I am writing this in May 2017, shortly before a UK general election. It is not my aim to side with one party or another, or to contribute massively to the debate on whether UK taxes should go fund our hospitals our army or overseas famine spots. As someone who has taken the excellent Open University diploma course in third world studies, and who has been part of the UK overseas aid programme himself, I recognize that this is a complex area. I merely aim to throw a spotlight on one significant aspect of the topic, one I find disturbing and in need of immediate government attention.
- According to a recent report by MPs, unethical behaviour is absolutely embedded in the culture of foreign aid contractors employed by the government. Profiteering, overcharging and duplicity have been uncovered at businesses that receive millions of pounds in taxpayers’ money to implement aid projects overseas.
- Contractors charge the Department for International Development (Dfid) more than twice the going rate for staffing costs.
- Companies use not-for-profit NGO.s as “bid candy” (i.e. a smoke screen) by including them in consortiums then ditch them when work begins, to increase their profit margin.
- Contractors will say anything and do anything to win a contract and there is very little punishment for not delivering.
- The UK aid market is worth £1.3 billion p.a., and 22p of every pound raised in taxpayers’ aid money goes to consultants, that’s almost a quarter or about £260 million pounds.
- Dfid programme officers who monitor delivery in overseas countries only have short placements, typically less than 3 years. This is too short to uncover abuses. The contractors know they can outlast any posting. If they have to ‘deal with any troublesome person who is meddling a bit too much then we will crack on. We will fill in the forms and in two years we will get a new programme officer. That is fine.’
- MPs found a complete lack of enforcement by Dfid of its standards.
‘Taxpayers ripped off by foreign aid profiteers’ by Dominic Kennedy The Times 4/4/17 page 1