£1m aid cash missing

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Police are investigating the suspected theft of almost £1m of taxpayers' money by an agent employed by the Overseas Development Administration to buy and ship goods to needy countries around the world, writes Chris Blackhurst.

Details of the case are contained in a report published today by the National Audit Office, the public finance watchdog. MPs on the powerful Commons Public Accounts Committee will grill ODA officials about the missing money in two weeks. Last night, the police and the NAO were refusing to name the agent, or the countries it was dealing with. So far, just over £240,000 has been recovered, leaving £654,643 unaccounted for. The agent was also used by the British Council and National Resources Institute, which also lost money. The agent went into receivership in May 1993.

In its report on the accounts of the Foreign Office,which includes the ODA, the audit office also found evidence of a fraud in a British overseas mission. The amount taken or the name of the suspects have not been released.