The fattest charity fat cat of them all

Published by The Mail on Sunday (1st January, 2017)

A foreign aid ‘fat cat’ has made millions out of the cash handed to his charity by the British taxpayer.

Seth Berkley has taken home more than £2 million over the past four years as chief executive officer of Global Alliance for Vaccines and Immunisation (Gavi), which has been given £1.5 billion by Britain. Another official at the Geneva-based group collects a pay package of more than £500,000 a year.

Incredibly, Dr Berkley was given a housing allowance on top of his £623,370 pay package. Like others at Gavi, he is also offered help with school fees and is exempt from paying Swiss income taxes under a deal struck by the organisation.

The astonishing pay arrangement is the latest outrage, exposed by The Mail on Sunday, of charity chiefs pocketing massive salaries and bonuses while taking British aid to fight world poverty.

Gavi is one of six new groups paying exorbitant amounts to senior executives. Two weeks ago, we revealed how seven major charities were doling out salary packages of up to £618,000 a year.

International Development Secretary Priti Patel demanded an end to ‘excessive profiteering’ when she was questioned over our revelations by the Commons’ International Development Select Committee two weeks ago.

Now MPs on the committee want her to stop taxpayers’ cash going to charities and private firms that hand out six-figure pay deals.

‘These eye-watering sums are quite appalling,’ said Tory MP Nigel Evans. ‘Priti Patel needs to send a bombshell. This money should be going to the poorest people in the world, not into the pockets of the rich.’

Some of the most explosive new examples of ‘fat cats’ creaming off cash from Britain’s £12 billion aid giveaway are found at Gavi, which was set up in 2000 to increase vaccine access in poor nations.

Britain, which already gives more than twice as much to the alliance as any other country, has pledged another £1 billion over the course of this government.

Certainly there is no chance of poverty among its own top players. According to the most recent US Form 990 tax data, Gavi handed 12 top staff more than £188,000 in their salary packages in 2014.

Jeffrey Rowland, director of private sector partnerships, took home £511,004. In the past five years, he has received almost £2 million.

A spokesman said Gavi’s executive salary structure ‘reflects Geneva’s cost of living and the CEO’s position as a world-renowned epidemiologist’, adding that the tax detail figure for Dr Berkley included his US income taxes.

‘Overhead costs make up just 2.7 per cent of our total budget, meaning Gavi has some of the lowest overheads of comparable organisations,’ the spokesman added. ‘Since 2000, Gavi has helped to immunise over half a billion children in 73 countries.’

Another high payer is Aeras – a US non-profit organisation focusing on tuberculosis eradication – given £10 million by the Department for International Development (DfID.) Aeras shared more than one million dollars in 2015 between its two top executives, according to its most recent tax data.

Its president, Thomas Evans, collected a package worth £420,463 while chief executive Jacqueline Shea was given £407,412. The organisation did not respond to requests for comment.

The US-based Population Services International (PSI) is also reported to have been handed £48.8 million from British taxpayers in 2015 to improve health and family planning in poor countries.

According to its most recent tax data from the previous year, at least 17 PSI officials took home more than Theresa May, who earns £143,462 as Prime Minister.

They include president Karl Hofmann, given a pay deal worth £373,447, and former chief operations officer Peter Clancy who received £325,667. Four more executives collected over £250,000 each, while 128 staff earned more than £80,000.

A spokesman said PSI benchmarked salaries on industry standards while running programmes in over 50 countries. ‘We’re extremely proud of our health impact and of how little we spend on overheads – nearly 93 cents of every dollar goes to programmes,’ they added.

Plan International, which focuses on children’s rights and equality for girls, has seen staff costs soar from £107 million to £190 million in seven years.

It is reported to receive at least £30 million a year from DfID, helping cash from Britain to make up almost one-fifth of total income. Anne-Birgitte Albrectsen, the Danish chief executive and a former UN official, pocketed £259,000 last year – £30,000 more than her predecessor, who left the charity 15 months ago.

Mark Pierce, Plan’s regional director in Asia who has since joined Save The Children, collected an impressive £244,000 despite a basic £102,000 salary. His package was boosted by ‘short-term employee benefits’ worth £142,000.

Davinder Kumar, Plan’s global media manager, said such payments were in line with similar-sized charities. ‘Our board believes our salaries are appropriate and critical to attracting and retaining talented individuals,’ he added.

Two other big recipients of British aid are charitable foundations run by former US Presidents Jimmy Carter and Bill Clinton.

Clinton’s controversial charities have received more than £50 million since 2011, much of it going to the Clinton Health Access Initiative (CHAI). CEO Ira Magaziner, a long-term Clinton aide, saw his pay package leap from £121,746 in 2010 to £302,232 in 2015 – the most recent year for which tax data is available.

Bruce Lindsey, one of Clinton’s closest confidantes, received £319,383 as chairman of the Clinton Foundation.

Regan Lachapelle, CHAI’s spokesman, said senior salaries were benchmarked against comparable charities. ‘The exception is our CEO whose pay is significantly lower than the median,’ she added. ‘Our CEO volunteered for the first six years of CHAI and received no salary.’

The Carter Center was given £4.5 million last year for its guinea worm eradication programme in Africa. President John Hardman took home almost £1 million in three years – including $300,399 (£243,000) last year, according to its most recent tax data.

A DfID spokesman said it would demand greater scrutiny and transparency, adding: ‘It’s vital those seeking to help the poorest strive to become more accountable to the public.’

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