Charities detail how Scots aid was lost to fraud and corruption

A woman washes clothes in Malawi where concern was raised about projects backed by Scots ministers (Alamy)
A woman washes clothes in Malawi where concern was raised about projects backed by Scots ministers (Alamy)

FRAUD involving thousands of pounds of inflated travel expenses, exaggerated utility bills and unauthorised cash advances has been reported on overseas projects funded by the Scottish Government.

We can reveal details of six cases over the past five years relating to projects receiving international development funding in Pakistan, Tanzania, Malawi and Zambia. Three involved Oxfam.

The charity sector has come under scrutiny following the Oxfam abuse scandal, which involved claims of senior staff using prostitutes while delivering aid in Haiti.

In the wake of the allegations, four charities working overseas and backed by Scottish Government cash have also reported sexual abuse or conduct issues.

However, the Scottish Government said it has not sustained any losses as a result of the fraud cases, with funds either recovered or paid back by the charities involved.

Two of the cases involved projects run by Oxfam Scotland in Pakistan and Tanzania and resulted in government grants being frozen or withheld.

In the first, documents show the government was alerted to financial irregularities by Oxfam Scotland in December 2012 concerning funds for a project helping farmers in Pakistan. Questions were raised over £37,000 of spending and a “misappropriation” of funds of up to £11,230.

The government froze the next grant payment to the project of £26,435 while an audit was being carried out.

Three years later, in February 2015, Oxfam Scotland informed the government £6,600 had been misappropriated from a project it had funded in Tanzania, with concerns over inflating travel expenses and catering budgets.

A third fraud case involved a partner agency of Oxfam in Pakistan between January and March 2016, when £1,000 was lost after two workers, later sacked, at Baluchistan Environmental and Education Journey exaggerated utility bills.

Oxfam Scotland said fraud was not tolerated and prevention measures included a counter fraud team and whistleblowing hotline.

A spokeswoman said: “Because of our robust counter fraud measures, over the past 13 years Oxfam has detected three separate cases of fraud by partners we were working with on programmes funded by the Scottish Government.

“In each case we took swift, decisive action, including terminating partnerships where necessary, while avoiding any financial impact on our projects.”

Another fraud case in Malawi, discovered in 2015, centred on a project run by the Christian Blind Mission to train teachers.

It found there had been £26,700 of spending on costs which were not within the project or did not have suitable documentation.

Two staff members were found to have made payments to themselves of around £13,000. One was dismissed and another given a written warning.

Again in Malawi, allegations of fraud at Ekwendeni Hospital Aids Programme involving just over £18,000 of funding made via charity Waverley Care were investigated but no evidence was found.

A spokeswoman for the Scottish Government said all international development work underwent rigorous monitoring and evaluation procedures.

She added:“Our grant conditions also include that in the event of the grantee becoming aware of, or suspecting, any irregular or fraudulent activity in our funded project, the organisation must immediately notify the Scottish Government.”