Aid payments to the most corrupt countries soared by almost 30 per cent last year, despite warnings much of the cash could be squandered, stolen or seized by terrorists. Britain gave a total of £1.3billion to the 20 most corrupt nations in 2015 – up from just over £1billion the previous year – figures reveal.
Big winners included Afghanistan, where aid rose by more than 50 per cent to £300million, despite David Cameron describing the country this year as ‘fantastically corrupt’.
Somalia, identified as the worst offender, received more than £120million, despite a review concluding there was a ‘certain’ risk of aid money being diverted by terrorist groups linked to Al Qaeda and Islamic State.
The figures come as Theresa May faces calls to put vulnerable British people first by using part of the £12.2billion foreign aid budget to tackle the elderly care crisis instead.
The Department for International Development (DfID) claims the rise in cash to corrupt states reflects the drive to focus aid on the most ‘fragile’ nations.
The respected campaign group Transparency International produces an annual table ranking countries by their level of corruption.
All but one of the 20 most corrupt receive at least some British aid money, with several receiving tens of millions of pounds a year.
Iraq saw funding rise 44.3 per cent in a year to £55.4million, South Sudan’s rose by a quarter to £208million, and Myanmar received a 55.4 per cent increase to almost £114million.
Somalia is one of the biggest recipients despite being ranked the most corrupt. For years reports have warned aid is at risk of being ‘taxed’ by terror groups such as Al Shabab. This month it emerged an internal ‘risk register’ found a ‘certain’ risk of funds being diverted by extremists.
The huge rise in funding for Afghanistan is also likely to raise eyebrows given the country’s problem with corruption. Earlier this year, Mr Cameron was caught on camera telling the Queen Afghanistan and Nigeria were ‘possibly the two most corrupt countries’.
Aid to Nigeria also rose, by 11 per cent to £263million.
Pakistan, which has longstanding corruption problems, benefited from a 40.6 per cent increase in UK aid last year, receiving £374million.
Government sources last night said the latest figures were skewed by a big increase in aid to Syria. But the total handed to corrupt countries would have increased sharply even without this.
Tory MP Peter Bone, who is campaigning for the Government to scrap its aid target, described the scale of the increase as ‘shocking’. ‘I think many people will be outraged to learn that we are sending more than £1billion a year to the world’s most corrupt countries and even more shocked to discover that the figure is going up,’ he said.
‘By showering these countries with money we are effectively propping up some of the most corrupt and unpleasant regimes … What is the point of sending ever more money to these countries if it is not reaching the people in need?’
John O’Connell of the TaxPayers’ Alliance said: ‘DfID has a poor record of delivering value for money … [and] must work harder to make sure that this money does not end up in the wrong hands.’
Ministers have faced mounting controversy over the Government’s target to spend 0.7 per cent of Britain’s income on aid, regardless of need.
David Cameron ordered DfID to spend half of the aid budget in so-called ‘fragile’ states, arguing it would help stem the causes of war, terrorism and mass immigration.
But the policy has come under fire again following the decision to allow town halls to hike council tax by up to 6 per cent to help pay for vital social care. Council bosses say they need an extra £1.3billion to fund the care sector, which faces an ageing population and budget cuts.
A DfID spokesman said it has ‘robust measures in place to protect taxpayers’ money’, adding: ‘We have a zero tolerance approach to corruption and support is channelled through trusted partners rather than local governments.’
Source: Transparency International / Daily Mail