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.

PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebookA unique anthology of reporting and analysis of a crucial period of history
Independent
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
santorini
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
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

Mechanical Design Engineer

£35000 - £45000 per annum + competitive: Progressive Recruitment: MECHANICAL D...

SQL DBA (2005/2008/2012, projects, storage requirements)

£45000 - £50000 Per Annum + excellent benefits package: Clearwater People Solu...

Copywriter - Corporate clients - Wimbledon

£21000 - £23000 per annum: Ashdown Group: Copywriter - London As a Copywrite...

Horticulture Lecturer / Tutor / Assessor - Derbyshire

£15 - £18 per hour: Randstad Education Nottingham: As a result of our successf...

Day In a Page

A new Russian revolution: Cracks start to appear in Putin’s Kremlin power bloc

A new Russian revolution

Cracks start to appear in Putin’s Kremlin power bloc
Eugene de Kock: Apartheid’s sadistic killer that his country cannot forgive

Apartheid’s sadistic killer that his country cannot forgive

The debate rages in South Africa over whether Eugene de Kock should ever be released from jail
Standing my ground: If sitting is bad for your health, what happens when you stay on your feet for a whole month?

Standing my ground

If sitting is bad for your health, what happens when you stay on your feet for a whole month?
Commonwealth Games 2014: Dai Greene prays for chance to rebuild after injury agony

Greene prays for chance to rebuild after injury agony

Welsh hurdler was World, European and Commonwealth champion, but then the injuries crept in
Israel-Gaza conflict: Secret report helps Israelis to hide facts

Patrick Cockburn: Secret report helps Israel to hide facts

The slickness of Israel's spokesmen is rooted in directions set down by pollster Frank Luntz
The man who dared to go on holiday

The man who dared to go on holiday

New York's mayor has taken a vacation - in a nation that has still to enforce paid leave, it caused quite a stir, reports Rupert Cornwell
Best comedians: How the professionals go about their funny business, from Sarah Millican to Marcus Brigstocke

Best comedians: How the professionals go about their funny business

For all those wanting to know how stand-ups keep standing, here are some of the best moments
The Guest List 2014: Forget the Man Booker longlist, Literary Editor Katy Guest offers her alternative picks

The Guest List 2014

Forget the Man Booker longlist, Literary Editor Katy Guest offers her alternative picks
Jokes on Hollywood: 'With comedy film audiences shrinking, it’s time to move on'

Jokes on Hollywood

With comedy film audiences shrinking, it’s time to move on
It's the best of British art... but not all is on display

It's the best of British art... but not all is on display

Voted for by the British public, the artworks on Art Everywhere posters may be the only place where they can be seen
Critic claims 'I was the inspiration for Blanche DuBois'

Critic claims 'I was the inspiration for Blanche DuBois'

Blanche Marvin reveals how Tennessee Williams used her name and an off-the-cuff remark to create an iconic character
Sometimes it's hard to be a literary novelist

Sometimes it's hard to be a literary novelist

Websites offering your ebooks for nothing is only the latest disrespect the modern writer is subjected to, says DJ Taylor
Edinburgh Fringe 2014: The comedy highlights, from Bridget Christie to Jack Dee

Edinburgh Fringe 2014

The comedy highlights, from Bridget Christie to Jack Dee
Dame Jenny Abramsky: 'We have to rethink. If not, museums and parks will close'

Dame Jenny Abramsky: 'We have to rethink. If not, museums and parks will close'

The woman stepping down as chair of the Heritage Lottery Fund is worried