£2 Trillion Is Lost to Corruption Every Year. But UK Aid Is Fighting to Change That.
“Corruptions hurts the world’s poorest and most vulnerable the most.”
Every year, up to £2 trillion is lost globally to corruption around the world.
That’s money that can no longer be spent on health care, access to education, food, or tackling gender inequality, among many other things more important than lining the pockets of the wealthy who think they could stand to be a bit wealthier.
Now, a UK aid package has been announced that will help governments in developing countries crack down on corruption and improve accountability, and will help members of the public access information so they can hold their leaders responsible.
“Corruption hurts the world’s poorest and most vulnerable the most,” said minister of state for international development Harriett Baldwin, announcing the aid package at the Open Government Partnership’s (OGP) Fifth Global Summit in Tbilisi, Georgia.
“We must clamp down on the spaces where rogue money can operate if we are to end poverty and create a fairer world,” she continued. “Transparency transforms people’s lives for the better by helping developing countries to collect taxes, improve public services, and ensure a level playing field in which businesses can flourish.”
“Too many governments publish incomprehensible spreadsheets that do little to increase transparency,” she said. “Today’s UK aid package will help some of the world’s poorest people access easily understandable information so that they can really see how their taxes are spent, and properly hold their leaders to account.”
The aim will be to drive transparency reforms through locally led National Action Plans produced by governments and civil society, with the support of expertise from OGP, according to a government statement.
The package, announced on July 20, will include a £12 million programme of support over three years for the OGP, according to the government’s announcement. Of that, £6.8 million will help the OGP scale up support to member countries in implementing open government reform commitments.
The funding will focus on the priority countries for the UK department for international development (DfID), including Ghana, Kenya, Liberia, Nigeria, and Pakistan.
It will also include up to £4.7 million for a new multi-donor trust fund, managed by the World Bank, to provide technical and financial assistance to design and implement open government reform commitments.
The support is part of the UK’s transparency agenda, launched by Baldwin in February, entitled “Open Aid, Open Societies.”
Corruption, and the risk of aid money being diverted, is often used by critics like the Daily Mail as a justification in its call to cut UK aid. In January, the newspaper published an article claiming that, of the world’s 20 most corrupt countries, the UK sends aid money to 18 of them.
These countries include Somalia, South Sudan, Syria, Yemen, Libya, Afghanistan, and Iraq: countries that have been hit, not only by corruption, but also by conflict and civil wars, famine, drought, and epidemics, and where UK aid is being used to alleviate the suffering of innocent people.
DfID pointed out that the money isn’t being given to the governments of these countries — because it wants to avoid corruption getting in the way of its work. The money instead goes to organisations working on the ground.
According to NGO Transparency International, which works to achieve a world free of corruption, corruption and inequality “feed off each other, creating a vicious circle between corruption, unequal distribution of power in society, and unequal distribution of wealth.”
“In too many countries, people are deprived of their most basic needs and go to bed hungry every night because of corruption, while the powerful and corrupt enjoy lavish lifestyles with impunity,” said Jose Ugaz, chair of Transparency International.
“We do not have the luxury of time,” he added. “Corruption needs to be fought with urgency, so that the lives of people across the world improve.”
The announcement comes after a new index released on June 20 this year showed that DfID was ranked third in the world for transparency of aid spending.
The Aid Transparency Index, launched by Publish What You Fund ranked 45 major donor organisations globally — those that spend over $1 billion in aid — evaluating how easy they make it to track the aid they provide.
“The UK provides some of the most impactful and respected aid in the world,” said Romilly Greenhill, UK director of the ONE Campaign. “Maintaining this reputation means upping our game on transparency of aid spent outside DfID.”
“Being able to track aid every step of the way is absolutely crucial in telling the story of the work the UK does to support the world’s poorest people,” she said.