Sunday, September 16, 2012

Doing well by doing 'good'

I've long railed at the Department for International Development (DfID) and the use it makes out of the foreign aid budget, believing that charity begins at home, not abroad. I believe the increase in budget that it received was merely a sop by Cameron to dispel the 'evil Tory' tag and perha[s a bribe to the left wing Lib Dems to keep them quiet whilst the big boys got on with running the country. Either way it failed as the recession closed in and people wondered why foreign nations with space programs were getting our cash and we weren't.
Still there is another angle to all this foreign aid that also gets my goat, it's those leeches on the foreign aid budget who appear to be getting rich off our taxes, and no, I don't mean the kleptocratic rulers of the countries we supply money too.
The Department for International Development (DFID) paid almost £500million last year to consultants, mostly British, many of whom earn six, even seven-figure incomes, courtesy of the taxpayer.
DFID also funds dozens of foreign consultancy firms. It is paying £6million to the University of Cape Town to investigate mental health issues in southern Africa and millions of pounds to US-based organisations, including the Clinton Foundation, the International Food Policy Research Institute and Family Health Inter-national.
It is paying a Washington-based group, Search for Common Ground, £3.9million to “support the electoral cycle in Sierra Leone”. Consultancy firms in India and Uganda are also receiving large sums.
DFID spent more than £20million last year on hotels, including many five-star ones. Next month it will open a 40,000 sq ft Indian branch office in Delhi with 18 meeting rooms and 280 desks — even though the then International Development Secretary, Andrew Mitchell, said last year DFID would not be in India for “very much longer”. The furniture bill for the outpost comes to almost £400,000.
A Sunday Telegraph investigation shows just how lucrative the aid business can be for the private companies that dominate DFID’s roster.
The managing director of the London-based development consultancy Adam Smith International (ASI), which gets most of its income from DFID, paid himself a salary and dividends totalling almost £1.3million in 2010.
William Morrison earned £200,000 from ASI and collected dividends worth £1.06million from its parent company, Amphion Group, wholly owned by him and three of his fellow directors.
Amphion Group’s accounts state that its purpose is to act as a holding company for ASI.
Mr Morrison’s salary rose by a quarter last year, to £253,000. He and the three fellow directors shared dividends of £7.5million, or almost £1.9million each, which they paid to Amphion Group.
The directors collected salaries averaging £125,000 each.
In general I don't normally have a problem with people making money from their business acumen, however when their riches come from my taxes then it's a very different story. Nor do these leeches appear to have any shame in doing so. Sure I know that in certain areas you have to pay for the expertise, but in the case of foreign aid, that should be a personal choice, not via the taxpayer. If I want to give to charity or support foreign aid, then it should be my decision and not the government taking without my consent and handing it over to pay the salary of consultants, no matter how good they are or how justified they feel.
There is far too much of the looting of taxpayers money by those who are doing very well for themselves by purportedly doing good for others. It's time and past time that the DfID was closed down and the foreign aid budget scrapped. If we want to sell military equipment or other export items to these countries then perhaps it would be more honest simply to offer them a bribe. In the meantime, give us our money back!

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