Civil servant Mark Lowcock confessed that his department
has no idea about the scale of money lost to fraud and corruption
Increasing amounts of taxpayers' money will be lost to corrupt foreign regimes as a result of the Government's 'ballooning' aid budget, a senior civil servant admitted yesterday.
Mark Lowcock, the highest ranking civil servant in the Department for International Development, also confessed that his department had no idea about the scale of public money already lost to fraud and corruption.
MPs on the influential public accounts committee said they were 'shocked' by the failure of officials to assess the scale of the problem at a time when spending on foreign aid is set to rise by 34 per cent in real terms to £12.6billion by 2014.
Margaret Hodge, chairman of the committee, accused officials of 'outrageously bad planning' and told Mr Lowcock it was 'daft' his department could not estimate how much aid money is being siphoned off by corrupt officials.
The National Audit Office has already warned that Britain's aid programme is at 'risk' because of lax controls to prevent fraud and corruption.
A recent report found that the level of fraud was already 'likely to be under-reported'.
Tory MP Jo Johnson said he was 'shocked' to discover that DfID had only detected £459,000 of fraud in 2009-10 – just 0.01 per cent of its overall spending – and had recovered just £199,000.
He said: 'It beggars belief. It is so far off the scale of what one would rationally expect to be the case.'
Mr Lowcock, the permanent secretary of DfID, said: 'What we don't want to do is put a number out there which we don't have any confidence in, which is spurious.'