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Ministers may have known about British aid-funded firm's corruption in Africa, campaigners say

CAMPAIGNERS are calling for an urgent probe over concerns that ministers may have known about corruption and bribery at a British aid-funded firm in east Africa but failed to act. 

Today’s call follows shocking revelations about the role of two British businessmen in the collapse of Kenyan construction firm Spencon.

An investigation by the BBC’s African Eye team found that the men had allegedly been involved in bribery, fraud and corruption.

The pair, Andrew Ross and Steven Haswell, had been appointed as directors of the struggling company in 2015 in order to save it, but 18 months later the firm had gone bust with hundreds losing their jobs.

One worker who lost his job told African Eye: “This is the end of my life, there is nothing else I can do, I’m finished.”

The BBC investigation revealed that the British managers had refused to pay Kenyan staff during the final months of the company even as they continued to draw their own huge salaries. 

It also alleges that they used company money to set up a golf course while the firm was facing insolvency. 

The businessmen had been put in the role by US investment firm Emerging Capital Partners (ECP), which had in 2006 and 2007 invested a total of $15 million (£12m) in Spencon. 

This sum included $1.5m (£1.2) of British government aid money intended to boost the Kenyan economy and create jobs.

Global Action Now claims that even more British aid money was involved in the Spencon scandal as ECP is backed by investment company CDC Group, which is owned by the Department for International Development (DfID). 

According to the group, CDC invested $47.5m (£38.4m) in the fund.

The campaign group claims that whistleblowers had told CDC and DfID in 2015 of corruption and mismanagement at Spencon.

But successive ministers failed to intervene to address the alleged mismanagement, it said. 

“It is vital that CDC and DfID are held to account,” Nick Dearden of Global Justice Now said. 

“A thorough independent investigation is needed. The public needs to be reassured that UK aid money was not used to destroy jobs through mismanagement or to pay bribes.” 

Both managers and ECP deny any wrongdoing.

A DFID spokesperson said:

“The UK has a zero-tolerance approach to fraud and corruption.

“We take these allegations extremely seriously and can confirm we referred this issue to the appropriate UK law enforcement authorities in 2015.”

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