Taxpayer-funded humanitarian aid worth £480,000 was captured by al-Qaida-linked militants as they rampaged through southern Somalia.
The supplies were in warehouses seized by al-Shabaab and they were later believed to have been set ablaze, the Department for International Development (DfID) said.
Details of the incidents appeared in DfID’s annual accounts which stated that there was no prior warning of the attacks and its partner organisations in Somalia were unable to move the supplies.
The accounts said the £480,000 was written off “following the theft between November 2011 and February 2012, by al-Shabaab in southern Somalia, of DfID funded humanitarian materials and supplies from the offices and warehouses of partner organisations, to which DfID had provided funding to deliver projects and programmes”.
It continued: “DfID’s partners had no prior warning of the confiscations being carried out and therefore had no time to prevent the loss by relocating goods.
“DfID continues to work with its partner organisations to ensure that risks like this are identified and that the organisations take appropriate action. This can include putting effective controls in place, where possible, to mitigate and/or eliminate such risks which reduce the effectiveness of our aid.
“While the theft suffered represented a stores loss, the property was not stolen from DfID stores. DfID funding was provided to purchase goods but no benefit was received by the end recipient due to the theft.”
A spokesman for the department said: “DfID works in some of the most dangerous places in the world, including Somalia, because tackling the root causes of poverty and instability there ensures a safer world and a safer UK.
“Working in conflict-affected and fragile states carries inherent risk. DfID does all it can to mitigate against this but, on occasion, losses will occur.
“We work with our partners to design programmes that protect our investment from misuse or theft.”
Shadow International Development Secretary Ivan Lewis said: “Today’s revelations about UK aid raise fundamental questions about this Tory-led Government’s competence.
“After three years Justine Greening has serious questions to answer about DfID’s performance under Tory leadership.
“We support their decision to spend less than one penny in every pound of UK spending on helping to eliminate poverty in the world. It is morally the right thing to do and in our national long-term national interest. But they have a duty to ensure taxpayers’ money is being used appropriately and effectively.
“Providing aid in conflict countries is very challenging but proper safeguards have to be in place to ensure our aid does not end up in the hands of terrorist organisations like al-Shabaab. We want assurances that lessons have been learned and systems changed accordingly.
“The central Tory claim before the election was they would improve the results achieved from aid spending yet the evidence now shows the performance of our aid programmes has deteriorated on their watch.”
Meanwhile, a suspected US drone strike killed two alleged al-Qaida militants in southern Yemen over the weekend, military officials said, making it the ninth such strike in just two weeks.
The strike in Lahj province wounded two other militants, one of them seriously, the officials said. The four had been travelling in a car in the area of el-Askariya.
In total, there have been nine suspected US drone strikes in Yemen since July 27, killing a total of 38 suspected militants in the country.