DFID and paying for the police: an appropriate use of aid? Part II

Linked to the passing of the 2010 Bribery Act, the Enhancing International Action Against Corruption  programme provides funding of £6.275 million for the investigation of corruption overseas, whether committed by UK nationals and companies, or involving monies stolen by foreign nationals and deposited in British banks. (see DFID The Engine of Development and DFID EIAAC project information)

The programme is funding 12 full-time staff at both the Metropolitan Police: 7 officers, and 5 others (including an analyst and an accredited financial investigator), all of whom based in the Proceeds of Crime Unit (POCU).[i] The remit of these officers is to investigate foreign ‘Politically Exposed Persons (PEPs)’: officials and holders of official offices of foreign governments, who are alleged to have stolen public assets from their own state, and have laundered them through the UK. The City of London Police’s Overseas Anti-Corruption Unit (OACU) is also funded by DFID under this programme: with the salaries of 12 full-time officers paid for. In the Crown Prosecution Service the salaries of two part-time officials are covered by the programme funding. The officials at the CPS support asset recovery work undertaken by POCU (assets recovered will be returned to the foreign government concerned).

Table 1: Enhancing International Action Against Corruption, 2009-2014:


City of London Police (salaries)


Metropolitan Police (salaries)


Crown Prosecution (salaries)























[Information from DFID EIAAC project information]

Significantly, the officers and support staff paid for in the Metropolitan Police Service by DFID under EIAAC were not employed in the roles they currently occupy prior to creation of the programme, and the creation of the unit was tied to the funding.[ii]

There have been some successes as a result of the original International Corruption Group programme, and EIACC. Since 2006, POCU have undertaken fifteen prosecutions, of which 13 have been successful. The other two are pending, as those charged fled before their cases could come to trial. As a direct result of the EIAAC programme, the City of London Police’s OACU have charged 22 individuals and one company, of which five have been sentenced and one case sent back for a retrial.

According to DFID, around £160 million of assets have been recovered or returned since 2006. In addition a significant amount of money is currently under restraint: £67 million by POCU, and £4.25 million by OACU. Money has also been returned to countries from which it was stolen. Successes, trumpeted by DFID include £1.8 million, stolen by two  Nigerian state governors; £35,500 returned to Uganda; and $100,000 to Costa Rica.[iii]

So back to the original question as to whether this constitutes a breach of the core spending priorities and objectives of DFID. Is this sufficiently linked to international development to be an acceptable use of funds? Stolen monies have been returned to countries from which they have been taken; companies and individuals have been fined or settled before trial (Macmillan Publishers settled a case with a payment of £11.2 million). Moreover, corruption clearly is a development issue: aid money siphoned off leaves less for the actual programme; corruption in tendering processes leads to excessive costs, poor quality work and the further depletion of public resources; at a more fundamental level, it erodes trust in governments and undermines state legitimacy. Corruption has been identified by the OECD, World Bank, IMF and others as a major factor in the failure to more adequately address poverty reduction. Leaving aside questions as to the exact role corruption plays in undermining development and exacerbating poverty, DFID’s support for anti-corruption measures does not fall outside its remit in the way that contributing to the Pope’s 2010 visit so clearly did.

However, it is surely not quite as simple as that. After all, there are many issues that are linked to international development and poverty reduction that might, nonetheless, not be considered appropriate recipients of DFID funding. DFID’s mandate is to support the poor and vulnerable in developing countries. It is not designed to support the investigation and prosecution of those who have committed a crime under UK law, for which domestic government spending is (or should be) responsible. Clearly, Company A paying bribes to secure a contract in, say, Malawi, impacts on pro-poor development in that country. But Company A has broken a UK law, will be prosecuted under that UK law and any fines or financial penalties imposed would be paid in the UK. Is this not, therefore, the responsibility of the Home Office and the Justice Department?

Indeed, it is worth considering what happens to fines and settlements made by companies and individuals prosecuted in such cases. Under the Proceeds of Crime Act 2002, in the case of a civil settlement half of the money goes to the Home Office, and the other half to the investigating authorities. So in the case of Macmillan Publishers, £1.6 million went to City of London Police, £4 million to the Serious Fraud Office (who both pursued the case), and the rest to the Home Office. But nothing was returned to DFID which was paying for the staff involved in investigating and prosecuting the case. In effect, citizens of developing countries are seeing funds designed to help them escape poverty diverted to prosecute crimes committed by Britons or in Britain, and British public services are benefiting from the fines that accrue from successful prosecution (of course, these countries do benefit from the return of stolen money).

True, where foreign politicians and officials have illegally squirreled away public funds to UK banks, the crime has been committed by a non-British national. If it is aid money that has been stolen, perhaps DFID has a role to play in the UK-investigation, as well as supporting investigations in the country concerned. Moreover, recovery of assets should see monies returned to the country involved. But isn’t the problem here the insufficient scrutiny by banks and lax regulation of those banks by the UK government. Should aid money be spent on investigations of crimes that exist as a result of the failure (or unwillingness) of governments to effectively manage their own financial systems?

There has to be a suspicion that, in a time of budget cuts across UK government departments in a settlement that protected (and considerably increased) DFID spending, parts of the DFID budget are being sliced off to protect domestic spending in some areas, under rather spurious links to international development objectives. With police services cutting back on staff numbers, DFID funding under the  EIAAC programme is directly supporting the employment of 19 officers, and 7 other staff across the City of London Police, the Metropolitan Police, and in the Crown Prosecution Service.

The sum involved is small-change in comparison with DFID’s total budget, true. But the principle is, nonetheless, an important one. If the UK is lecturing other countries about the importance of investing in effective, efficient and rigorous systems for monitoring, investigation and prosecuting corruption, shouldn’t it be using the UK domestic budget to pay for the investigation and prosecution of crimes committed in the UK or by UK nationals and companies? Shouldn’t aid money be spent on policies and programmes that more directly impact upon the lives of the poorest and most vulnerable in DFID-supported countries? Are UK police really a legitimate object of DFID spending, even engaged as they are in investigation of corruption and fraud committed overseas?

[i] Information from a FOI request to DFID and the Metropolitan Police Service. There is a discrepancy of 1 staff member in the information between the two, with the MPS only identifying 11 full-time staff members supported by EIAAC funding.

[ii] FOI request from MPS.

[iii] Information from FOI request to DFID


About Mike Jennings

I am Reader in International Development and Head of the Department of Development Studies at the SOAS, University of London. I research, teach and write on Africa, and the history and politics of international development in sub-Saharan Africa. Research areas include: - The history of development in Africa, from the late nineteenth century to the current day - Politics of East Africa (Kenya, Tanzania and Uganda) - the role of non-state providers (NGOs, FBOs and self-help groups) in welfare service provision - Social aspects of health, including HIV and AIDS, and malaria
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2 Responses to DFID and paying for the police: an appropriate use of aid? Part II

  1. Bill Ellson says:


    I fully understand the point you are making and recognise the validity of the questions you ask, but I would ask what the likelihood would be of these matters being investigated properly without the DFID funding. Obviously they should, but…

    It strikes me that (subject to the work that the police and CPS concerned do being properly audited) that it may be (in bare financial terms) a reasonable investment in that successful prosecutions can be a deterrent to corruption.

    • Hi Bill,

      Thanks for the comment. I agree that it is a reasonable investment. Where I disagree is that it is OK for the funds to come from DFID. I can see why a case can be made, but it seems a stretch too far. It’s not a waste of money, but it does seem to me that maintaining a clear distinction between funding jurisdictions is important, and the pot for one shouldn’t be raided for the responsibility of another. But it is a blurry issue.

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