Exclusive: Ministers rebuff Tony Blair over Africa charity funding

The International Development Secretary Justine Greening rejects ex-PM’s request for money to support work of foundation

Senior Conservative ministers have rebuffed an attempt by Tony Blair to get millions of pounds of Government money to support the work of his personal foundation in Africa.

The Independent understands that Mr Blair met the International Development Secretary, Justine Greening, in May to discuss the former prime minister’s Africa Governance Initiative (AGI).

Senior sources in Whitehall said Mr Blair raised the possibility of Ms Greening supporting a move to continue to expand the programme’s work. But Ms Greening rebuffed him and told him that he should not expect to get Government money.

“It was a perfectly amicable conversation but the Secretary of State made clear that Mr Blair should not expect Department for International Development (Dfid) money,” they said.

“Justine has personally to approve any funding programme over £1m and I think he understood this was not something the Government would look favourably upon.”

But Tory MPs went further. Priti Patel said it was “astonishing” that Mr Blair should even be approaching Dfid about Government support.

“With all the money he’s made from consultancies, speeches and other work since quitting as prime minister, it is astonishing to see Tony Blair asking for taxpayers’ cash,” she said. “Decisions on aid budget spending should be made carefully and transparently and the International Development Secretary was right to stand up to his request.”

This is not the first time Mr Blair has tried to get funding for the AGI, which aims to improve the capacity of African governments to provide public services.

In 2011, when Ms Greening’s predecessor Andrew Mitchell was running the department, AGI made two separate applications to become a contractor for Dfid and also applied for a grant from a £40m fund to fight poverty, but both were turned down.

The latest Dfid accounts show the department spent £700m on “government and civil society” schemes across the world in 2011-12.

At the time of the correspondence with Mr Mitchell, Mr Blair described AGI’s work as “a major part of a successful future for Africa” and repeatedly stated that he would like the chance to discuss his work “in person”.

“I would welcome discussion with you on broader political developments in Africa, and the ways in which AGI can support the UK’s development agenda both in our current countries and, in the future, elsewhere,” Mr Blair wrote, adding: “I have asked my office to look into a time for us to meet.”

In a handwritten section, he added: “We are really excited by our capacity-building work. I think it is a major part of a successful future for Africa.”

A Dfid spokesman said: “Dfid currently provides no funding to the Africa Governance Initiative and the AGI has recently made no applications for funding.

“Justine Greening met Tony Blair to discuss development issues in May 2013. The AGI works in several countries where Dfid has a presence and it is treated like any other potential supplier when it comes to bidding for Dfid work.”

A spokesperson for Mr Blair denied that any specific request for funding had been made to Dfid: “No application, formal or informal, has been made to Dfid under Justine Greening for funding for the Africa charity,” they said.

AGI, which employs 32 people, was set up by Mr Blair in 2008 and currently works in Guinea, Liberia, Malawi, Rwanda, Sierra Leone and South Sudan.

Its aim is to help African governments to run more effectively, and it places full-time staff alongside political leaders to advise on programmes and communication.

AGI’s latest accounts show that it had an income of £3.1m, of which £2.3m came from grants. Last year it was awarded £500,000 by the US Agency for International Development – a body then ultimately overseen by Hillary Clinton. There is no suggestion that Mr Blair used his personal connections with Mrs Clinton to secure the grant.

News
peopleFrankie Boyle responds to referendum result in characteristically offensive style
Sport
Lewis Hamilton will start the Singapore Grand Prix from pole, with Nico Rosberg second and Daniel Ricciardo third
F1... for floodlit Singapore Grand Prix
Arts and Entertainment
'New Tricks' star Dennis Waterman is departing from the show after he completes filming on two more episodes
tvHe is only remaining member of original cast
Arts and Entertainment
tvHighs and lows of the cast's careers since 2004
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebooksAn unforgettable anthology of contemporary reportage
Sport
Fans hold up a scarf at West Ham vs Liverpool
footballAfter Arsenal's clear victory, focus turns to West Ham vs Liverpool
New Articles
i100... she's just started school
News
news
New Articles
i100
Life and Style
Couples have been having sex less in 2014, according to a new survey
life
Arts and Entertainment
musicBiographer Hunter Davies has collected nearly a hundred original manuscripts
Sport
football
New Articles
i100... despite rising prices
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Qualified Primary Teaching Assistant

£64 - £73 per day + Competitive rates based on experience : Randstad Education...

Primary KS2 NQTs required in Lambeth

£117 - £157 per day + Competitive London rates: Randstad Education Group: * Pr...

Primary NQTs required in Lambeth

£117 - £157 per day + Competitive London rates: Randstad Education Group: * Pr...

Primary NQTs required in Lambeth

£117 - £157 per day + Competitive London rates: Randstad Education Group: * Pr...

Day In a Page

Scottish referendum: The Yes vote was the love that dared speak its name, but it was not to be

Despite the result, this is the end of the status quo

Boyd Tonkin on the fall-out from the Scottish referendum
Manolo Blahnik: The high priest of heels talks flats, Englishness, and why he loves Mary Beard

Manolo Blahnik: Flats, Englishness, and Mary Beard

The shoe designer who has been dubbed 'the patron saint of the stiletto'
The Beatles biographer reveals exclusive original manuscripts of some of the best pop songs ever written

Scrambled eggs and LSD

Behind The Beatles' lyrics - thanks to Hunter Davis's original manuscript copies
'Normcore' fashion: Blending in is the new standing out in latest catwalk non-trend

'Normcore': Blending in is the new standing out

Just when fashion was in grave danger of running out of trends, it only went and invented the non-trend. Rebecca Gonsalves investigates
Dance’s new leading ladies fight back: How female vocalists are now writing their own hits

New leading ladies of dance fight back

How female vocalists are now writing their own hits
Mystery of the Ground Zero wedding photo

A shot in the dark

Mystery of the wedding photo from Ground Zero
His life, the universe and everything

His life, the universe and everything

New biography sheds light on comic genius of Douglas Adams
Save us from small screen superheroes

Save us from small screen superheroes

Shows like Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D are little more than marketing tools
Reach for the skies

Reach for the skies

From pools to football pitches, rooftop living is looking up
These are the 12 best hotel spas in the UK

12 best hotel spas in the UK

Some hotels go all out on facilities; others stand out for the sheer quality of treatments
These Iranian-controlled Shia militias used to specialise in killing American soldiers. Now they are fighting Isis, backed up by US airstrikes

Widespread fear of Isis is producing strange bedfellows

Iranian-controlled Shia militias that used to kill American soldiers are now fighting Isis, helped by US airstrikes
Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Shoppers don't come to Topshop for the unique
How to make a Lego masterpiece

How to make a Lego masterpiece

Toy breaks out of the nursery and heads for the gallery
Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Urbanites are cursed with an acronym pointing to Employed but No Disposable Income or Savings
Paisley’s decision to make peace with IRA enemies might remind the Arabs of Sadat

Ian Paisley’s decision to make peace with his IRA enemies

His Save Ulster from Sodomy campaign would surely have been supported by many a Sunni imam