by Andrew Gilligan, Telegraph
August 11, 2013 (TSR) – The terror group’s Somali franchise, al-Shabaab, “confiscated” the equipment from DfID contractors in multiple incidents over at least three months before any action was taken.
The admission is contained in the small print of the department’s latest accounts, which say that £480,000 worth of “humanitarian materials and supplies” was written off following repeated “confiscations” by al-Shabaab.
The confiscations are one of a series of developments disclosed by the department, which will increase controversy over the British aid budget, the only item of government expenditure that is rising sharply in an era of cuts.
British aid is due to reach about £11billion by 2015, to meet the Government’s promise that aid spending should be 0.7 per cent of gross national income. Critics say the 0.7 per cent figure encourages wasteful spending to meet the target.
Investigations by The Telegraph show a number of areas of questionable spending and results that are open to question, including how:
* The proportion of British aid spent on the poorest countries has dropped from 80 per cent to just over 65 per cent;
* DfID’s performance has fallen behind its already poor record since the Coalition came to office;
* More than £60million in British aid was paid to countries in Europe in 2011, the last year for which full figures are available;
* British aid money was spent subsidising hospitality at five star hotels during the Olympics last year.
Sir Gerald Howarth, a Conservative MP, said: “There is huge public concern at the relentless increase in overseas aid. Incidents like this, where British taxpayers’ money is diverted into people fighting against us, are not acceptable. DfID owes it to the public to exercise the utmost care with its money.”
DfID refused to specify what the lost supplies were, but an aid industry expert said the value suggested a “huge amount” of material that could keep the terrorists going for a “fairly long time”.
Aid industry sources said dried foodstuffs of that value could feed 20,000 people for more than a year. “It is surprising that no action was taken, which suggests that, at best, DfID was asleep to the loss of its property and, at worst, that its local partners were colluding with the terrorists,” the aid expert said.
DfID said its contractors had “no prior warning of the confiscations” and therefore “no time to prevent the loss by relocating goods”.
The accounts show the confiscations took place between November 2011 and February 2012 and from multiple locations. It said an investigation was made into the losses but did not reveal the findings.
Last year, al-Shabaab threatened an attack on Britain that would “eclipse the horrors of 7/7 and 21/7 combined”. Several British citizens have travelled to train with the group.
DfID was set goals concerning 20 “priority countries” for aid throughout the Coalition’s time in office. This newspaper has found that 38 per cent of these targets were assessed as “achieved or on track” in 2010, which fell to 31 per cent by this year. Fifty-four per cent of the targets were considered “off track” or “severely off track”, up from 49 per cent in 2010.
A series of countries classified as “middle income” have received aid funding. Most of the money given to prosperous countries was channelled via aid bodies such as the EU, Unicef and the World Health Organisation. Such bodies have been criticised as inefficient and as denying Britain control of where its money is spent.
To meet its spending target, DfID has channelled growing proportions of its budget into such groups, which spend almost two thirds of British aid money.
A spokesman for DfID said: “DfID works in some of the most dangerous places in the world, including Somalia, because tackling the root causes of poverty and instability there ensures a safer world and a safer UK.
“Working in conflict-affected and fragile states carries inherent risk. DFID does all it can to mitigate against this but, on occasion, losses will occur.
“We work with our partners to design programmes that protect our investment from misuse or theft.”
The supplies were in warehouses seized by al-Shabaab and were later believed to have been set ablaze, they added.