Min­is­ter blasts poverty barons who skimmed millions from aid bud­get... as MPs vin­di­cate MoS cam­paign

The Scottish Mail on Sunday - - News - By Glen Owen PO­LIT­I­CAL COR­RE­SPON­DENT

A PROF­I­TEER­ING fat-cat for­eign aid con­trac­tor ex­posed by The Mail on Sun­day was last night con­demned as ‘ap­palling’ by the In­ter­na­tional Devel­op­ment Sec­re­tary – af­ter a pow­er­ful com­mit­tee of MPs vin­di­cated this news­pa­per’s in­ves­ti­ga­tion.

Priti Pa­tel warned Adam Smith In­ter­na­tional (ASI) that its £300mil­lion of Gov­ern­ment con­tracts would be axed un­less it ad­dressed its ‘sys­temic cul­tural fail­ure’.

Ms Pa­tel also said her De­part­ment for In­ter­na­tional Devel­op­ment (DFID) had ‘hard lessons’ to learn over the ap­par­ent com­plic­ity between it and ‘poverty barons’ who skim millions off the UK’s an­nual £12­bil­lion for­eign aid bud­get.

MPs on the In­ter­na­tional Devel­op­ment Com­mit­tee (IDC) set up its probe into the bil­lions spent by DFID on con­trac­tors in re­sponse to a se­ries of rev­e­la­tions by this news­pa­per about wasted funds.

We also re­vealed how Peter Young, ASI’s head of strat­egy, had en­cour­aged glow­ing tes­ti­mo­ni­als about its work to be sent to the IDC in­ves­ti­ga­tion by re­cip­i­ents of UK for­eign aid, in an at­tempt to blunt crit­i­cism.

Com­mit­tee of­fi­cials who had sifted through sus­pi­ciously sim­i­lar sub­mis­sions launched a sep­a­rate in­quiry into the tes­ti­mo­ni­als.

They con­cluded that ASI ‘acted im­prop­erly’ by so­lic­it­ing them and ‘ap­ply­ing pres­sure to ben­e­fi­cia­ries to sub­mit ev­i­dence with im­plied or ex­plicit ref­er­ences to con­tin­u­a­tion of fund­ing’.

In its re­port, pub­lished to­day, the com­mit­tee said it ‘de­plored’ the at­tempt to ‘un­duly in­flu­ence’ its work, and were ‘very con­cerned by the se­ri­ous lack of judg­ment’ dis­played by ASI – the UK’s big­gest spe­cial­ist aid con­trac­tor.

MPs also raised ques­tions about DFID’s role in the process, af­ter learn­ing about a phone call between a de­part­ment of­fi­cial and ASI, which the lat­ter in­ter­preted as a ‘re­quest’ to drum up en­dorse­ments.

We also re­vealed how ex­ec­u­tives at Adam Smith ob­tained se­cret DFID doc­u­ments and used them to win new Gov­ern­ment busi­ness.

Ms Pa­tel was fu­ri­ous that ASI had made use of the im­prop­erly ob­tained, sen­si­tive doc­u­ments.

A source close to Ms Pa­tel said: ‘Priti thinks it is ap­palling. She re­gards ASI’s con­duct as indicative of sys­temic and cul­tural fail­ings, which have left a clear ques­tion over its eth­i­cal in­tegrity. No new con­tracts will be awarded un­less ASI can demon­strate that it has reme­died this very se­ri­ous is­sue.’

Damn­ingly, the source added that Ms Pa­tel was ‘deeply scep­ti­cal’ of the cul­ture in her own de­part­ment – as high­lighted by the of­fi­cial’s call to ASI – say­ing: ‘DFID has some hard lessons to learn.’

Last night Labour MP Stephen Twigg, the IDC chair­man, said: ‘Our re­port con­cludes that the aid con­trac­tor [ASI] acted im­prop­erly. This is a re­flec­tion of the cul­ture within one or­gan­i­sa­tion re­spon­si­ble for de­liv­er­ing aid projects for the UK. The wider is­sues this raises will be con­sid­ered in the com­mit­tee’s in­quiry into DFID’s use of con­trac­tors. We are grate­ful to The Mail on Sun­day for in­ves­ti­gat­ing this is­sue.’

ASI said: ‘We asked for tes­ti­mo­ni­als from ben­e­fi­cia­ries in good faith… Our own in­ves­ti­ga­tion con­curs with the com­mit­tee’s find­ings that the way we did so over­stepped the mark, which we sin­cerely re­gret. To en­sure his does not hap­pen again we have taken rig­or­ous steps to tighten pro­ce­dures.’

CRIT­I­CISM: Priti Pa­tel. Far left: Our re­port ex­pos­ing the scan­dal

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