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.”.

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.

 

 

Europe’s poverty aid programme for bankers and tax havens

Not quite the aid bankers have in mind. Picture courtesy The Guardian

When you think of aid to the starving poor in Africa, you think of Oxfam or Christian Aid. You don’t think of wealthy bankers, private equity companies or tax havens.

 Yet a report out  examining in detail the aid programme given by the European Investment Bank on behalf of the European Union reveals more and more aid cash is being given to African banks, private equity companies and passed through tax havens.

 The report from a group of non governmental organisations Counter Balance reveals that much of the €1.01 billion given  to relieve poverty is now going to projects that are run by banks and private equity companies. And worse than that commercial confidentiality by both the banks and the EIB  is preventing the public and the taxpayer knowing whether it has gone to good use.

The EIB argues that all is well as the banks know better than them what to do with the money and their own audit checks, often farmed out to local firms in these countries, prove it is value for money.

But the report reveals that all is not as well as they claim. In one case in Gabon the EIB had a lucky escape when they were about to give money ton the Banque Gabonaise de Devloppment only to discover that there was alleged corruption at the bank involving the siphoning of funds by the cronies of the now dead president, Christian Bongo. They pulled out just in time.

 In Nigeria, they also offered a €50 million credit line to the Intercontinental Bank of Nigeria at a  time when its managing director was being investigated for alleged fraud by Nigeria’s equivalent of the Serious Fraud Office. The bank had to bailed out last year by Nigeria’s state bank. Luckily for the EIB none of the money had been drawn down.

The report also highlights a lot of money going to Mauritius – where many private equity companies are based, but not much of the cash is being spent there, most of it is spent in the rest of Africa.

 The fear must be – in the wake of the Irish bank crisis and the collapse of Lehman Brothers which started the global crash – that the EIB could be next on the list. What could look on the surface as a sound investment might turn out to be little better than some of those subprime investments given a AAA rating.

 The problem is that all the EIB loans are triple AAA rated because they are in Europe. If anything goes wrong, it could be another matter. Don’t say you have not been warned, but this report, even though it is quite dense and detailed, is a must read. It is rather like a canary warning of danger in the mines.

You can get the report at Counter Balance. The direct link to download it is http://bit.ly/f6zalC.

 I have also written an article in The Guardian. The direct link is bit.ly/fdkO5K.