CORRUPTION abroad is not being tackled effectively by the
Department for International Development (DfID) because of
political sensitivies, a new report warns.
The second report by the Independent Commission for Aid Impact
(ICAI), published last Friday, also suggests that aid may be
The ICAI's chief commissioner, Graham Ward, said: "We saw very
little evidence that the work DfID is doing to combat corruption is
successfully addressing the impact of corruption as experienced by
the poor. Indeed, there is little indication that DfID has sought
to address the forms of corruption that most directly affect the
poor: so-called 'petty' corruption. This is a gap in DfID's
programming that needs to be filled."
The report expressed concern that the DfID's efforts to tackle
corruption might be restricted by its "reluctance . . . to take a
sufficiently strong stance with host governments on corruption
within their own institutions".
It also suggested that the principle that aid should first "do
no harm" had been breached. "We witnessed negative impacts of
programming, where government systems that lead the poor to have to
pay bribes and become the victims of corruption were perpetuated
and not tackled by programmes."
In Nepal, the researchers found that poor people needed to pay
bribes to government officials, or forge documentation, in order to
receive funding for projects supported by the DfID. In Nigeria,
people reported an increase in requests for bribes from police in
an area where the DfID was funding a project designed to tackle
The report identifies corruption as a "formidable challenge".
The World Bank estimates that, in Nigeria, since independence in
1960, about $400 billion in oil revenue has been stolen or
misspent. Tackling the impact made by this corruption on the poor
should be a priority for the DfID, it argues. The department should
gather evidence about "what works", and set out a ten- to 15-year
plan, with a series of goals against which progress could be
A DfID spokeswoman said last Friday that the department had
"anti-corruption and counter-fraud plans for each country that we
give bilateral aid to". It also funded UK police units and crime
agencies to "investigate the proceeds of corruption by foreign
officials through the UK. Internationally, the UK is leading the
drive to clamp down on corruption through the G20, World Bank, and
On Monday, a letter sent to the Daily Mail signed by 11
aid agencies, including Christian Aid, Tearfund, and World Vision,
agreed that "more can, and should, be done" by the Government to
tackle corruption, but said that the British Government had done
more than most.
"The answer is not to stop giving aid," the letter concluded.
"That punishes poor people twice: firstly by having to live with
corrupt governments, and secondly by taking away the funds needed
for health, education, water, and sanitation."