Patronising aid policy that fuels corruption

Published by The Mail on Sunday (24th September, 2017)

The good news is that Westminster accepts there is a problem with fat-cat poverty barons – even if it comes only after my repeated exposés.

Ministers promise to drive down swollen pay and profits in a procurement system that pours huge sums from taxpayers into the pockets of private firms. Behind the tough talk, they indicate mild reforms, including greater transparency over spending. Time will tell if this makes much difference.

But the bad news is they fail to recognise the root cause of the problem, which has turned a benevolent idea of helping the world’s poor into a cesspit of greed, hypocrisy and corruption. 

For it starts with the absurd concept of fixing a target to give away a proportion of national income, regardless of need or the ability to deliver aid programmes.

This patronising policy has been roundly criticised, even by a Nobel Prize-winning expert on poverty, and is loathed by many in developing nations. Not least because it ends up assisting repression, fuelling corruption and fostering conflict.

As British donations have soared – doubling this decade despite cuts at home – civil servants have had to find ways to shovel the sums out the Whitehall door. Self-serving charities and private contractors have swarmed around the cash. The consequence has been inevitable: soaring salaries, shocking waste and silly schemes.

Some hoped that Priti Patel might challenge the system after once calling for closure of her Department For International Development. Instead, she has been captured by mandarins, preferring to lash out at journalists exposing profligacy and spew out the usual platitudes about saving the world.

Even after I exposed how Adam Smith International, Britain’s biggest specialist aid contractor, was engaging in dirty tricks to win contracts, it is handling huge sums of our cash.

The shamed firm may not have been given any new contracts since our revelations, but it has its sticky fingers on 23 DFID contracts worth £197.8 million. It has also pocketed another £12 million for six more contracts from the Foreign Office since April alone. Incredibly, some contracts have been extended.

The aid sector pleads ceaselessly for cash but covers up, crushes whistleblowers and treats taxpayers with contempt. No wonder there is distrust for Westminster when it enriches self-serving Westerners instead of helping the poor.

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