Sunday, February 01, 2009

News From BOM Correspondents - 14

Latest news and links:

International Aid Gravy Train

We've blogged the outrageous aid quango CDC (the old Commonwealth Development Corporation) many times (eg see here). It's wholly owned by us, has a woolly mandate to spray around billions of our cash pretty well as it pleases, and pays its top executives up to £1m pa. Nice work if you can get it, especially now such work has dried up in the real world.

In the real world, we taxpayers are struggling to clear up the gigantic mess left by our "financial engineers", but CDC has decided it's a good time to slosh another $30m of our cash into a private fund which will engineer mezzanine debt and small company buy-outs in south-east Asia.

On top of that, it's putting $10m of our friggin' cash into small and medium sized enterprises (SMEs) in Kazakhstan. Yes, that's Kazakhstan, as in "corruption in Kazakhstan is systemic, even within the country's anti-corruption agency, and no public office is free... corruption is a serious problem for SMEs... in 2006 alone, SMEs spent between USD 1.3 billion and USD 2 billion on corruption".

So that's another $10m in bribes. And like we've said before, we've yet to see any serious evidence that the billions we spend on so-called development aid does any good whatsoever... except, that is, to those employed in the aid industry. (One of Tyler's Xmas pressie books was William Easterley's The White Man's Burden - once read we will report back).

(HTP Joan W)

British Council Gravy Train

David Blackie's excellent blog The Language Business remains the definitive commentary on how Lord Kinnockio's BC manages to squander hundreds of millions of our cash every year.

Last week, for example, he highlighted how the BC has blown £7m on some half-baked project in Sierra Leone. The project was supposedly teaching grateful natives about "justice", but it's so far involved £200 grand being siphoned out of the accounts - possibly by the local Director - and another BC "expert" reportedly evading local taxes on his luxury imported 4x4.

Being a member of the Lords, my Lord K knows all about pits of incompetence and corruption, but this sounds like a humdinger.

Andif you want to get really REALLY ANGRY about how the BC wastes YOUR money, A Reader suggests you take a look at this job ad from the British Council Canada. For $60K pa they want to employ a Climate Change Programme Manager.

Apparently, climate change - or rather, climate change propaganda - forms an important part of BC's work in Canada. EG: "Cape Farewell is aimed at raising awareness about climate change by bringing together artists, educators and scientists on a voyage through the Norwegian Arctic... The International Climate Champions (ICCs) are helping young people and their communities tackle climate change."

So we British taxpayers are not only being forced to fund the BBC's eco propaganda here at home*, but we're also having to fund it in Canada. WTF! (* The excellent Mr Booker has another good piece today savaging the £3.5bn pa tax-funded BBC's eco propaganda, and news that it has explicitly rejected balanced and objective reporting in this area - a jaw-dropping point already blogged by us - ahem -nearly two years ago).

Temping Quangocrats Gravy Train

We've blogged the comically named NHS Professionals before. Back in 2006 we explained how it was a quango set up specifically to reduce the huge amount of money (at that time £800m pa) the NHS spends on expensive temporary agency nurses. And how its female head put us in mind of an operative from Nails4U in Basildon.

Well, guess what - this quango set up specifically to reduce the amount spent on expensive temps actually hired expensive temps to manage itself:
"It cost taxpayers £1,700 a day to secure the services of John Faraguna as chief executive of NHS Professionals, and £1,150 a day to employ Stephen Dangerfield as director of operations.

Their salaries came via contracts which cost the taxpayer almost £750,000 in one year."


(HTP Steve)

Digital Gravy Train

Pete S highlights the proposed new digital rights quango. It will be funded by a new £20 pa licence fee on broadband connections. Pete comments:

"Internet companies are ALREADY required to hand over information about copyright-breakers to film and music companies if they obtain a court order. So what is taxing us for this additional pointless unelected quango going to achieve?

Whilst the rest of Europe slashes broadband costs and increases bandwidth to consumers, our costs in UK are increasing …

This is the beginning of an internet licence which will run alongside the tv licence."

We fear he's absolutely right.

Their Lordships' Gravy Train

A Tory presents the House of Lords Screwing The Taxpayer Awards 2009. Just as a taster, the coveted Overnight Subsistence Award is won this year by Baroness Bonham-Carter, who claimed £30,524 for accommodation.

AT comments "The House of Lords might not get the same degree of publicity or fame as the House of Commons, but that doesn’t stop its moral, decent and entirely ethical members making their lives as comfortable as possible at the taxpayers’ expense."

The good news of course is that their Lordships now seem to have bought themselves a one-way ticket to oblivion.

And good riddance. It is bizarre and entirely unacceptable for a 21st century democracy to have a legislative chamber comprised of unelected placemen. And yes, we do realise their Lordships include some perfectly decent and able coves. And yes we do realise that elected representatives are not invariably honourable or even competent. But come on.

Horribly Derailed Gravy Train

Finally, A Reader reckons Tyler's posts about the economic crisis have got far too upbeat. He suggests BOM readers should take a reality check with US commentator Karl "You Can't Help Laughing" Denninger. Here's a sample:

"The Fed... would have to print up literally $20 trillion dollars to halt the collapse and should they attempt it the dollar would collapse instead... This would produce a monetary and market implosion twice as bad as what occurred in Iceland overnight.

... When regulation of credit is abdicated to the degree we have seen in the last five years the resulting credit collapse cannot be avoided...

We stand on the edge of the failure of all of American's retirement assets. Literally all of them... If the Treasury and Stock market both sell off as I believe both can and is likely to happen if the current policies are continued essentially ALL American Retirement Assets will be destroyed. Total losses through these systems is likely to reach 80-90%, and the Boomers start retiring "en-masse" just a few years from now.

In short, if policies are not changed now there will be no retirement for Americans and the currently-retired who rely on these funds will find them gone and be forced back into the workplace. Unemployment in that scenario is likely to reach and may exceed 20%, and what's worse, Medicare funding will be severely curtailed at the same time due to the inability of the government to fund it."

So if you think BOM is depressing, think on.


Phil Taylor has pointed out the original version of this post contained a huge factual error. We'd totally misread a post by Bambibasher highlighting some recent discussion of the Association of Chief Police Officers on the Army Rumour Service!

In an attempt to find out how much ACPO costs us, BB FOI'd his own police authority, Sussex. They said Authority contributions are running at £800 grand pa. But dumb Tyler misread that as meaning £800 grand was Sussex's own contribution, which, if you scale it up for the 40 odd authorities in E&W and add a bit for the Home Office gives us atotal pot of c £40m pa.

That was wrong. The true cost of ACPO is spelled out in their accounts from Companies House, which Phil has helpfully supplied. It's running at £17m pa, of which £15m is for specific named projects.

So forget all the bile we originally sprayed around about ACPO being a dark ill-defined moneypit. It's still £17m pa taxpayers' money, but the vast bulk of it is for specific project work.


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