Plea to confront aid corruption

Published: Friday 31st October 2014 by The News Editor

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The Government is failing to tackle corruption levels in international aid programmes it is funding, an independent watchdog has found.

At least one programme supported by British cash appears to have actually “increased the opportunities for corruption”, according to the Independent Commission for Aid Impact (ICAI).

It warned that the poorest were suffering most as a result of so-called petty corruption but said political sensitivities were constraining the Department for International Development’s (DfID) willingness to directly tackle the problem.

Graham Ward, ICAI chief commissioner, said: “We saw very little evidence that the work DfId is doing to combat corruption is successfully addressing the impact of corruption as experienced by the poor.

“Indeed, there is little indication that DfId has sought to address the forms of corruption that most directly affect the poor: so called ‘petty’ corruption. This is a gap in DfId’s programming that needs to be filled.”

Dfid’s anti-corruption effort was given an amber-red rating, which means it is classed as performing relatively poorly and significant improvements must be made.

The report looked closely at the situation in Nepal, where there is a “growing acceptance” of corruption across society.

” Disappointingly, we found that at least one programme supported by DfId appears to have increased the opportunities for corruption in society,” the report said.

The ICAI said the poor were being ” pushed towards corrupt practices” by having to pay bribes or forge documents to receive funding through a local governance project backed by British aid.

It also found that DfId was aware that funds on one scheme in the country were frequently released 11 months into the financial year giving citizens an “untenable” one month – during monsoon rains – to undertake projects.

The watchdog said it was ” highly problematic” for the department to support government systems and structures that are known to be corrupt, especially if that increases the perception that corruption is a necessary and legitimate way of acting.

It called on the Government to set out detailed plans for tackling corruption and include more programmes that target the everyday incidents experienced by the poor.

DfID should also set up a centre of excellence focusing on anti-corruption, it recommended.

Lead commissioner Mark Foster said: “The UK should take an ambitious stance with respect to tackling corruption around the world as experienced by the poor. We have recommended that DfId should develop an approach to fighting corruption that will be an integral part of the UK Government’s wider efforts. DfId, in partnership with the Foreign and Commonwealth Office, could be a beacon for anti-corruption internationally.”

A DfId spokeswoman said: “ICAI’s report rightly highlights some of DfId’s work which reflects our zero tolerance approach to fraud and corruption. We have anti-corruption and counter fraud plans for each country that we give bilateral aid to.

“While these plans are tailored to the individual needs of each country, they are based on a common principle that tackles the root causes of corruption by building strong institutions and requiring good governance.

“Additionally, DfId funds UK police units and crime agencies to investigate the proceeds of corruption by foreign officials through the UK. Internationally, the UK is leading the drive to clamp down on corruption through the G20, World Bank and IMF programmes.”

Published: Friday 31st October 2014 by The News Editor

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