Poverty barons in dirty trick probe

Published by The Mail on Sunday (11th December, 2016)

Two ‘dirty tricks’ inquiries have been launched into Britain’s biggest specialist foreign aid contractor after a Mail on Sunday exposé.

Adam Smith International is facing an investigation by the Department for International Development (DFID) following our revelations that it obtained secret Government files on aid policies and spending plans.

Last night, ASI admitted it no longer employed Raja Dasgupta, its senior international development manager for Africa, after this newspaper told how he had boasted to colleagues that the illegally obtained documents would help them obtain lucrative new contracts.

The aid giant – which has won DFID contracts worth nearly half a billion pounds – will also be probed by MPs on a powerful committee over its attempt to deceive them by faking glowing testimonials about its work.

DFID said that it was conducting an urgent investigation into the ‘serious allegations’ exposed by this newspaper. ‘Taxpayers should be in no doubt we will deal swiftly and robustly with any contractor found to have acted unethically – they deserve nothing less,’ a spokesman said.

ASI has been at the centre of our investigations into Britain’s £12 billion aid budget, which is meant to help the world’s poorest people but has led to soaring profits and pay for ‘fat cat’ private firms working for DFID.

Last week, we told how the firm had potentially gained an unfair advantage over rivals when Mr Dasgupta – who worked for DFID until June – illicitly obtained 18 confidential Government aid documents.

He emailed the reports to colleagues, saying: ‘Please find attached some draft DFID Business Plans I’ve got hold of… I’d appreciate if you could treat these with the right level of sensitivity – it could be detrimental if DFID know that we have these, particularly via me.

‘I think these can help us on BD [business development] planning and strategic approach on bids.’

Last night, ASI said in a statement: ‘Without the knowledge of senior management and on his own initiative, an employee of Adam Smith International and former DFID employee circulated DFID country and regional plans to a number of employees.

The obtaining and circulation of the material was entirely unsolicited. The employee is no longer working for Adam Smith International and has apologised to the organisation for his actions.

‘Adam Smith International is conducting a full, rigorous investigation into this matter. We will take swift and firm action against anyone found responsible for inappropriate or unethical behaviour. We are fully co-operating with DFID and providing whatever help we can.’

ASI will also be questioned by the International Development Select Committee after the firm drafted gushing tributes about its work which were sent to MPs investigating ‘poverty barons’ – but passed off the letters as independent submissions from foreign politicians and officials.

Internal emails leaked by a whistleblower showed that a senior director had given detailed instructions to staff on how to avoid the submissions looking ‘suspicious’, including pointing out it would not be plausible to pretend to be an ‘illiterate farmer’ sending a statement in ‘perfect written English’.

The committee met last week and agreed to investigate the issues, writing to ASI and DFID to demand explanations by early next month.

‘Given the seriousness of the allegations raised by recent media coverage, I will be proposing that we reopen our call for evidence,’ said chairman Stephen Twigg.

ASI insisted: ‘We wholly deny that we falsified evidence. This is false and highly defamatory. The submissions were either written entirely by the individuals involved, or in some cases Adam Smith International staff helped produce initial drafts at the request of beneficiaries after they had articulated their views. All submissions were signed off by each beneficiary.’

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