One per cent of aid may have irregularities – commissioner

JUST one per cent of her aid budget is suspected of “irregularities”, said Kristalina Georgieva yesterday.

Asked by the News Letter’s news editor Ben Lowry about how they can stop “money making the problem worse” by ending up in the pockets of corrupt foreign leaders, she said: “In humanitarian aid, we never give money to governments. Never.

“What we do is we deliver help directly to the people, working with specialised and highly-professional humanitarian organisations – some are here in Northern Ireland.

“What we do to make sure that money gets to people who need this help is to make decisions for allocation only when we’re confident that we know what the needs are, where they are and... that we have access to get help to people.”

Among the countries she has visited in the last few months are Haiti, the Caribbean nation ravaged by a devastating earthquake in 2010, and Lebanon and Jordan, both left coping with an influx of refugees from neighbouring Syria.

She continued: “There is assessment of what percentage of the money you spend may have irregularities of their use. In our case it is around one per cent. Only one per cent of the money where there may be some question whether the money has achieved the objective.”

However, with her 2012 budget for aid estimated at 1.3 billion Euros (about £1.1bn), one per cent of such a total could still be seen as a substantial sum.

She said: “In my experience, in these three years I have seen the enormous bravery of humanitarian workers, of relief workers, to deliver assistance in the most difficult circumstances...

“They have these people, humanitarian workers, one of the most dangerous jobs in the world.

“In every year more humanitarian workers die in service than UN peacekeepers. This is a community that deserves our respect. And it is not by chance that it gets it.

“The European public overwhelmingly supports humanitarian aid.

“At the time of eroding support for Europe, this is an area where support has gone up. In 2010, 79 per cent of Europeans were in favour of humanitarian aid. In 2012 it went up to 88 per cent.”

Before her visit to the News Letter yesterday, where she was given a brief rundown of the newspaper’s history, she met a string of political and charity figures, including UUP leader Mike Nesbitt and groups like Trocaire and Tear Fund.

She headed down to Dublin later in the afternoon.

Before joining the EC in 2010, Ms Georgieva held senior posts in the World Bank. Before that, she had stints as a research fellow at the London School of Economics and as a visiting professor in Fiji’s University of the South Pacific.

A native of Bulgaria, she speaks Russian, English, and is learning French.