Oxfam will take years to recover from the sickening scandal in Haiti, but the UK Department for International Development is also in the dock. Former Secretary of State Priti Patel (pictured) is believed to have known about it all and stayed quiet
Oxfam will take years to recover from the sickening scandal in Haiti. Other charities, too, whose staff have been exposed for awful misdemeanours have seen their reputations badly damaged.
However, the Department for International Development (DfID), which has given hundreds of millions of pounds of taxpayers’ money to these charities, is also in the dock.
We now know its officials were aware of the shocking culture of sexual abuse, exploitation and paedophilia that exists in Oxfam and in much of the rest of the aid sector that DfID oversees.
Former DfID secretary Priti Patel said government officials ‘at the highest levels’ knew about aid workers’ sex abuse (with some victims being children) but tried to keep it hushed up.
She said the Oxfam scandal in Haiti was just ‘the tip of the iceberg’. Yet DfID did nothing to stop it.
This means the taxpayer-funded DfID — whose mission statement is to ‘tackle the global challenges of our time, including poverty and disease, mass migration, insecurity and conflict’ and to ‘build a safer, healthier, more prosperous world’ — must bear responsibility for what went on. Indeed, it’s very possible that, without the newspaper investigation that exposed the Haiti scandal, DfID officials would still be condoning such appalling behaviour.
There is clearly something very rotten at the heart of DfID. Yet the department seems blissfully unaware of this.
As recently as January, DfID’s permanent secretary Matthew Rycroft boasted that he was in charge of a ‘well run and well organised department’.
Such complacency beggars belief. For the truth is that its complicity in the Oxfam scandal is just the latest example of DfID’s tolerance of corruption and worse.
As has been well documented, it shovels billions of pounds a year into countries run by some of the most brutal regimes in the world.
Very few dictators are too bloodthirsty or barbaric for DfID not to do business with.
Cynically, they abuse the generosity of people in the West by using their donations in order to spend less themselves on welfare programmes for their own people.
Instead, DfID’s largesse allows them to invest huge sums in excessive arms budgets — or, worse, line their own pockets and amass personal fortunes in Swiss bank accounts.
Patel said the Oxfam scandal in Haiti was just ‘the tip of the iceberg’. Yet DfID did nothing to stop it, writes Peter Oborne
No wonder it is said — not in jest — that the definition of overseas aid is ‘the transfer of cash from the pockets of poor people in rich countries to the bank accounts of rich people in poor countries’.
Lest it be forgotten, Britain’s foreign aid budget last year alone totalled £13.3 billion. The cases of this money being abused are too numerous to list in full.
In Ethiopia, for example, DfID spent hundreds of millions with a Marxist government that puts communist propaganda into school textbooks.
Mikelange Gabo (pictured) claims sacked Oxfam boss Roland Van Hauwermeiren started a sexual relationship with her when she was just 17
In Syria, our taxes fund armed groups which my sources in the country say may be linked to Al-Qaeda.
In Pakistan, Imran Khan, the former national cricket captain and a leading opposition leader, called for foreign aid to be halted because he believes it corrupts and weakens his country.
He says: ‘Why should the Pakistani rich bother to pay taxes when foreign loans and aid money are always there to cover up their incompetence and corruption and pay for their lavish lifestyle?’
Also, he asks: ‘Why should politicians bother to fix the economy when they can artificially maintain it’ with foreign donations?
Scandal-hit Van Hauwermeiren (pictured) is alleged to have spotted her in the street while she was eight months pregnant and told her: ‘I find you very sexy, how can I help you?’
Many respected economic studies show the best way to lift people out of poverty is not through handing out aid but through trade, encouraged by free market capitalism.
But this is frowned upon by many DfID civil servants and charity activists, a large proportion of whom hold Left-wing views and spend their lives going from one well-paid job in the bloated public sector to another.
Equally, I am convinced overseas aid has increasingly less to do with helping the poor in foreign countries and more to do with self-preening government ministers trying to flaunt their compassion.
Pictured: A mountainous region outside Haitian capital Port-au-Prince
These virtue-signallers are more interested in boasting about the size of their budgets and posing for photocalls during short visits abroad rather than ensuring taxpayers’ money is well spent.
And I’m afraid the truth is that DfID has not been well served in the choice of its ministers over recent years.
Under Tory-led governments there has been Andrew Mitchell who went native and was widely rebuked after claiming, at a time of austerity at home, that he wanted the UK to be seen around the world as a foreign aid superpower.
Tactlessly, he criticised his successor, Justine Greening, saying she never wanted the job and that she had failed to rebut claims that huge sums of foreign aid had been lost in corruption and waste.
Greening didn’t last long. Her replacement was Priti Patel, who was only in the job 15 months before being sacked for breaking the ministerial code by holding undeclared meetings in Israel, in a clumsy bid, it seemed, to promote her own political ambitions.
Patel’s position was all the more disingenuous because, before her appointment, she had argued that DfID ought to be abolished.
She quickly reversed this once in charge. And during her tenure, nothing changed.
Patel’s replacement, Penny Mordaunt, now has an opportunity to restore discipline and standards.
The Oxfam Haiti scandal shocked the nation after it emerged earlier this month
Above all, she should order a root-and-branch overhaul of her entire department.
Britain has spent about £70 billion of taxpayers’ money on international aid since the Conservatives came to power in 2010. This is an incredible £2,500 from every British family.
Only a forensic audit can determine how much has been squandered and how much actually needs to be spent at all.
As a foreign reporter, I’ve visited many trouble spots around the world where DfID money is spent, and wouldn’t deny for a moment that there are places where it has done a great deal of good.
Yet I’ve also witnessed evidence of a huge waste of money, not least in Pakistan, where hundreds of millions have been frittered away in a largely fruitless attempt to reform the education system.
I believe the Government’s commitment to spend 0.7 per cent of gross domestic product on foreign aid a year is utterly misguided.
In a country where NHS beds are scarce and a care system is collapsing, we simply can’t afford that largesse.
I dearly hope Penny Mordaunt, the latest minister in charge of what has become a gold mine for corrupt foreign dictators and child abusers, has the courage and will to restore discipline to her out-of-control department.
Otherwise, public belief in international aid, and respect for the noble principle of charity-giving, may never recover.
Too soft on Myanmar
On his recent visit to Myanmar (formerly Burma) to see the devastation inflicted by the country’s army on the minority Rohingya Muslims, Boris Johnson challenged the government’s false propaganda that the Rohingya burnt down their own houses.
He should have gone further and accused the Myanmar government — led by Nobel Peace Prize winner Aung San Suu Kyi — of carrying out genocide.
I’m convinced he held back because it would have necessitated the British government stepping in to try to stop the killing — something it hasn’t the stomach for.
Why won’t the Foreign Office do anything to halt the rape and murder in our former colony?
On his recent visit to Myanmar (formerly Burma) to see the devastation inflicted by the country’s army on the minority Rohingya Muslims, Boris Johnson (pictured) challenged the government’s false propaganda that the Rohingya burnt down their own houses
Today, Ukip members meet to vote on the future of their party’s beleaguered leader, Henry Bolton.
He has become a figure of public ridicule — defying colleagues’ calls for him to resign after he walked out on his wife and children for an affair with a far younger woman who has been exposed for appalling racist views.
Yesterday, Nigel Farage — who has acted like the most irritating back-seat driver since standing down as leader after the EU referendum — gave his backing to Bolton.
He’s right. Useless though Bolton undoubtedly is, Ukip will become even more of a laughing stock if it has its ninth change of leader since 2009.
Today, Ukip members meet to vote on the future of their party’s beleaguered leader, Henry Bolton (pictured)