Sub-Saharan Africa (Corruption and the Economy)

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 7:12 pm on 1st July 2015.

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Photo of Stephen Phillips Stephen Phillips Conservative, Sleaford and North Hykeham 7:12 pm, 1st July 2015

I think that I agree with the hon. Gentleman, although unless he gives some specific examples it is a bit difficult for me to know. However, corruption plainly does not exist in this country to the extent that it exists in large parts of Africa. I would not want to equate the two, or, indeed, give solace to those who engage in corruption in Africa on the basis that there is anything similar going on here, for the simple reason that there is not.

What steps is the Minister taking in this area—not just because it is the right thing to do, but because it is essential for our own security—to ensure there is institution building within sub-Saharan Africa to discourage individual Government officials from engaging in corruption? What structural reforms do the Government intend to make our aid dependent on, in order to root out those who enrich themselves at the expense of those they are supposed to serve? To what extent is our international aid delivered in a manner designed to ensure that it does not find itself in the wrong places and, more importantly, in the wrong pockets?

DFID’s role is crucial. Having met, indeed enshrined in law, our commitment to spend 0.7% of GNI on international aid—a decision not always popular, but again essential for our national security—DFID’s efforts in stamping out corruption, while well meaning, none the less give cause for concern in some areas. As the

Independent Commission for Aid Impact pointed out in its 2014 report “DFID’s Approach to Anti-Corruption and its Impact on the Poor”,

“DFID’s anti-corruption activities have demonstrated certain achievements but have had little success in reducing the effects of corruption, especially as directly experienced by the poor.”

The report went on to point out that DFID had

“little understanding of what is working with respect to its anti-corruption activities” and

“does not fully understand which of its activities are addressing corruption or how they will make a difference.”

I appreciate that the Minister is new to his job, and that the Department is always well meaning and more often than not effective in delivering its objectives, but he has to tell the House how it is that, rather than merely paying lip service to the anti-corruption agenda, he now intends to bear down on something that hits the very poorest people in the world the hardest. More bilateral aid must, I say to him, go to the anti-corruption effort. All bilateral aid must be conditional on corruption, in all its forms, being stamped out in the countries to which it is given. If we really want to tackle poverty in the developing world and improve our security, adopting the sustainable development goals this year is all well and good, but part of that effort has to focus, in a way in which it has seemingly not to date, on the eradication of corruption as a way of life, and as a way of government, across the whole of Africa.

Why is that? Let me end where I began, for I must tell the House that the procurement manager and the mother with whom I began my speech are real people. I have spoken to them. I have witnessed the wealth of one and the poverty of the other, and I have played football with the sons. Like other boys across the developing world, theirs will not be an easy life, but it will be a great deal easier and more likely to be worth while if, in growing up, they do not need to bribe their way through school, university and into a job, paying teachers, university professors, lawyers, policemen, judges, healthcare workers and managers to perform the functions for which the state in which they live is already paying on their behalf.

Morally, we owe such boys an obligation to do all we can to stamp out the corruption that robs them and their fellows of their futures, and keeps them in poverty. Lest it be thought that it is not in our interests or not our problem, I end merely by pointing out that, if we do not act, it is they a future Home Secretary will be dealing with at Calais or, worse, on the beaches of some foreign shore where a poverty of existence made possible by corruption has given rise to a radicalisation which is at once both perverse and avoidable.