High life of the poverty quango bosses: Overseas aid officials face expenses quiz | Mail Online

High life of third world poverty quango bosses: Officials ‘lived it up in luxury hotels at taxpayers’ expense’

By
Jason Groves
Last updated at 8:57 AM on 13th September 2010

Officials at an anti-poverty quango are ‘ living it up’ in luxury hotels at taxpayers’ expense, devastating documents reveal.

Executives at the Commonwealth Development Corporation also dined in London’s finest restaurants, according to Freedom of Information replies seen by the Daily Mail.

Taxpayers were billed more than �700 for a dinner for CDC non-executive directors at the Michelin-starred L’Autre Pied restaurant.

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Shonaid Jemmett-Page (left) claimed �336.54 for a taxi from Brussels to Paris while Richard Laing (right) claimed �7,414 in expenses last year

In another case, chief operating officer Shonaid Jemmett-Page claimed �336.54 for a taxi from Brussels to Paris.

Another executive at the government-owned quango, Anubha Shrivastava, claimed �530 for a one-night stay at the Four Seasons hotel in Hong Kong, and �661.48 for a twonight stay at the five-star Portman Ritz Carlton in Shanghai.

Chief executive Richard Laing, who hit the headlines last year when it emerged he had pocketed salary and bonuses totalling �970,000, claimed �7,414 in expenses last year, including �1,557 in unspecified taxi fares in London.

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Lap of luxury: Mr Laing also claimed �254 for a night at Singapore’s five-star Fullerton hotel

Mr Laing also claimed �254 for a night at Singapore’s five-star Fullerton Hotel.

At the other end of the scale, he billed taxpayers �3.29 for a notebook and claimed back a �5 taxi tip.

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The organisation last night insisted that all its expenses were ‘reasonable’.

The
CDC, which has access to �2.5billion of taxpayers’ money, was set up
after the Second World War to invest in private-sector projects in the
poorest countries in the world.

It was built up with government cash and is owned by the taxpayer. For the past 15 years, the CDC says it has been ‘self-financing’ and has not called for extra assistance.

But no profits are returned to government. Instead, they are ‘reinvested’ in the CDC.

Critics say this has led to a cosy arrangement where bosses simply pay themselves ever-increasing salaries and ‘performance’ bonuses. A report last year found that senior executives earn an average of �435,000 each.

Another criticism is that staff consider themselves to be business high-fliers who now strike deals far removed from their employer’s original ideals.

These include cash to back mobile phone projects and shopping centres. Countries targeted include the rapidly expanding economies of China and India.

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L’Autre Pied restaurant: Taxpayers were billed more than �700 for a dinner for CDC non-executive directors at the Michelin-starred restaurant

The suggestion is the organisation, wholly owned by the Department
for International Development (DFID), has lost its way and is focused
too heavily on maximising financial returns.

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Under the
coalition agreement, DFID’s budget is protected  –  the only department
to be granted this privilege aside from the Department of Health.

CDC officials may be forced to explain their expenses bills as part of the review launched by the International Development Secretary Andrew Mitchell.

A DFID spokesconfirmed last night that Mr Mitchell had launched an ‘urgent review’. He added: ‘Lavish expenses are completely unacceptable.

The Secretary of State has set up a review of all aspects of CDC’s work, including pay and remuneration.’

Richard Bacon, a Tory member of the Commons public accounts committee, which criticised the CDC last year, said: ‘I am sad to say it does not particularly surprise me that they should turn out to have been living it up in very expensive hotels and restaurants.’

John Hilary, executive director of the charity War on Want, said the expenses provided further evidence that the CDC had become a ‘ travesty’ of its former self.

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He said: ‘CDC has completely abandoned its mandate of poverty reduction in favour of one of wealth creation. It is a travesty.’

Mrs Jemmett-Page was among the organisation’s highest expenses claimants last year, lodging receipts totalling �9,572.

As well as the taxi from Brussels to Paris, she also claimed �480.61 for a stay at the five-star Taj Mahal Palace in Mumbai, India.

In one extraordinary claim, the CDC’s then chairman Sir Malcolm Williamson submitted a bill for �701.44 for a dinner at L’Autre Pied.

Miriam de Lacy, CDC’s communications director, insisted all the expenses were ‘reasonable’.

She said: ‘Our investment team spend a huge amount of the year travelling and we do not think it is unreasonable at all that they should stay in a decent hotel in a way that allows them to do their work properly.

‘We believe all the expenses we incur in the course of business are reasonable.’

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Officials at the anti-poverty quango are said to be ‘living it up’ in luxury hotels at taxpayers’ expense

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Comments (221)

Here’s what readers have had to say so far. Why not
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The comments below have been moderated in advance.

No different to MP’s. There is a snout for every trough, when funded by the tax payer.

– martin, kent, 13/9/2010 13:30

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In our very bad economic times all aid to everyone should be stopped.

Foreign aid never reaches the people only the government’s concerned who live the life of luxury and the people never get a penny – oh a bit like this article.

Make em pay it back!

– Linda, Hampshire, 13/9/2010 13:21

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To be honest, these people must be laughing themselves to sleep at night.

The obscenity in all this is the contempt they show the taxpayer and people in poverty they are supposed to be helping.

This man is “earning” almost one million pounds per year, claiming for everything he can, yet he will not reach into his own pocket to pay for a notebook?

Grasping, mean behaviour.

– jan, East Anglia, 13/9/2010 13:21

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Private companies need to protect their intellectual property rights from their competitors in order to prevent theft, fraud and industrial espionage.

This pragmatic way of doing business should not apply to Government Dep’ts or their associated Quango’s unless there is the prospect of a breach of our National Security.

The CDC is no exception and should have a fully accountable web site that covers all aspects of their activities in a transparent way that can be challenged by the Freedom of Information Act.

The BrokeBank Coalition will probably only have one term in Parliament to sort this out and so they had better get on with it before the Brothers & Sisters of the gravy train revolution have a chance to hide their tracks and move on to greener pastures.

�2.5 billion of tax-payers money pays for a lot of gold plated pensions, expensive private education, second homes in the country and holiday villas abroad.

– Catch-42, Macclesfield, ( Englandland, { Area-51 }, UK ), 13/9/2010 13:17

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such evil waste.

– richard, west midlands, 13/9/2010 13:15

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Richard Laing ex Pricewaterhouse cooper, shonaid jemmett-paige ex KPMG, anubaha shrivastava ex Arthur Andesen. This is what you get when you employ ex consultants in the public sector. They are used to fleecing their customers and bring that ethos to their new roles.

– terry, sussex, 13/9/2010 13:11

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