Taxpayers' money given to corrupt charities

Government will not say where cash obtained by fraudulent means has gone

The Government department in charge of Britain's £5.6bn aid budget has been accused of "unjustifiable secrecy" because it is refusing to disclose the names of charities and developing countries found to have fraudulently obtained money donated on behalf of UK taxpayers.

Figures obtained by The Independent under the Freedom of Information Act show that the Department for International Development has lost nearly £720,000 over the past five years as a result of "fraud, corruption and abuse" by governments in the developing world or NGOs using British funds.

But DfID has refused to release a detailed list of the projects and countries where fraud has been uncovered, saying that to do so would jeopardise the UK's relationship with foreign governments and risk further abuse by detailing the nature of the offence. And it has also refused to give details of exactly how much money has been misused

The decision to protect the identity of corrupt charities and governments was greeted with anger by campaigners and opposition politicians, who said the policy ran contrary to pledges of transparency in the aid system and risked undermining public confidence in Britain's strong stance on supporting the developing world.

Maurice Frankel, director of the Campaign for Freedom of Information, said: "This is information that should be unquestionably put in the public domain. In the context of DfID's overall budget, these are the sort of sums that would have been misappropriated by junior officials or an NGO and it is difficult to see how disclosure would be capable of harming international relations. It may well be true that the details of certain claims cannot be disclosed, in particular if they relate to as yet unproven allegations. But to insist on blanket anonymity smacks of unjustifiable secrecy."

DfID took five months to reply to the FOI request from The Independent for details of anti-corruption investigations conducted by its Counter Fraud Unit. But it said it had recovered, via investigations, £719,000 since 2005 relating to "budgetary support" or direct funding of developing world governments and money supplied to charities, including thousands of local NGOs.

The department said the list identifying specific fraud cases was being withheld to protect Britain's "good working relationships" with foreign governments and international organisations.

In its FOI response, DfID said: "Disclosing sensitive information relating to them would be likely to damage these relationships; harm DfID's ability to work with and influence other donors in eradicating poverty and undermine the UK's ability to respond to international development needs."

The department has adopted a robust stance on investigating allegations of fraud or corruption. In December last year, the Government announced it had frozen funding to the Ministry of Education in Kenya and issued visa bans against 20 Kenyan officials after $1.3m (£850,000) to buy learning materials went missing. The Nigerian authorities are also trying to trace £165,000 of DfID funding for training teachers which has disappeared. Over the past three years, DfID has also given funding of £4.7m to specialist units in the City of London and Metropolitan Police forces dedicated to investigating fraud. Scotland Yard's Proceeds of Corruption Unit has seized or frozen assets of more than £140m since 2006. But DfID said it was "not aware" that any of the recoveries or seizures by the two police forces included money that it had donated abroad.

Andrew Mitchell, the Conservative spokesman on international development, told The Independent that while the naming and shaming of foreign governments or charities found to have acted fraudulently should be considered on a case-by-case basis, there was no justification for blanket anonymity.

He said: "Taxpayers will be rightly angered that their money appears to have been misspent."

A DfID spokesman said: "We do not tolerate corruption and actively pursue those who misuse resources meant for the poor. Every one of DfID's programmes is subject to rigorous safeguards and careful monitoring to minimise the risk of fraud or misuse of UK funds. DfID's counter-fraud unit has recovered £719,000 relating to budgetary support or NGO funding over the past five years, which is a clear signal of DfID's commitment to fighting fraud and corruption wherever we find it."

£720,000

British funding lost through fraud, corruption and abuse by governments in developing countries and NGOs.

Sport
Mourinho lost his temper as well as the match
sportLiverpool handed title boost as Sunderland smash manager’s 77-game home league run
Voices
Sweet tweet: Victoria Beckham’s selfie, taken on her 40th birthday on Thursday
voices... and her career-long attack on the absurd criteria by which we define our 'betters', by Ellen E Jones
Arts & Entertainment
Billie Jean King, who won the women’s Wimbledon title in 1967, when the first colour pictures were broadcast
tv
News
Snow has no plans to step back or reduce his workload
mediaIt's 25 years since Jon Snow first presented Channel 4 News, and his drive shows no sign of diminishing
VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition iPad app?
Life & Style
food + drinkWhat’s not to like?
Voices
Clock off: France has had a 35‑hour working week since 1999
voicesThere's no truth to a law banning work emails after 6pm, but that didn’t stop media hysteria
Arts & Entertainment
Maisie Williams of Game of Thrones now
tvMajor roles that grow with their child actors are helping them to steal the show on TV
Life & Style
Lana Del Rey, Alexa Chung and Cara Delevingne each carry their signature bag
fashionMulberry's decision to go for the super-rich backfired dramatically
Arts & Entertainment
Kingdom Tower
architecture
Life & Style
Sampling wine in Turin
food + drink...and abstaining may be worse than drinking too much, says scientist
Arts & Entertainment
Game of Thrones writer George R.R. Martin has been working on the novels since the mid-Nineties
books
News
Easter a dangerous time for dogs
these are the new ones. Old ones are below them... news
News
Brand said he
people
Voices
Actor Zac Efron
voicesTopless men? It's as bad as Page 3, says Howard Jacobson
Sport
Roger Federer celebrates his victory over Novak Djokovic in the Monte Carlo Masters
sport
Arts & Entertainment
The monster rears its head as it roars into the sky
film
Voices
For the Love of God (2007) The diamond-encrusted skull that divided the art world failed to sell for
its $100m asking price. It was eventually bought by a consortium
which included the artist himself.
voicesYou can shove it, Mr Webb – I'll be having fun until the day I die, says Janet Street-Porter
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
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition iPad app?
Independent Dating
and  

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

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Apprentice IT Technician

£150.00 per week: QA Apprenticeships: This company is a company that specializ...

1st Line Technical Service Desk Analyst IT Apprentice

£153.75 per week: QA Apprenticeships: This company is an innovative outsourcin...

1st Line Helpdesk Engineer Apprentice

£150.00 per week: QA Apprenticeships: This company has been providing on site ...

Sales Associate Apprentice

£150.00 per week: QA Apprenticeships: We've been supplying best of breed peopl...

Day In a Page

How I brokered a peace deal with Robert Mugabe: Roy Agyemang reveals the delicate diplomacy needed to get Zimbabwe’s President to sit down with the BBC

How I brokered a peace deal with Robert Mugabe

Roy Agyemang reveals the delicate diplomacy needed to get Zimbabwe’s President to sit down with the BBC
Video of British Muslims dancing to Pharrell Williams's hit Happy attacked as 'sinful'

British Muslims's Happy video attacked as 'sinful'

The four-minute clip by Honesty Policy has had more than 300,000 hits on YouTube
Church of England-raised Michael Williams describes the unexpected joys in learning about his family's Jewish faith

Michael Williams: Do as I do, not as I pray

Church of England-raised Williams describes the unexpected joys in learning about his family's Jewish faith
A History of the First World War in 100 moments: A visit to the Front Line by the Prime Minister's wife

A History of the First World War in 100 moments

A visit to the Front Line by the Prime Minister's wife
Comedian Jenny Collier: 'Sexism I experienced on stand-up circuit should be extinct'

Jenny Collier: 'Sexism on stand-up circuit should be extinct'

The comedian's appearance at a show on the eve of International Women's Day was cancelled because they had "too many women" on the bill
Cannes Film Festival: Ken Loach and Mike Leigh to fight it out for the Palme d'Or

Cannes Film Festival

Ken Loach and Mike Leigh to fight it out for the Palme d'Or
The concept album makes surprise top ten return with neolithic opus from Jethro Tull's Ian Anderson

The concept album makes surprise top ten return

Neolithic opus from Jethro Tull's Ian Anderson is unexpected success
Lichen is the surprise new ingredient on fine-dining menus, thanks to our love of Scandinavian and Indian cuisines

Lichen is surprise new ingredient on fine-dining menus

Emily Jupp discovers how it can give a unique, smoky flavour to our cooking
10 best baking books

10 best baking books

Planning a spot of baking this bank holiday weekend? From old favourites to new releases, here’s ten cookbooks for you
Jury still out on Manchester City boss Manuel Pellegrini

Jury still out on Pellegrini

Draw with Sunderland raises questions over Manchester City manager's ability to motivate and unify his players
Ben Stokes: 'Punching lockers isn't way forward'

Ben Stokes: 'Punching lockers isn't way forward'

The all-rounder has been hailed as future star after Ashes debut but incident in Caribbean added to doubts about discipline. Jon Culley meets a man looking to control his emotions
Mark Johnston: First £1 million jackpot spurs him on

Mark Johnston: First £1 million jackpot spurs him on

The most prize money ever at an All-Weather race day is up for grabs at Lingfield on Friday, and the record-breaking trainer tells Jon Freeman how times have changed
Ricky Gervais: 'People are waiting for me to fail. If you think it's awful, then just don't watch it'

Ricky Gervais: 'People are waiting for me to fail'

As the second series of his divisive sitcom 'Derek' hits screens, the comedian tells James Rampton why he'll never bow to the critics who habitually circle his work
Mad Men series 7, TV review: The suits are still sharp, but Don Draper has lost his edge

Mad Men returns for a final fling

The suits are still sharp, but Don Draper has lost his edge
Google finds a lift into space will never get off the ground as there is no material strong enough for a cable from Earth into orbit

Google finds a lift into space will never get off the ground

Technology giant’s scientists say there is no material strong enough for a cable from Earth into orbit