Priti Patel pledges new rules to strip ‘unethical’ aid providers of contracts

Posted On: 
3rd October 2017

Priti Patel has vowed to bring in a “tough” new code of conduct for foreign aid contractors – including the right for a “compliance team” to call off contracts for unethical behaviour.

Priti Patel has been a long-standing critic of private companies' behaviour in Britain's aid sector
PA Images

The International Development Secretary laid out plans for “legally enforceable sanctions” as part of a wider review, which details a shake-up of the “crony” market in which Britain’s aid provision operates.

The move comes months after MPs on the International Development committee accused her department of a “worrying over-reliance” on self-regulation, calling on them to take a “more robust approach” to set and enforce rules.

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Their inquiry followed accusations that Adam Smith International (ASI) - one of the UK’s biggest foreign aid contractors - had tried to profiteer from leaking DfID documents.

Among the plans is increased scope for the department’s compliance team to run the rule over the costs, overheads, fees and profits of suppliers in detail.

Meanwhile ministers have vowed to publish annual league tables of supplier performance, with a promise to “name and shame” those falling short of expectations.

Ms Patel has long attacked the “wasteful” practices of some of the contractors handling Britain's £13bn aid budget, and said the new powers would be used to tackle that waste alongside uncurbed profiteering.

She has also been deeply critical of hefty pay-outs to bosses and said new proposals will end “excessive rewards” for the consultants and middle-men who implement aid contracts, while bringing an end to “underhand practices of recent years”.

And in a bid to cut back on “red tape” the new rules will allow DfID procurement to be opened to new entrants.

Furthermore smaller businesses are to be protected from exploitation by larger companies, who would previously use them to launch a bid and then dump them once they had won.

Addressing the Conservatives Party conference, Ms Patel said the reforms were about encouraging the private sector to work with DfID while bringing an end to the “appalling” profiteering of fat cats from the budget. 

“I‘m taking the toughest approach in Whitehall to crack down on contract costs,” she said.

She added: “On my watch I will end the crony-market where a handful of suppliers, would win contract after contract, which blocked innovation and competition.

“I will always put the interests of taxpayers and the world’s poor ahead of consultants and middle-men.”

She said the Government were committed to winning over taxpayers' confidence in the sector, which she admitted was at a low point.

“We all know that money spent by Ministers and civil servants does not belong to them. It belongs to you – the very taxpayers who have worked hard for it.”

“As Margaret Thatcher once said: ‘Pennies do not come from heaven. They have to be earned here on earth.’

 “The public are right to be angry when they hear stories about wasted aid.

“They naturally think that their Government is throwing away their hard-earned cash.