Newman.