Staff at UK High Commission in Sierra Leone suspended over lost £2mn

Several employee at the British High Commission in Sierra Leone have actually been suspended on suspicion of defrauding the UK federal government of about £2mn.

Sir Philip Barton, irreversible secretary at the Foreign Office, alerted the Commons foreign affairs committee today of the loss to the department, which he stated would be tape-recorded in its yearly accounts.

The scams associated mostly to the procurement of diesel fuel for electrical energy generators at the UK High Commission in Freetown, he stated, including that the overall amount lost and the complete background of the plan was still being examined.

“We believe a number of country-based staff colluded to circumvent controls. The staff believed to have been involved have been suspended and disciplinary action is ongoing,” Barton informed the committee in a letter.

In his letter, Barton stated he had actually introduced an evaluation into what failed which a program to enhance safeguards at the station had actually been started.

The disclosure has actually triggered issues amongst MPs about larger problems concerning scams, theft and corruption connecting to UK federal government and UK-related charitable funds overseas.

Labour MP Neil Coyle, who rests on the committee, implicated the Foreign Office’s management of having “taken their eye off the ball” of the management of embassies and commissions considering that the department’s 2020 merger with the department for global help.

“The Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office need to reassure us there is no other fraud or corruption in the Sierra Leone office, but also that it has the means of preventing fraud and the loss of British taxpayers’ money across the rest of its operations worldwide,” he included.

Conservative MP Alicia Kearns, chair of the committee, highlighted that Barton’s letter can be found in the wake of news that a charity headed by Rory Stewart, previous UK global advancement secretary, had actually been defrauded of nearly $1mn in the Democratic Republic of Congo.

GiveDirectly stated in a declaration on its site recently that some members of its group in the DRC had actually conspired with others to defraud its money transfer program of $900,000 over 6 months, “diverting aid from over 1,700 families in extreme poverty”.

The charity apologised to assist receivers and donors, and stated it had actually made modifications that would avoid such scams from occurring in future.

In its 2021-22 yearly accounts, the Foreign Office kept in mind that its help investing dedications indicated it ran in “some of the most challenging contexts”, however however took a “zero tolerance” method to scams.

It tape-recorded gross scams losses of £2.1mn that year, however after recuperating a few of the losses the net overall lost to scams was £218,230. In November 2021, the department introduced a brand-new counter-fraud method.

In 2020, it emerged that 9 antique clocks worth £53,000 had actually been “unlawfully removed” from the Foreign Office’s head office in Whitehall.

The department’s openness information on scams and theft released that year likewise tape-recorded countless pounds lost from a lost satellite phone and money taken in Africa, in addition to a previous worker carrying out an Amazon shopping spree on a business charge card and a travel representative pumping up ticket costs in the Asia-Pacific area.

The Foreign Office was gotten in touch with for remark.


News and digital media editor, writer, and communications specialist. Passionate about social justice, equity, and wellness. Covering the news, viewing it differently.

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