Aid to Africa

Foreign aid: supporting dictators one at a time

(January 7, 2014) British foreign aid money is being used to prop up some of the most corrupt countries in the world.

By Brady Yauch for Probe International

Hundreds of millions of dollars in British foreign aid money was used to prop up some of the most corrupt countries in the world, according to a report from the UK’s Daily Mail, citing data compiled by Transparency International – highlighting, yet again, the dark side of foreign aid.

Somalia, currently ranked number one on Transparency International’s list of corrupt regimes, received 86.8 million pounds ($151 million CAD) in 2012 alone.

Britain also delivered 200 million pounds ($349 million CAD) to Afghanistan – ranked number three on TI’s corruption index – in 2012.

Other corrupt countries receiving British aid include: Libya, South Sudan, North Korea, Sudan, Iraq, Syria, Uzbekistan and Turkmenistan.

The report comes after the country gave itself a philanthropic pat on the back by announcing it had reached its goal of dedicating 0.7 percent of its national income to foreign aid.

The Department for International Development (DfID) – which is in charge of doling out the foreign aid money — responded to the report, saying it had a zero tolerance approach to corruption and has in place “rigorous checks” to protect the money from corruption.

Recent cases show that this claim is nonsense. In Malawi, for example, government officials have been found to have pilfered as much as 30 percent of all foreign aid over the last decade – with aid officials in the West almost completely unaware that such looting was taking place.

And in Zambia, foreign aid funds were being looted by corrupt local officials for years until internal whistle-blowers eventually alerted donors. One aid official from Sweden admitted that aid agencies had no idea that such looting was taking place – and raised questions about the aid agencies’ own internal auditing capabilities.

Truth be told, aid agencies – from Britain and elsewhere – rarely know when their funds are being stolen right under their noses.

Brady Yauch is an economist at Probe International. 

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