Thursday, November 07, 2013

7-Nov-13: A principled effort to stop foreign aid being stolen? Probably not.

The Daily Express UK used the photo above to illustrate the grinding poverty
of Country X [Image Source]
The news item below is in the UK's headlines today.

We have concealed from the quoted text the identity of the country whose officials stole a million or so pounds to save everyone a little embarrassment. But in all other respects, it's a verbatim copy of a report from the web site of one of Britain's leading news channels.

Oh, and here's a suggestion. Before reading further, take a moment and click here to understand the vast scale on which scandalous corruption has been a factor in European foreign aid. And not only European, of course.

Done? Good. Now read on.
Foreign aid to "Country X" halted after officials steal £1.3m | By Macer Hall | Daily Express UK | Published: Thu, November 7, 2013 |
British ministers have axed foreign aid to "Country X"
The scheduled package of £37.5 million cash over two years is now to go directly to charities working with the country’s poor. It is the first time that Britain has cut grants to a government after corruption but the decision by Tory International Development Secretary Justine Greening is unlikely to placate opponents of overseas aid.
Ms Greening said: “Swift action by Britain and "Country X" ensured our funds were returned in full, but we cannot return to business as usual.”
The theft was detected by the XXX auditor general working with Whitehall officials.
Prime minister [name deleted] said security has been improved. “Police have undertaken extensive investigations in the affected ministries,” he said.
David Cameron has angered many voters by increasing foreign aid to nearly £12 billion a year while cutting other budgets.
Robert Oxley of the TaxPayers’ Alliance said: “Cancelling aid to a government after the fact simply isn’t good enough. Cash from taxpayers pockets has already ended up in the wrong hands.”
It's genuinely refreshing to see the stewards of taxpayers' money showing some spine. The role of auditors is critical when it comes to delivering funds that will be spent by petty officials operating far from the bright lights and checks and balances of European treasuries. Without their investigations, where would we be?

Now pause.

Country X, whose foreign aid has now been frozen by the Brits because of a miserable £1.3m, or roughly US $2 million, happens to be impoverished Uganda. We typed the words "Country X" into the excerpt above.

Why? Because we want readers to pause and think about the contrast in polite British circles (and not only British) between how ordinary fraud and corruption is viewed when it's done by powerless little states in Africa and when it's done by the certain other not-so-powerless statelets. Please read on.

Three weeks ago, a tiny bit of light was shone on the elaborate and ongoing shell game, involving a thousand times as much money (repeat: a thousand times as much money) as the sums that went missing in Uganda. That's money provided largely by European taxpayers including the British. Money, we should add, that goes into the pockets of some of the most hideous people a person would ever want to meet, and it's probably still going on. (We wrote about it recently, here). 

Here's the news report from the October 13, 2013 edition of the London Times:
£1.95bn EU aid lost in PalestineTimes, London | Bojan Pancevski, Brussels | Published: 13 October 2013 | Billions of euros in European aid to the Palestinians may have been misspent, squandered or lost to corruption, according to a damning report by the European Court of Auditors, the Luxembourg-based watchdog. Brussels transferred more than £1.95bn to the occupied territories between 2008 and 2012 but had little control over how it was spent, the auditors say in an unpublished report seen by The Sunday Times. EU investigators who visited sites in Jerusalem, Gaza and the West Bank noted “significant shortcomings” in the management of funds sent to Gaza and the West Bank. Gaza is controlled by Hamas, which is classified as a terrorist organisation by the EU. A spokesman for the court declined to comment.
The passive language of that Times of London headline is outrageous, of course. Two billion pounds were lost? Was it mislaidOf course not. This is a story of massive malfeasance, as the article itself suggests. Its influence on active, ongoing terrorism and incitement to terror is clear to anyone who wants to see.

We personally contacted the European Court of Auditors in Luxembourg three weeks ago, and exchanged a flurry of emails with its press officer. It turns out (and we have not seen this reported anywhere else) that despite the confident language of the London Times reporter, the audit report into the colossal Palestinian scandal has in fact not been published. Other than to say that
A report touching on aid to the PA should be published toward the end of the year
the agency's lips are sealed about it for now. 

Everyone who pays the smallest attention to what is known about Arafat, Abbas and the Palestinian Authority understands that the taint and smell of financial impropriety hangs heavy in the air. Despite this, the last time an audit into EU funding of the Palestinians was done was... 13 years ago. Why? Good question.

We can hope there are no behind-the-scenes manipulations underway at this moment to minimize the political fallout of another Palestinian Arab foreign aid scandal. We're aware that stranger things have been known to happen in the past (see "9-Sep-13: Snouts and troughs"). 

Will the as-yet-unreleased report about billions having disappeared in the darkness of the Palestinian regime's private parts be buried or detoothed? Stay tuned.

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