The 5-star rip-off

Published by The Mail on Sunday (5th March, 2017)

Bureaucrats handing out British aid have spent an astonishing £15 million flying themselves around the world and staying in smart hotels during the past three years.

A Mail on Sunday analysis of Department for International Development (Dfid) data revealed the startling sum spent by officials as their budgets soared – at a time of cuts to public services at home.

The luxury visits are in stark contrast to the conditions in which ordinary people live in the countries visited by the officials.

Staff doled out £11.35 million on their own air fares, £5 million of that in one year alone, despite employing armies of aid workers and consultants in the field.

And Dfid civil servants – revealed last year as the highest paid in Whitehall with average annual salaries of £52,700 – also splashed out on five-star hotels and luxury lodges abroad when far cheaper options were available.

Nadine Dorries, the Tory MP for Mid-Bedfordshire, said: ‘This is abuse of taxpayers’ money. It is intended to help the world’s poorest people, not to provide endless trips and lovely hotels for civil servants.

‘I am a big fan of aid but it is no wonder so many people are sceptical when they see this kind of behaviour.’

Among favoured destinations for British aid officials on their travels are the Oberoi hotel in New Delhi, India, which has £200-a-night rooms. Last year, £3,304 of taxpayers’ cash was spent on trips to this landmark hotel. The city’s Hyatt Regency and Le Meridien hotels charge about £100 a night.

Dfid representatives also enjoyed time at the impressive Hilton in Istanbul, which has two pools and massage rooms. Dfid has been working in Turkey with the estimated 2.7 million refugees who have fled from Syria.

Perhaps nowhere is the gulf wider between the recipients of aid and DFID workers tasked with supplying it than in Ethiopia. Dfid spent £9,033 in one year at the luxurious Kuriftu Resort and Spa in Bahir Dar.

The resort calls itself ‘a true step into the Garden of Eden’. Beyond its plush environs, ten million Ethiopians don’t have enough to eat and Dfid is assisting the country’s repressive regime on public sector projects. Bahir Dar has a number of cheaper and safe alternatives.

In Lahore, Pakistan, Dfid spent £38,033 over the past two years at the £176-a-night Avari hotel, and £11,500 at the £170-a-night Pearl Continental. Among many cheaper options are The Residency at £95 a night and the Luxus Grand at £110 a night.

Pakistan is estimated to have 60 million people living in poverty.

Dfid data discloses that spending on agency staff to help dole out foreign aid rose last year to £785,934 from £493,550 in 2015.

A Dfid spokeswoman said it had reduced spending on ‘non-standard’ travel by 60 per cent over the past five years. Its policy was to use ‘the most efficient and economic means of travel’.

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