UK

British Aid Money To Sierra Leone Investigated After Claims Of Misuse

15/04/2013 09:43 BST | Updated 15/04/2013 16:01 BST

Millions of pounds of British aid money may have been spent on mansions and motors by officials in Sierra Leone, according to the country's anti-corruption commission.

The Times reported the arrest of 29 officials, including seven doctors, last month.

They include the director of primary healthcare at the Ministry of Health, the programme manager for reproductive health and the country’s chief medical officer Dr Kizito Daoh, all accused of the alleged misuse of $500,000 from vaccination charity Gavi, set up by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.

Britain has pledged almost £1 billion to GAVI over nine years to 2019.

MP Mark Pritchard, a member of the Commons International Development Committee demanded that DfID investigated, telling the Times: “If there is any evidence of DfID money being misused, then there should be a thorough investigation by the department. The Sierra Leone Government also needs to ensure the highest integrity for all DfID funds.”

GAVI has suspended aid to Sierra Leone in November. An audit showed that officials paid paid $75,200 each for three ambulances in 2010, which was 80 per cent more than they paid in 2009. It found government employees owning lavish cars and house, well beyond their salaries.

The charity said it would not tolerate misuse of funds, but vaccine supplies for children in the country have not been interrupted.

A DfID spokesman said that its funds to the country, which include £19.5m on child health, and a £16.5m project on reproductive, maternal and newborn health, went straight to health workers’ salaries.

A spokesman added: “No DfiD money is provided directly to Sierra Leone Ministry of Health.

Health care “is an area that has long been corrupt,” according to Abdul Tejan-Cole quoted in the New York Times as a former anticorruption commissioner, who resigned three years ago after receiving threats.

He claimed doctors in the country preferred not to work in hospitals because “it’s much more lucrative to manage a donor project. Across the board in public-sector funds, a lot is going wrong. There’s a lot of misappropriation and abuse.”