Britain has squandered millions of pounds in aid money to fund a project in Nigeria designed to boost leather exports – but has instead seen corrupt officials shipping rocks overseas.
An investigation found that taxpayers’ money was being wasted on schemes that the Department for International Development (Dfid) turned a blind eye to if they went wrong and actually in some cases made poverty worse in the country.
A watchdog also claimed Dfid beefed up its achievements on projects to make them sound more successful than they were.
And in a blistering attack on the waste of taxpayers’ money, MP Margaret Hodge accused the department of a ‘terrible waste of money’ after paying billions to ‘expensive consultants with massive mark ups’ rather than have their own in-house workers.
A total of £250million of British money is given to Nigeria every year.
A table showed that in 2010 there was a 700 per cent increase in leather exports – the bulk of which went to Italy.
But a consultant, known as Tom, said this was ‘impossible’ and that rocks were being exported instead of leather.
He said: “Over invoicing is fairly simple but the level of this scan, I gather from talking to people in the industry internationally is that the 2010 figures would have required tens of millions of animals to be slaughtered in that one year -an impossibility.“So what you do is ship empty containers full of rocks, get someone in customs to sign off that they are official exports without checking their contents, get some paperwork done in the importing country and then collect up some unbankable cash that needs cleaning so to speak and send it back to Nigeria where the government pays you an extra 30 per cent for your laundry work and issues you with a trade able foreign currency certificate.
“The funds are now as white as snow and fully legal. You don’t even need to export the leather.”
He said Dfid had been warned about the scam but said those who warned them “got the feeling that Dfid would rather have not been told”.
He added: ‘The guys in the project were very disillusioned, I mean you can imagine, they have just uncovered a fraud worth £2billion dollars… and nobody wants to do anything about it.
“Why spend £9m of taxpayer’s money to help an important industry in a country when there is this level of basic theft going on.”
A Dfid spokesman said: “We have a zero tolerance approach to corruption and where there are concerns we take swift and robust action.”
Figures also showed Coffee International, who run several Dfid-funded projects, saw a 30 per cent increase on their profits last year to over £4.7 million.
Adam Smith International, based in London, made over £10m in profits after tax – a 50 per cent increase on the previous year, according to its latest accounts.
The profit more than doubled in four years and the directors shared over £800,000, with one receiving over £275,000.
One contractor, who has worked in aid sector for 30 years, said they were making huge profits on the daily rate they charged Dfid for each of their workers.
The employee would be paid around a £500 daily rate, but the consultancy firm would charge £700 – making a profit of £200 per day per employee.
They might charge £150 for a field officer per day – but it would only cost them about £40 because they would pay his salary in local currency.
Culled from Mail Online
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