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UK threatens to cut Commonwealth Secretariat funding

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UK threatens to cut Commonwealth Secretariat funding

Unread post by bimjim » Sun Dec 04, 2016

http://www.caribbeannewsnow.com/topstor ... 32724.html

UK threatens to cut Commonwealth funding
December 3, 2016

LONDON, England

Just weeks after British Prime Minister Theresa May called on Dominica-born Baroness Patricia Scotland, the Commonwealth secretary general, to answer allegations of profligate spending, a new UK government report has warned that the Commonwealth Secretariat is failing in its role delivering taxpayer-funded aid and could lose funding.

The Secretariat, headed up by Scotland, was among the worst rated in a review of overseas aid organisations by the Department for International Development (DFID).

The report says the Commonwealth Secretariat “requires urgent organisational reform”, saying its performance needs to improve in areas such as transparency and budget discipline.

It warns future spending will be linked to “performance improvements”, warning the Secretariat was “unsustainably reliant” on UK funds.

The report will add pressure on Scotland’s stewardship of the Secretariat and risk embarrassing the Queen, who is head of the Commonwealth.

See the full report here
https://www.gov.uk/government/uploads/s ... ec2016.pdf

A Commonwealth Secretariat spokesman said: "The study was undertaken before Secretary-General Patricia Scotland took office. She was unanimously elected to the post and given an unequivocal mandate to reform the Commonwealth Secretariat.

"The secretary-general acknowledges the challenges facing an organisation which is not your typical development agency and is determined to ensure it continues to serve all 52 countries, many of which are small states and vulnerable, and its more than two billion citizens.”

However, the statement by the Secretariat seeks to perpetuate the myth that Scotland was “unanimously elected” when in fact she won the post of secretary-general with fewer than 50 percent of the votes at the Commonwealth heads of government meeting (CHOGM) in Malta a year ago, becoming the first secretary-general ever to be elected on a minority vote.

On the final round of voting, of the then 53 member states, Scotland received 25 votes, with former deputy secretary-general, Mmasekgoa Masire-Mwamba of Botswana, securing 24 and 2 votes spoiled.

Scotland nevertheless continues to claim she was elected unanimously.

“Contrary to the impression being built later, there were a lot of countries who were against her,” Indian sources asserted.

The statement also ignores the fact that, following her appointment in April of this year, Scotland quickly began bypassing normal procedures, against the advice of Secretariat officials, to hand out US$240,000 of lucrative contracts to friends.

She appointed two friends, Matthew Doyle and Joe Phelan, as her “special advisers” on US$20,000-a-month contracts.

And she handed her fellow Labour peer and close friend, Lord Patel of Bradford, a US$38,000-a-month consultancy to be her “change manager” in a deal criticised by British MPs. Scotland reportedly bypassed the Commonwealth’s normal tendering process by hiring Patel, who the baroness apparently calls her “partner in crime”, as a consultant without putting the job out to other bidders.

Sir Henry Bellingham, chairman of the All-Party Parliamentary Group for the Commonwealth, said, “There is a conflict of interest in this instance and the contract should be cancelled and put out to tender. Parliament would expect nothing less.”

Scotland also hired one of Patel’s friends, former BBC journalist Barnie Choudhury, as the Commonwealth’s director of communications – even though someone else was doing the same job.

A source told Britain’s Mail on Sunday newspaper: “There were secret meetings to decide how to explain it away to the media.”

Another issue is the appointment of former Barbadian diplomat Lolita Applewhaite as head of Scotland’s private office at the Secretariat.

As previously reported, Applewhaite was heavily involved in Scotland’s campaign for the position of secretary general, including accompanying Scotland on visits to other Caribbean countries.

However, Applewhaite has exceeded the age at which she should be employed at the Secretariat since, other than the secretary general, everyone must be under 60 years of age.

Notwithstanding its professed commitment to transparency, the Secretariat has failed to respond substantively to requests for comment on this and other matters.

Scotland has also been under fire after leaked documents set out plans for lavish spending at the Commonwealth head’s grace and favour home in Mayfair, London.

While a refurbishment budget of £250,000 (US$316,000) was agreed in January before Scotland took over, the costs have since ballooned to an acknowledged £330,000 (US$417,000) and possibly as much as £450,000 (US$569,000) according to media reports – an increase of anywhere between 32 and 80 percent.

British MPs have called for a parliamentary probe of Scotland’s use of public funds.

Amid the ongoing reports of alleged financial profligacy and cronyism by Scotland, Indian officials are also said to be reviewing whether the country should remain in the 52-member grouping or cut its financial contributions and divert the money saved towards the UN – which has been a principal platform for recent Indian diplomatic efforts.

According to official sources, India has been “concerned” about the recent controversies surrounding Scotland.

“She was already under a cloud when she came in, so after that, when the reports about renovations are published, these compound our worries about her effectiveness,” Indian officials said.

Notwithstanding the persistent allegations of cronyism (said to be “a form of corruption”) as secretary-general of the Commonwealth, Scotland is expected to deliver Transparency International UK’s 2016 “Anti-Corruption Lecture” next week.

When asked about the ongoing series of troubling reports in British media concerning Scotland, especially as they relate to alleged cronyism, apparently supported by compelling documentary evidence, Transparency International UK spokesman, Dominic Kavakeb, said that the invitation was extended to Scotland long before the allegations emerged.

“But the lecture does have a Q&A and we certainly expect that the public and press there will want to ask questions and we hope that the Baroness will respond directly to those questions,” Kavakeb added.

“I can't wait!” responded one British journalist who has been closely following Scotland’s activities as Commonwealth secretary general.

Other observers have suggested that providing a platform for Scotland to claim legitimacy is itself a form of corruption and offering her such a platform throws genuine doubt about Transparency International’s own capacity to question the corruption of others.

Transparency International was also embarrassed earlier this year by the so-called “Panama Papers” leak, when the president of its Chilean branch was forced to resign after documents showed he was linked to at least five offshore companies domiciled in The Bahamas.

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