Exposed: The Whitehall high flyer who stole ministry secrets to help Adam Smith International bid for overseas aid contracts

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Raja Dasgupta: pic credit Daily Mail and keyword suggestions

CROSS POSTED ON BYLINE.COM

This is Raja Dasgupta. He was a fast stream entrant to the civil service elite. He had a  good career . He started in the private office of  Alan Duncan ,the minster for international development in 2011.

He was promoted to climate change manager in South Africa in 2012 and then became head of the business effectiveness team in 2014 also in South Africa.

His Linked In profile says : “I have played a leading role on strategic business planning for DFID’s regional Africa programme, directly advised and worked with UK International Development ministers, and officially represented the UK during international treaty negotiations at the United Nations.”.

His Linked In profile which detailed his career now appears to have been taken down following  the exposure about his activities.

But in June last year he joined Adam Smith International – a British private overseas aid contractor ( annual income £130m) which relied on 80 per cent of its money from the Department for International Development – as a senior manager based in Nairobi, Kenya.

Now he has proved to be the catalyst that has brought down ASI Ltd – which has been effectively banned from bidding for any more contracts until the organisation has proved to the ministry that it has been completely reformed. Three senior founder directors, Peter Young ( in his youth a far right Tory), Andrew Kuhn and  Amitabh Shrivastava have resigned and the founder executive chairman,William Morrison, is to leave once the reforms are completed.

Three separate sources in England and Africa  (and the Mail on Sunday) have named Raja  Dasgupta as the civil servant who gave confidential ministry  information to ASI Ltd which gave them a competitive edge to bid for contracts across Africa.

One source said : “when moving to ASI in South Africa he took with him DFID country plans and country specific private sector engagement plans that DFID would then rank bids against, it set out specific priorities and specific sectors and markets that DFID wanted to focus on…This then allowed ASI to bid on contracts specific to these Southern Africa private sector engagement plans as set out and created by DFID and FCO.( Foreign and Commonwealth Office).”

Certainly the official findings of a DFID report – which does not name him – confirm this.

“The withdrawal by ASI is the result of serious concerns about the company’s behaviour:

  • ASI employees sought to make use of improperly obtained DFID documents shared within ASI by a former member of DFID staff.
  • The documents in question were draft internal DFID documents which contained information clearly confidential to the Department.
  • The documents were nevertheless shared widely within ASI, including to senior personnel, in full knowledge that ASI should not have had access to the documents.
  • This was done with a view to exploiting the material to ASI’s commercial advantage.
  • At no point did ASI or any of its employees question this or raise concerns with DFID.
  • DFID has conducted its own forensic investigation into these allegations. There have been serious questions over ASI’s ethical integrity. It is therefore right that ASI is taking action to address this.”

I tried to contact Raja Dasgupta by ringing his Nairobi office. There was no reply nor message facility to leave my name. I tried to contact ASI’s media team and did leave a message about whether Raja was still working for them. They have not come back to me.

Reprehensible as his actions were, this story has wider ramifications. He is not just a rogue  chancer or trader even if DFID seem to pin the blame on him. The culture exposed at Adam Smith International is a damning indictment of the British company. They knew they had access to confidential material which could be used for commercial gain. They wanted to make more profits in a company that already paid six figure salaries  and huge dividends to its top people. They were millionaires dealing in poverty. That is why – even if it is reformed – DFID are right to say there will be no “quick fix” which allows them to resume business next month.

But it also raises questions about DFID and its capacity to monitor what is going on. While the aid budget has gone up – the staff budget has been cut. So fewer people are monitoring larger sums of aid. DFID will not release the  full forensic report into what happened – either to the public or to the Select Committee for International Development, which holds the ministry to account. What have they got to hide.

This story began when the Mail on Sunday exposed the firm trying and failing to hoodwink the Select Committee on International Development by creating favourable reports of their work. It has now morphed into an example of how British private contractors can try and rip off the British taxpayer for private gain by any means they see as necessary.

 

 

8 thoughts on “Exposed: The Whitehall high flyer who stole ministry secrets to help Adam Smith International bid for overseas aid contracts

  1. Did Raja Dasgupta leave DfID in order to exploit the knowledge and information he had acquired or did ASI induce him to leave so that he could bring that knowledge and information specifically to them?

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    • That I think is obvious Owen, how many more Civil Servants leave their posts for charities or organisations. Is the days of the Career Civil Servant over I wonder? Another Institution being eroded by money it seems.

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      • “DFID has conducted its own forensic investigation into these allegations.” i.e. law-breaking involved or simple commercial malpractice?

        David, if DIFD considers the questions about ASI’s ethical integrity sufficiently serious for ASI to be barred from bidding for new contracts, what about current projects that ASI is currently implementing for DIFD? Has DIFD been able to confirm that its current projects are not affected by the issue of the probity of ASI’s conduct?

        What’s happening to major strategic projects like the Tamkeen project in Turkey and Syria? https://www.theguardian.com/global-development/2016/may/08/gazientep-turkey-tamkeen-quest-to-rebuild-syria

        Tamkeen seems to be a very ambitious programme involving community development in conflict zones. Daniel Boffey’s Guardian article I’ve linked to above suggests that it’s very successful within operating constraints, though it sounds rather outside the ASI field of “market reform” expertise. Are Tamkeen and other similar projects being left in the hands of a company whose integrity is suspect or have DIFD found alternative contractors to continue the project?

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  2. Reblogged this on Buried News and commented:
    There needs to be further restrictions placed on former civil servants, and their employment when they leave the Civil Service. This shows once again that we have created a poverty industry in this country and the beneficiaries are not the poor they are millionaires dealing in poverty and this does not just apply to this firm.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. ASI’s Tamkeen project as described by Daniel Boffey appears to be focused on community development and community-determined capacity building. This local democracy-based approach seems at odds with Peter Young’s interest in Syria prior to the civil war.

    Young’s presentation to the International Focus on Syria confenrence in 2007 at http://slideplayer.com/slide/2514370/ offers detailed proposals for economic reform without any mention of the issue of human rights under a brutally oppressive dictatorship – respect for human rights usually being a necessary precondition for efficient market operation.

    Has DFID carried out an objective assessment of the role and success of the Tamkeen project that would confirm that it’s untainted by the accustaions concerning ASI’s ethcal integrity?

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  4. https://www.gov.uk/government/case-studies/adam-smith-international-signs-8-million-agreement-with-mcc

    This exuberant DIFD puff for ASI and the assistance provided by the government’s UK Trade and Investment (UKTI) unit to ASI invites some critical reading between the lines (for example why did UKTI US fly to London to meet ASI to discuss opportunities for ASI in the USA rather than vice versa?).

    UKTI seems to have switched from DTI into DIFD as part of the refocusing of the aid budget towards projects that would provide enhanced opportunities for British business. The justification of this approach is based on the idea that economic development eventually brings improvement in the lives of the poor. The danger is that this leads to a glossing-over or ignoriing of inconvenient outcomes -such as the Andhra Pradesh farmer suicides epidemic. With less emphasis on demonstrating tangible results for the end-beneficiaries, it can also mean that aid gets skewed towards projects delivered by specialist contractors with presentational expertise

    Predatory contractors (and their government interlocutors) are liable to benefit from this approach as much and sometimes more than the intended beneficiaries, with the spin-off effect that the critics in principle of aid and development assistance such as the Daily Mail are able to have their cake and relish it. Perhaps holding ASI to account may ccast light on whether the changes introduced on Justine Greening’s watch provided value for money for supporters of a British commitment to effective aid.

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