Adam Smith International director Peter Young has defended applying for the two-year contract, which involves creating a comms strategy for the Sierra Leone government on the privatisation and restructuring of services, including water supply.
The DfID has shortlisted eight companies for the brief which includes developing a comms strategy for the privatisation programme, a public awareness campaign, briefings for government institutions and ministers, and briefings for 'enterprise directors and management'.
In addition to Adam Smith International - closely associated with right-of-centre think-tank the Adam Smith Institute - the companies short-listed include PricewaterhouseCoopers, The PA Consulting Group, PKF UK, Maxwell Stamp, HTFP and Jasper Capital.
Development campaigners last week publicly blasted the DfID for spending UK aid money on the promotion of privatisation in Sierra Leone, the world's poorest country, according to a UN report published last year.
The World Development Movement (WDM) also criticised DfID's support of a privatisation programme and voiced concerns about the government's ability to attract appropriate investors and the previous collapse of similar schemes elsewhere. However, Young questioned WDM's attack on the DfID.
'It is puzzling that anyone wants to make a fuss,' he said. 'The DfID has been supporting developing countries' efforts to privatise state-owned organisations for decades.'