“Poverty barons”

That’s how the Telegraph refers to those who grow rich on the ‘business’ of ‘helping the poor’.

Britain’s swelling overseas aid budget has created a new group of “poverty barons” paying themselves up to £2 million [about US $3.2 million] a year for their work helping the disadvantaged.

The Department for International Development (DFID) paid almost £500 million [about US $811 million] last year to consultants, mostly British, many of whom earn six, even seven-figure incomes, courtesy of the taxpayer.

. . .

A Sunday Telegraph investigation shows just how lucrative the aid business can be for the private companies that dominate DFID’s roster.

The managing director of the London-based development consultancy Adam Smith International (ASI), which gets most of its income from DFID, paid himself a salary and dividends totalling almost £1.3 million [about US $2.1 million] in 2010.

William Morrison earned £200,000 [about US $325,000] from ASI and collected dividends worth £1.06 million [about US $1.7 million] from its parent company, Amphion Group, wholly owned by him and three of his fellow directors.

Amphion Group’s accounts state that its purpose is to act as a holding company for ASI.

Mr Morrison’s salary rose by a quarter last year, to £253,000 [about US $410,000]. He and the three fellow directors shared dividends of £7.5 million [about US $12.2 million], or almost £1.9 million [about US $3.1 million] each, which they paid to Amphion Group.

The directors collected salaries averaging £125,000 [about US $203,000] each.

. . .

Matthew Sinclair, chief executive of the TaxPayers’ Alliance, said: “This is further evidence that the department is failing to ensure that taxpayers’ cash is being spent wisely. Ministers have insisted that they need more money to help the world’s poorest, but taxpayers will be appalled that hundreds of millions of pounds is being channelled to pricey consultancy firms.

“Spending these vast sums on consultants looks like a bad deal for the taxpayer.”

There’s more at the link.

Of course, British aid organizations are hardly alone in this.  Do a little research on, for example, the salaries paid by the 100 largest US charities to their executives, and the proportion of the funds they raise that are diverted to cover fund-raising and administrative costs.  The figures will astonish you – and they’re the reason that I won’t give to most of those organizations, preferring to donate to local causes where I can be sure my money will be well used.  There are some larger organizations, such as the Salvation Army or Doctors Without Borders, who have a well-deserved reputation for integrity, effectiveness and transparency.  I’ve seen them in action, and they have my ongoing support.  Unfortunately, there aren’t enough like that.  For example, when I was a pastor, I grew heartily sick of frequent (sometimes weekly) ‘Emergency Appeals’ for donations or fund-raising efforts by Catholic Charities.  If they’re so inefficient and disorganized that every need constitutes an ’emergency’, why are they in business at all?

I’ve said before that most charities in the Third World are, as far as I’m concerned, more in the business of providing jobs and salaries for their employees, and riches for their owners/organizers, than they are about helping those in need.  I’ve seen this time and time again in Africa.  I not only distrust, I loathe many charities that are household words in the First World, because I’ve seen at first hand their shenanigans when they’re out of sight of their donors.

  • Oxfam?  It does provide (some) aid to those in need, but uses corrupt and even brutal governments to channel that aid, basically empowering evil in order to accomplish what good it can.  As the New Statesman put it, “At its birth, Oxfam had to decide whether destroying tyranny was more important than relieving immediate suffering, and 65 years on it seems no closer to an answer”.  I’ve seen some appalling things done during Oxfam projects, or in Oxfam’s name.
  • The Red Cross?  It’s gained notoriety in the USA for ‘redirecting’ donations by the public, and its deliberate policy of not making moral judgments, but providing aid to all in need, means that it’s sometimes aided and abetted terrorist organizations and war criminal states.  I’ve encountered this in Africa.
  • United Nations peacekeepers and aid workers?  Think pedophilia, corruption, waste and ineffectiveness on an industrial scale.

Even some charities asking you to ‘sponsor a child’ are often nothing better than massive scams.  Three that are worthwhile (based on my personal experience) are World Vision, Compassion International and SOS Children’s Villages.  However, others such as Save The Children USA have become notorious following high-profile exposés by news media.  I’ve personally been in cities in the Third World where some such charities claim to be operating, and have visited the addresses or locations they describe, only to find no trace of their operations except a mail receiving and forwarding service.

So, if you choose to give to help others . . . choose wisely!  I’m darned if I want my donations to make some fat-cat administrator even richer!



  1. I've read similar scathing reports about most "charities".

    My uncles told me that during WW-II when they were in the military the Red cross charged for coffee and donuts.

    They use to hammer us at work about giving to "The United way". The management people were virtually forced to give "their fair share" or be transferred to Siberia. Us non-management folks were harassed twice a year, but I did some research and my donation slip amount was always: ZERO!

    Having said that "The Salvation Army" gets pretty good reports, however.

  2. "Foreign aid might be defined as a transfer of money from poor people in rich countries to rich people in poor countries."
    – Douglas Casey, Classmate of Bill Clinton at Georgetown University

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