UKLFI: Supporting Israel with legal skills

UK Government Conceals Audits of Foreign Aid

The UK’s Department for International Development (DFID) is engaged in a cover-up of its failure to stop millions of pounds of British aid being paid by the Palestinian Authority (PA) to terrorists. In doing so it may be concealing criminal offences committed by British Ministers and officials.

DFID has refused to provide the auditors’ reports regarding the aid money sent to the PA from 2010 to 2015.  Part of this aid money was used by the PA to provide lavish salaries and other benefits to terrorists and their families, thereby rewarding and encouraging terrorism.  See PALWATCH

Ministers have repeatedly claimed that the audits ensure they know how British taxpayers’ money is spent. However, Price Waterhouse Cooper (PwC), the multinational firm who audited the PA account during this period, claims that it wasn’t its job to point out that the money was paid to terrorists.  PwC says that the narrow scope of its work “did not require it to consider this issue”.  See UK NCP Initial Assessment – complaint from UK Lawyers for Israel against PwC Global Network.

UK Lawyers for Israel (UKLFI) sent a Freedom of Information request to DFID asking for these audit reports and the instructions given to the auditors (terms of engagement).

DFID has now refused to provide this information on the grounds that “disclosure would or would be likely to prejudice the relations between the UK and any other state or international organisation, or the interest of the UK abroad”.  DFID admits that there is a public interest in transparency and accountability but nevertheless refused to disclose the documents.

Jonathan Turner, chief executive of UKLFI said, “This is the latest in a long line of concealment, evasion and falsity from DFID and the FCO regarding the misuse of British taxpayers’ money to pay high salaries rewarding Palestinian terrorists for murdering Israeli citizens. Even DFID’s own advisers, the Overseas Development Institute, advised that this promotes conflict. If, as we believe, Ministers or officials had reasonable cause to suspect that the funds might be used for the purpose of terrorism, the arrangements transferring the funds and the cover-up were criminal offences under British counter-terrorism legislation.”

UKLFI earlier submitted a formal complaint under the OECD Guidelines for Multinational Enterprises that PwC had failed to raise any concerns in its audits of the regarding the payments to terrorists.   UKLFI submission to OECD

UKLFI argued that PwC thereby breached requirements in these Guidelines to avoid contributing to breaches of human rights and to seek to prevent or mitigate them. PwC responded that it was not required by its engagement to consider whether the funds were used to pay terrorists. In an initial assessment in June 2018 the Department for International Trade decided to allow the complaint to proceed, finding that the issues raised merit further examination.

When questioned regarding the use of UK Aid to pay Palestinian terrorists, British Ministers have repeatedly denied any misuse, claiming that the funds are independently audited so we can be sure that the money is used properly: see the examples of their responses below. But this claim has now been contradicted by the auditor itself.

The documents which DFID is refusing to disclose are likely to confirm that these claims were misleading and may show that criminal offences were committed by Ministers and officials in making funds available to the PA with cause to suspect that they might be used for the purposes of terrorism, contrary to sections 17 and 18 of the Terrorism Act 2000.

Letter from the Rt Hon Desmond Swayne TD MP to Keir Starmer QC MP, 23 March 2016

“UK aid to the PA is subject to rigorous scrutiny, with safeguards in place to ensure support is being used for proper development purposes. No UK aid is used for payments to Palestinian prisoners, or their families. DFID’s direct financial assistance to the PA is used to pay the salaries of PA civil servants, thereby delivery basic services, maintaining stability and reducing poverty. Our support is provided through a multi-donor trust fund administered by the World Bank, which carries out close monitoring of PA expenditure. Only named civil servants from a pre-approved EU list are eligible, and the vetting process ensures that our funds do not benefit terrorist groups. The process is subject to independent auditing.”

Answers to written Parliamentary questions

Q

Asked by Jim Shannon

(Strangford)

Asked on: 16 July 2018

Department for International Development

Palestinians: Overseas Aid

164436

To ask the Secretary of State for International Development, pursuant to the Answer of 15 May 2018 to Question 141795, what are the terms of engagement for the independent financial audit into DFID’s project spending in the Occupied Palestinian Territories.

A

Answered by: Alistair Burt

Answered on: 23 July 2018

Financial audits are carried out on all individual DFID programmes operating in the Occupied PalestinianTerritories (OPTs). The body carrying out the audits, and the terms of reference vary depending on the DFID programme, however all independent financial audits provide assurance to DFID that funds are spent and managed in line with agreed programme activities. The overall DFID OPTs portfolio is also subject to the regular audit cycle of DFID’s Internal Audit Department and the National Audit Office.

 

Q

Asked by Joan Ryan

(Enfield North)

[R]

[N]

Asked on: 18 July 2018

Department for International Development

Palestinians: Overseas Aid

165443

To ask the Secretary of State for International Development, pursuant to the Answer of 15 May 2018 to Question 141795, on Palestinians: Overseas Aid, which the auditing body was that was charged with carrying out the independent financial audit.

A

Answered by: Alistair Burt

Answered on: 23 July 2018

Financial audits are carried out on all individual DFID programmes operating in the Occupied Palestinian Territories (OPTs). The body carrying out the audits, and the terms of reference for these audits vary depending on the DFID programme in operation in the OPTs, however all programmes receive full independent financial audits to provide assurance to DFID that disbursed funds are spent and managed in line with agreed programme activities. The overall DFID OPTs programme portfolio is also subject to the regular audit cycle of DFID’s Internal Audit Department and the National Audit Office.

 

Q

Asked by Mr Jim Cunningham

(Coventry South)

Asked on: 21 May 2018

Department for International Development

Palestinians: Overseas Aid

146099

To ask the Secretary of State for International Development, how much financial assistance her Department has given to projects in Palestine in each of the last ten years.

A

Corrected answer by: Alistair Burt

Corrected on: 20 June 2018

hide corrections  show corrections

An error has been identified in the written answer given on 29 May 2018.
The correct answer should have been:

DFID’s Official Development Assistance directly to West Bank and Gaza Strip 2007 to 2016

2007 2008 2009 2010 2011 2012 2013 2014 2015 2016
£11.2m £55.4m £56.1m £58.0m £120.5m £58.3m £95.9m £109.4m £41.4m £43.9m

 

2007 2008 2009 2010 2011 2012 2013 2014 2015 2016
£26.8m £74.4m £81.0m £85.0m £103.6m £82.8m £82.3m £111.9m £75.1m £43.9m

This includes DFID’s bilateral ODA to the West Bank and Gaza Strip including DFID’s contribution to the United Nations Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA) for basic services and protection for Palestine refugees in the region. In the National Statistics “ Statistics on International Development” the UNRWA contribution is included in DFID’s multilateral ODA total. This is due to the OECD DAC international code rules.

 

Q

Asked by Joan Ryan

(Enfield North)

[R]

[N]

Asked on: 08 May 2018

Department for International Development

Palestinians: Overseas Aid

141672

To ask the Secretary of State for International Development, pursuant to the oral contribution of the Minister for the Middle East of 18 April 2018, Official Report, column 309, how and by whom spending is audited to ensure that there is no diversion to fund terrorist tunnels or other terrorist activity.

A

Answered by: Alistair Burt

Answered on: 11 May 2018

DFID has a zero-tolerance approach to fraud and has robust controls against the diversion of aid including towards terrorist activity. These include extensive due diligence of partners, mapping the flow of our funds and where required, tight earmarking of funds. DFID’s project spending in the OPTs is subject to annual, independent financial audit. The overall programme is also subject to the regular audit cycle of DFID’s Internal Audit Department and the National Audit Office. DFID complies with UK and international counter terrorism legislation and our funding agreements commit partners to understand and comply with international counter terrorism legislation.

 

Q

Asked by Gordon Henderson

(Sittingbourne and Sheppey)

Asked on: 22 November 2016

Department for International Development

Palestinians: Overseas Aid

54121

To ask the Secretary of State for International Development, which independent auditor vets UK aid to the Palestinian Territories; and whether that auditor is regulated by any UK regulator.

A

Answered by: Rory Stewart

Answered on: 29 November 2016

All organisations which receive funding from DFID are required to provide independently audited financial statements. The United Nations Board of Auditors provides independent external audit services for UN programmes while competitive bidding processes are conducted to appoint auditors for other programmes.

 

Recent audits of DFID’s programmes in the Occupied Palestinian Territories (OPTs) have been conducted by Talal Abu Ghazaleh & Co, El Wafa and Price Waterhouse Cooper. Price Waterhouse Cooper is regulated by the UK’s Financial Reporting Council.

 

Talal Abu Ghazaleh & Co and El Wafa are based in Jordan and the OPTs respectively, and are therefore not regulated by any British regulator. The National Audit Office, the principal state audit body in the United Kingdom, also provides independent external audit of DFID’s spending in the OPTs.

 

Q

Asked by Baroness Deech

Asked on: 11 April 2016

Department for International Development

Palestinians: Overseas Aid

HL7413

To ask Her Majesty’s Government what steps they are taking to ensure that UK aid to Palestine is not given, directly or indirectly, to the families of suicide bombers or to convicted prisoners.

A

Answered by: Baroness Verma

Answered on: 25 April 2016

UK aid to the Palestinian Authority (PA) is subject to rigorous scrutiny, with safeguards in place to ensure its being used for proper development purposes. Our financial assistance to the PA is used to pay the salaries of civil servant and pensioners. Our support is provided through a multi-donor trust fund administered by the World Bank, which carries out close monitoring of PA expenditure. Only named civil servants from a pre-approved EU list are eligible, and the vetting process ensures that our funds do not benefit terrorist groups. The process is subject to independent auditing.

 

Q

Asked by Mark Pritchard

(The Wrekin)

Asked on: 09 October 2015

Foreign and Commonwealth Office

Palestinians: Prisoners

11067

To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs, what steps the Government has taken to stop UK funding being used to pay the wages of convicted terrorists from the Palestinian Territories in custody in Israeli prisons.

A

Answered by: Mr Tobias Ellwood

Answered on: 15 October 2015

No UK money is used for payments to Palestinian prisoners in Israeli jails. The UK’s direct financial assistance to the Palestinian Authority (PA) is used to pay the salaries of PA public sector workers only. Our support is provided through a World Bank trust fund which carries out close monitoring of PA expenditure. The whole process is independently audited, which means we know exactly how our money is spent. We also have robust accounting procedures in place which mean we are confident that our funds do not benefit terrorist groups, and we ensure that our partners do the same.

 

Q

Asked by Andrew Percy

(Brigg and Goole)

[N]

Asked on: 23 June 2015

Foreign and Commonwealth Office

Palestinians: Prisoners

3885

To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs, what assessment he has made of the implications for his Department’s policies of the decision of the Palestinian Authority to pay convicted Palestinian terrorists in Israeli prisons.

A

Answered by: Mr Tobias Ellwood

Answered on: 29 June 2015

Palestinian Authority (PA) payments to Palestinian prisoners in Israeli jails are made at the request of the Israeli Authorities to meet basic living conditions. No UK or EU money is used for payments to Palestinian prisoners in Israeli jails, or their families. UK funding to the PA is used to pay civil servant salaries only. The UK funds are channelled through a trust fund administered by the World Bank and only named civil servants from a pre-approved list are eligible. The entire process is independently audited, which ensures we know exactly where and how our money is being spent.

Asked by Andrew Percy (Brigg and Goole) Asked on: 23 June 2015

 

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