Corruption in Aid

Did you know that in 2016, according to the report by Global Humanitarian Assistance, USD 27. 3 billion were dedicated to humanitarian assistance, and according to IRIN, USD 156 billion were allocated to aid (assistance and development)?

Corruption in AidHowever not all aid goes to the intended recipients. At the closing session of ECOSOC’s 2012 High Level Panel on Accountability and Transparency, Ban Ki-moon (at the time United Nations Secretary General) stated that, “30% of aid is lost to corruption”.

30% of USD 156 billion!  I leave it to you to calculate how much that makes.

Think, for just one minute, how many corrupt opportunities this financial volume can offer for organized crime. Let´s not be naïve:  grand corruption schemes exist in the aid sector.

What kind of corruption is involved?

There are multiple definitions and they differ depending on the stakeholder (economists, civil society, politicians… you name it).

Regardless of your definition, as humanitarian workers, it is our duty to understand corruption mechanisms and thus be able to fight corruption and corruption risks in aid; to stay vigilant and set up robust systems that are effective and transparent.

 Concretely speaking, what are the corruption risks in aid?

  • As with any kind of business, they could relate to:
    • Weak procurement systems;
    • Cash transactions;
    • Currency transactions;
    • Insurance fraud;
    • Money laundering via obscure donors;
    • Gifts with qui pro quo;
    • Bribes;
    • Kickbacks;
    • Intermediary services;
    • Customs clearance, etc.
  • And more specifically in an aid context :
    • “Ghost lists” (ghost volunteers who receive per diems; ghost events; ghost staff, etc.). 
    • “Double-dipping”;
    • “Sextortion” governance set-up allowing nepotism;
    • Urgency to spend (at the end of the funding cycle, some unnecessary expenses generate waste);
    • Lack of control over financial systems of secondary partners for implementation; lack of comprehensive reporting;
    • Lack of due diligence practice;
    • Security payments at check points, etc.

This is an incomplete list, and any single item relates to a more complex scheme.

Awareness is the first step in safeguarding the aid sector from corruption risks.  It is the duty of every single humanitarian stakeholder to protect the system.  Allowing all the funding to reach the intended communities will contribute in a meaningful way to alleviating human suffering.

Malika Aït-Mohamed Parent was working with the International Federation of the Red Cross when she took the IMPM. She is now Chair, ICRC IFRC Joint Statutes Commission chez International Red Cross and Red Crescent Movement. Her prior experience includes her work as an Independent International Anti-Corruption Expert, Visiting Lecturer at the International Anti-Corruption Academy.

With 30 years of experience in the Humanitarian sector, she is committed in developing institutional accountability frameworks embracing Transparency and Integrity elements as well as soft and hard components of Fraud and Corruption prevention and control.

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