The number of fraud allegations involving the United Kingdom’s £12 billion foreign aid budget quadrupled over the last five years, according to a National Audit Office (NAO) report.
The Guardian newspaper reports the NAO recorded 429 fraud investigations in 2015/16. This compares with 102 in 2010/11, when former Prime Minister David Cameron entered office and pledged to spend 0.7 per cent of Britain’s national income aiding foreign countries.
475 fraud cases have already been logged for the current financial year, a rise of 11 per cent with three months still to go.
So-called top priority cases centred on Afghanistan, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Somalia, and Syria – all arguably failed states. The NAO claimed many of the more problematic countries “operate with significantly different cultural – and economic – value systems” than the UK.
“Some societies operate within cultural norms that expect bribes to be paid to officials for access to services, including justice; where family members will be preferred to open competition when allocating work contracts; and where senior officials take a percentage of the salaries of junior staff members,” the report noted.
The NAO also conceded that some money may end up in the hands of extremists. This echoes government admissions in 2013 that significant sums were being appropriated by an African branch of al-Qaeda.
The foreign aid budget has been dogged by controversy for years. Millions are being spent on schemes to improve social care standards for the elderly in China, a nuclear superpower, while the Royal College of Physicians, Royal College of Nursing, Royal College of GPs, and Association of Directors of Adult Social Services complain of a crisis in health and social care in the UK.
“Barely a day goes by without news of immediate problems – service reductions, missed targets – and warnings of future failings”, claimed a recent open letter which predicted that the public sector’s problems are set to “accelerate”.