Foreign aid fuelling corruption in the developing world

A new report from the Independent Commission for Aid Impact (ICAI), the watchdog tasked with monitoring Britain’s aid spending abroad, has found that UK taxpayers’ money is fuelling corruption in recipient countries.

The report suggests projects funded by UK aid are pushing both poor and rich alike “towards corrupt practices.” In fact, it’s worth quoting the Chief Commissioner of the ICAI in full.

“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.”

Our recent study into the effect of aid money on freedom in the developing world showed that taxpayers’ money had all too little impact on freedom of the press, of business, of the internet or of speech. Corruption is clearly a big reason why. The more money siphoned off to line the pockets of corrupt officials, the less there is to provide the aid that actually does help the poor. And of course, as today’s report makes clear, the more money there is flowing around leaky institutions thanks to beneficence of the UK Government, the more leaks out. There’s no excuse for the Government to let that continue.

Because the Government has committed to the arbitrary spending target of 0.7% of GDP, projects are funded to meet obligations rather than to deliver gains on the ground for the world’s poorest. There are all too many examples, from the taxpayer-funded graffiti in Kenya to the Indian space programme, of aid not doing anything for the people that we do need to help.

We can be very proud of the good work Britain is doing right now to fight the Ebola outbreak, and for the food packages we supplied to trapped Yazidi Christians on the run from ISIS in Iraq. DfID, however, can’t use those examples to get away with throwing money into the pockets of corrupt individuals. The world’s poorest need our help; the Government owes it to them, as much as British taxpayers, to ensure that British aid money doesn’t get wasted through corruption and inefficiency.

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