Be­hind the fine words, cor­rup­tion fes­ters

The Scottish Mail on Sunday - - News - By IAN BIRRELL MoS MAN WHO EX­POSED SCAN­DAL

SO NOW it is of­fi­cial: Adam Smith In­ter­na­tional, Bri­tain’s big­gest spe­cial­ist aid con­trac­tor, en­gaged in dirty tricks to dupe MPs in­ves­ti­gat­ing the cream­ing off of cash in the aid sec­tor.

The firm is still be­ing in­ves­ti­gated for ob­tain­ing se­cret Govern­ment doc­u­ments to gain ad­van­tage in com­mer­cial bids.

It de­serves to be barred from bid­ding for fu­ture con­tracts. But it should not get all the blame. For this dodgy firm is merely symp­to­matic of wider cor­rup­tion that fes­ters be­hind all those fine words of the poverty in­dus­try.

The dev­as­tat­ing find­ings by the In­ter­na­tional De­vel­op­ment Com­mit­tee – not known for bar­ing its teeth at the aid sec­tor – un­der­score in stark­est terms the prob­lems of daft ad­her­ence to a de­val­ued aid tar­get.

Over the course of this decade, the sums doled out to de­vel­op­ing na­tions will dou­ble to £16bil­lion while ser­vices at home strug­gle. This is, re­mem­ber, bor­rowed money. Lit­tle won­der one Labour peer said the de­ci­sion to com­mit to an out­dated UN tar­get of do­nat­ing 0.7 per cent of na­tional in­come was so foolish it could have been in­vented by en­e­mies of aid.

Pri­vate firms, some of them tax dodgers, clus­ter around the rivers of cash flow­ing from the Depart­ment for In­ter­na­tional De­vel­op­ment. Char­i­ties mimic them, pay­ing chiefs six-fig­ure sums while plead­ing for more.

DFID’s civil ser­vants – the high­est paid in White­hall – see their job as shov­el­ling money out the door rather than pro­tect­ing tax­pay­ers’ in­ter­ests. The in­evitable legacy is scan­dal af­ter scan­dal over the sick­en­ing waste. DFID has a shame­ful record on stop­ping cor­rup­tion. And it fails to pro­tect whistle­blow­ers, as I found when one brave man re­vealed how £400mil­lion had been blown on beach bars on the Caribbean is­land of Montser­rat.

These aid gu­rus talk grandly of trans­parency while seek­ing to frus­trate jour­nal­ists prob­ing waste. DFID even gave me mis­lead­ing in­for­ma­tion to throw me off the scent dur­ing a probe into over­spend­ing on con­sul­tants.

The in­quiry into profiteering by pri­vate firms was only launched af­ter my in­ves­ti­ga­tions. And these sub­se­quent rev­e­la­tions about ASI’s be­hav­iour only emerged af­ter a con­cerned whistle­blower passed me leaked doc­u­ments.

Still the cash flows un­con­trolled from DFID’s cof­fers. So­ma­lia – the world’s most cor­rupt coun­try – is to be handed half a bil­lion pounds.

Last week there was an elec­tion that one re­spected ob­server called ‘a mile­stone of cor­rup­tion’. Worse, the aid is given de­spite in­ter­nal doc­u­ments re­veal­ing DFID ac­cepts ‘cer­tain’ risk of funds be­ing di­verted to ter­ror groups.

This is all the wearily pre­dictable con­se­quence of fo­cus­ing on spend­ing rather than re­sults. But the big­gest vil­lains are those politi­cians who pose as saviours while un­leash­ing poli­cies that do more harm than good, at home and abroad.

EYE-POP­PING: ASI of­fi­cial Peter Young, cir­cled, as Ian gives ev­i­dence

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