The begging bowl barons

Published by The Mail on Sunday (18th December, 2016)

Bosses of charities handed millions in British foreign aid to fight poverty in poor nations are creaming off huge six-figure salaries and hefty bonuses, The Mail on Sunday can reveal.

An investigation by this newspaper has discovered that charity chiefs are taking home astonishing pay packages worth up to £618,000 a year and ramping up spending on senior staff.

Beneficiaries include former Labour Foreign Secretary David Miliband, who takes home £530,922 as president of the US-based International Rescue Committee, which has been given £3.6 million British aid. He has been complaining that a shortage of cash hinders his group from helping people in need.

Another charity – given £7.3 million from British taxpayers to ‘expand economic opportunity’ in Asia – shared £2.25 million last year among its ten most senior staff.

These massive sums spent on staff by charities begging for money from the Government and its generous citizens are the latest example of ‘fat cats’ profiting from Britain’s £12 billion aid giveaway.

Already Mail on Sunday exposés over profiteering and dirty tricks among private firms paid hundreds of millions to deliver aid have led to separate inquiries by the Department for International Development (DFID) and MPs on the International Development Committee.

This weekend, it has emerged that Priti Patel, the Development Secretary, has frozen discussion of new deals while she urgently reviews ethics, relationships and tax dodging within the industry.

Today this paper can reveal:

  • An organisation handed almost £10 million by DFID to tackle starvation gave one executive more than £600,000 for a year’s work and 17 others more than £160,000;
  • Marie Stopes International paid its chief executive approaching £1 million over two years, including an annual bonus bigger than his basic salary;
  • Another family planning group that received £25.8 million from DFID spends more than £1 million on four senior staff, with one director getting £345,470 a year.

The payments were condemned last night by Tory MP Pauline Latham, a member of the International Development Committee. She said she would be demanding an urgent inquiry by the committee into ‘excessive’ salary packages.

‘I’m not surprised David Miliband does not want to come back to Parliament when you hear of these sorts of salaries,’ she said. ‘The public will be very concerned. These are not normal salaries – even some big businesses do not pay these kinds of amounts.’

Mr Miliband’s pay package is among the biggest in aid circles, but at least 13 others at his charity earn significantly more than the Prime Minister’s £143,462 salary. The IRC has been given £3.6 million by DFID to ‘test innovative solutions to problems in aid delivery’.

Despite his high earnings, Mr Miliband, who left Britain after missing out on the Labour leadership to his brother Ed, has been pleading for more aid money. He claims major shortfalls threaten the IRC’s ability to deliver ‘lifesaving assistance’ in Syria and sub-Saharan Africa.

Mr Miliband, who has been seen hanging out with celebrities such as George and Amal Clooney and Sir Patrick Stewart, is reported to be paying almost £9,000 a month for a stylish apartment in New York’s Upper West Side.

The IRC refused to comment on whether its executives also enjoyed first-class flights. A spokesman said they were the second biggest non-profit organisation in New York, giving below-average salaries to their directors.

Other big payers are in a ‘golden circle’ given special DFID deals ending this month called Programme Partnership Arrangements. These channelled £690 million to favoured charities in unrestricted funding over five years, on top of any cash for running projects.

Beneficiaries included Global Alliance For Improved Nutrition, or GAIN, launched 14 years ago at the United Nations to fight malnutrition and given £9,449,391 from British taxpayers. According to the most recent Form 990 US tax data, executive director Marc Van Ameringen received £618,917 for one year’s service – a rise of £232,422 over the sum he was handed five years earlier.

Chief operating officer John Fairhurst took home £356,841 and at least 16 others had packages bigger than Theresa May’s salary. Both senior officials have since left the group. The organisation did not respond to requests for comment.

Many more charity fat cats are also profiting from the poverty industry. They include Simon Cooke, British boss of Marie Stopes International, which has been given £46.3 million by DFID towards family planning around the planet.

Mr Cooke was paid £420,755 in 2015, with a bonus of £251,831 dwarfing his £168,924 basic salary. The previous year he earned almost £500,000, according to US tax data.

The outfit has 22 staff with basic salaries in six figures – more than double the number five years ago.

A spokesman said that they were a global organisation employing more than 13,000 people and provided contraception and safe abortion services across 37 countries. Pay levels were set to ensure they had ‘the best leadership to deliver against ambitious targets’.

International Planned Parenthood Federation, another family planning outfit part based in London, was given £25.8 million in 2013 under PPA. It handed director Carmen Barroso £344,396 last year, according to US tax data – a rise of £54,009 in just five years.

The group’s annual accounts list at least 14 more staff paid basic salaries in excess of £100,000. It also lets its most senior officials take business-class flights and even more junior staff can use premium-plus on longer trips.

A spokesman said the salaries revealed by Form 990s related to the US division, which did not receive unrestricted cash from Britain. He added that all salaries were within market medians for similarly-sized organisations.

Three years ago, US-based Asia Foundation was given £7.3 million by DFID to aid economic development in 18 countries across the continent. It also received donations from the Foreign Office and through British embassies.

David Arnold, the group’s president, collects an annual pay package worth £387,156, according to the organisation’s most recent tax data. Nine more executives were paid more than our Prime Minister, including vice-president Nancy Yuan, who saw her salary package soar from £151,533 to £196,044 in just five years. Pay and benefits were based upon market rates and survey data, said a spokeswoman.

Many charities drove up pay fuelled by the aid boom. Typical is the Malaria Consortium, given more than £8 million by DFID to fight the disease, which had no staff earning six-figure salaries three years ago.

Its latest accounts revealed four breaking through this threshold, including one official now taking home more than £170,000. ‘We always seek to ensure best value and greatest effectiveness in our work,’ said a spokesman.

Another beneficiary is Save The Children, given British aid contracts worth £104 million. It hands former Danish prime minister Helle Thorning-Schmidt – who is married to Labour MP Stephen Kinnock and was appointed head of its international branch, based in London, earlier this year – a pay and pension package worth £246,750.

The charity’s accounts show 114 staff receiving more than $120,000 (£96,150), an almost fivefold increase since 2011. But a spokesman said this was due to currency fluctuations and housing allowances, with only 46 staff on salaries above £76,364.

He said they were a £2 billion organisation, with 25,000 staff and that many senior staff took pay cuts to join them, adding: ‘We’re convinced there’s a direct relationship between having the best staff and having the most impact in the large, complex operations we manage.’

DFID said it aims to deliver value for money through greater scrutiny and transparency. ‘It’s vital those seeking to help the poorest strive to become more accountable to the public so people can be assured money is going to help those less fortunate,’ said a spokeswoman.

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