Controversial aid consultant bosses quit amidst falsification scandal

Thursday, 2 March, 2017

Responding to the news that the founders of Adam Smith International (ASI), one of the UK"s biggest aid consultancies is going to quit amidst revelations of attempts to falsify evidence to a parliamentary enquiry, and public controversy over consultant's salaries, Aisha Dodwell, an aid campaigner with Global Justice Now said:

“ASI has faced repeated criticisms over its ability to demonstrate that it is having an impact in its mission to foster economic and social development in some of the world’s poorest countries. So it will take more than just a shuffling of the deck chairs for ASI to justify its existence as one of the biggest beneficiaries of the UK’s aid budget.

"The recent scandals around ASI should be a wake-up call to DfiD to stop spending important aid money on expensive UK-based consultants, and to start using it to help developing countries build appropriate public services. That’s the path out of poverty for millions of people.

 “Many UK taxpayers would be genuinely shocked if they knew that hundreds of millions of pounds of aid money was going to private consultants in the UK rather than to alleviate the conditions of poverty faced by vulnerable communities in the developing world.

 “Whatever the outcomes of its reforms, ASI remains a discredited company that was found guilty of attempting to falsify evidence to a formal parliamentary inquiry.  Despite this shuffling of staff, ASI has made no commitment to reducing its inflated salaries – its highest executive earns £250,000, far more than the prime minister earns. If ASI was serious about its commitment to spending more of its resources directly on poverty alleviation, it should start by lowering these enormously inflated salaries.“

In 2016 a report by Global Justice Now, The Privatisation of UK aid – How Adam Smith International is profiting from the aid budget showed:

  • how much money ASI was getting from DfID. ASI has won at least £450m in aid-funded contracts since 2011. In 2014 alone, DfID spent nearly £90m of its money through the company, more than the entire amount spent on human rights and women’s equality organisations, or almost twice that spent on programmes to tackle diseases like HIV and Aids.
  • how much of the company’s work for DfID has been on projects to support the private sector and ‘market-based development’ in poor countries. Its recent projects include support for a ‘business advocacy capacity development programme’ in Zimbabwe and work to expand private schools in Kenya.
  • different case studies of ASI projects, including their involvement with the privatisation of energy in Nigeria, how they helped to make Afghanistan ‘investor friendly’ by helping to rewrite a new minerals act for the country that was later passed into law – an act that a local NGO said was “missing the basic protections” over local people’s rights and transparency. ASI also assisted in developing a new mining law and related regulations in Papua New Guinea. Mining has a history of violent conflict in PNG and this new law that ASI were involved in developing has been condemned as being been condemned as “authoritarian and regressive.”