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UK inquiry into major misuse of India education aid

Shocked by reports of massive embezzlement in India in the use of millions of pounds granted as aid for education, Britain today promised "zero tolerance to corruption" and launched an "immediate inquiry".

world Updated: Jun 14, 2010 20:47 IST

Shocked by reports of massive embezzlement in India in the use of millions of pounds granted as aid for education, Britain today promised "zero tolerance to corruption" and launched an "immediate inquiry".

In a statement, the International Development secretary Andrew Mitchell said the allegations reported from India about widespread corruption in the use of British aid was "shocking".

"These are shocking allegations. I have launched an immediate inquiry to ensure British aid money has not been misused. The new British Government will have a zero tolerance policy to corruption," he said.

"When I took up this job a month ago I made a pledge to British taxpayers; they must know that for every pound of their money, we will get 100 pence of value," he added.

Mitchell said he was reviewing "every single one" of the Department for International Development's country programmes to ensure that Britain gave aid to where it was most needed, to help the world's poorest people.

"But I want to go much further. This is why last week I announced a new independent aid watchdog - to scrutinise aid on the taxpayers' behalf. In future we will also publish all details of the department's spending on our website," he said.

According to DFID figures, 24 per cent of Britain annual aid to India is earmarked for education. Reports in the British media about the corruption in India mentioned a figure of 340 million pounds in aid to a schools project for children under the age of14.

One audit of money earmarked for the Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan project found that 70 million pounds had reportedly vanished. A report in the 'The News of the World' quoted India's Auditor General as saying that that almost 14 million pounds had been spent on items and luxuries that had nothing to do with schools.

"Cash meant for kids' education has been blown on luxuries. We discovered that officials throughout the country had used it to buy new cars and in one instance aid cash was spent on four luxury beds costing a total of 17,754 pounds as well as a 3,803 pounds computer," the report said.

Meanwhile, Human Resource Development Ministry sources in New Delhi said the Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan (SSA) scheme has a very robust financial monitoring system which includes an annual audit by chattered accountants empanelled by the CAG, concurrent financial review by Institute of Public Auditors of India, periodic performance review by the CAG and quarterly review with the financial controllers of states SSA societies.