UK hand­ing £1.5bn aid to world’s most cor­rupt coun­tries

Daily Mail - - News - By Ja­son Groves Po­lit­i­cal Editor

BRI­TISH aid to the world’s most cor­rupt coun­tries leapt by more than 12 per cent last year, de­spite warn­ings much of it will be wasted, stolen or even seized by ter­ror­ists.

Anal­y­sis of of­fi­cial fig­ures re­veals the UK handed more than £1.53bil­lion to the world’s 20 most cor­rupt coun­tries – up from £1.36bil­lion the pre­vi­ous year.

The £170mil­lion – 12 per cent – in­crease comes de­spite a string of aid money scan­dals. UK aid to the most cor­rupt na­tions has al­most dou­bled in five years, ris­ing from £814mil­lion in 2012.

The De­part­ment for In­ter­na­tional Devel­op­ment (Dfid) in­sists it takes a ‘ zero tol­er­ance’ ap­proach to cor­rup­tion and adopts ex­ten­sive mea­sures to pre­vent funds fall­ing into the wrong hands. In the worst cases, money is chan­nelled through aid agen­cies rather than handed to gov­ern­ments to avoid it be­ing si­phoned off by cor­rupt min­is­ters and of­fi­cials.

But for­mer Tory min­is­ter Robert Hal­fon said the fig­ures un­der­lined the case for aban­don­ing the con­tro­ver­sial tar­get of spend­ing 0.7 per cent of the UK’s income on aid.

Mr Hal­fon said: ‘ At a time when peo­ple are strug­gling, it is ex­tra­or­di­nary that we are send­ing even more hard­earned tax­pay­ers’ money to cor­rupt coun­tries where it is at risk of be­ing di­verted into the Swiss bank ac­counts of dic­ta­tors and their cronies.

‘Peo­ple are fed up with it. They don’t mind over­seas aid but it has got out of hand. We should cut the aid bud­get in half and re­dis­tribute the money to the lower paid in this coun­try through lower taxes and bet­ter ser­vices. We have got to get a grip on it.’

Re­spected think tank Trans­parency In­ter­na­tional pro­duces an an­nual list of most cor­rupt coun­tries. Anal­y­sis by the Daily Mail shows that Bri­tain sends aid money to 17 of the worst 20.

Ma­jor ben­e­fi­cia­ries in­clude So­ma­lia and Syria, where West­ern aid has been ap­pro­pri­ated by ter­ror­ist groups.

In 2017, the Govern­ment was forced to sus­pend a £12mil­lion aid scheme to Syria amid rev­e­la­tions that the cash was at risk of go­ing to ji­hadi groups.

A BBC Panorama in­ves­ti­ga­tion found that the Syr­ian branch of Al Qaeda had hand­picked police of­fi­cers ben­e­fit­ing from the jus­tice and com­mu­nity se­cu­rity scheme.

Aid money sent to So­ma­lia is also at risk of be­ing ‘taxed’ by ter­ror groups such as Al Shabab. An in­ves­ti­ga­tion by CNN last year found the mur­der­ous group was ex­tort­ing thou­sands of pounds a day through road­blocks and ‘taxes’ on mer­chants sup­ply­ing aid des­tined for refugees.

An in­ter­nal Dfid ‘risk reg­is­ter’ in 2017 con­cluded last year there was a ‘ cer­tain’ chance of funds be­ing di­verted by ex­trem­ist groups. De­spite this, Bri­tish aid to the wartorn coun­try, which is ranked the most cor­rupt on earth, al­most dou­bled that year to £282mil­lion.

Other coun­tries see­ing ma­jor in­creases in fund­ing in­cluded the Demo­cratic Repub­lic of Congo (DRC) – up 28.3 per cent rise to £166.2mil­lion – and Ye­men, which saw a 61.4 per cent rise.

Ye­men is on the brink of famine as a re­sult of a civil war but a re­port this week found that food parcels are rou­tinely be­ing stolen by the Ira­ni­an­backed Houthi mili­tia.

The UN World Food Pro­gramme has threat­ened to sus­pend aid ship­ments if Houthi rebels do not stop the theft and fraud.

The UK gave £40mil­lion to the pro­gramme’s over­all bud­get in 2017. How­ever, Dfid said UK money is not spent

‘We have got to get a grip on it’

on food parcels in Ye­men. Since April 2018, Dfid funds have only been used to pro­vide food vouch­ers and cash trans­fers there.

But while some cor­rupt states have seen their fund­ing soar, oth­ers have seen it cut.

Govern­ment em­bar­rass­ment over rev­e­la­tions that North Korea was still re­ceiv­ing aid at the same time as threat­en­ing nu­clear weapons has led to a clam­p­down.

Aid to the rogue state fell from £740,000 in 2015 to just £40,000 in 2017.

A Dfid spokesman said: ‘Dfid does not pro­vide UK aid di­rectly to the gov­ern­ments of any of the most cor­rupt coun­tries in the world. UK aid only goes to trusted part­ners. [It] makes us safer by tack­ling prob­lems which would oth­er­wise ar­rive on our doorstep.’

Source: De­part­ment for In­ter­na­tional Devel­op­ment, Trans­parency In­ter­na­tional

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