Fraud in overseas aid and the
challenge of measurement
Mark Button, Chris Lewis and David Shepherd
Centre for Counter Fraud Studies, University of Portsmouth,
Portsmouth, UK, and
Faculty of Social Sciences, Wolverhampton University,
Purpose – The purpose of this paper is to explore the challenges of measuring fraud in overseas aid.
Design/methodology/approach – The research is based on 21 semi-structured interviews with key
persons working in the delivery of aid in both the public and voluntary sectors. It uses the UK Department for
International Development as a case study to applying more accurate measures of fraud.
Findings – This paper shows there are signicant challenges to using fraud loss measurement to
gauge fraud in overseas aid. However, it argues that, along with other types of measures, it could be
used in areas of expenditure in overseas governments and charities to measure aid. Given the high risk
of such aid to fraud, it argues helping to develop capacity to reduce aid, of which measuring the size of
the problem is an important part; this could be considered as aid in its own right.
Research limitations/implications – The researchers were not able to visit high-risk countries for
fraud to examine in the local context views on the challenges of measuring fraud.
Practical implications – The paper offers insights on the challenges to accurately measuring fraud
in an overseas context, which will be useful to policy-makers in this context.
Social implications – Given the importance of as much aid as possible reaching recipients, it offers
an important contribution to helping to reduce losses in this important area.
Originality/value – There has been very little consideration of how to measure fraud in the overseas
aid context, with most effort aimed at corruption, which poses some of the same challenges, as well as
some very different challenges.
Keywords Measurement, Fraud, Overseas aid
Paper type Research paper
In many countries around the world, it is a time of austerity with swingeing cuts to public
expenditure occurring. In some countries, overseas aid has been shielded from the full extent
of austerity, and the UK is one of these, where the aid budget has been set to increase
substantially (from £8.1 billion in 2011-2012 to £10.6 billion during 2014-2015) (DFID, 2012).
This expansion is occurring in many countries at high risk of fraud and corruption. As the
House of Commons Public Accounts Committee (2011) in the UK noted:
All of the countries in which the Department plans to increase its spending by more than 50 per
cent over the next four years have a score lower than 3.0 in the Transparency International
index of the perceived extent of public sector corruption (on a scale which ranges from zero
which represents “highly corrupt” to 10.0 which represents “very clean”).
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Journalof Financial Crime
Vol.22 No. 2, 2015
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