Foreign Office officials were conned into handing over £889,840 to a fake firm in Dubai. When they discovered their mistake, they were only able to claw back a tiny fraction of the cash - leaving taxpayers footing the bill for their blunder.
A report in the Daily Express revealed that the money was handed over in June last year, when the Foreign Office thought they were paying a legitimate supplier. They brought in detectives from the National Crime Agency, who were able to recover just over £12,000 of the money. The Foreign Office would not provide details of the fraud, as investigations are ongoing. However, it conformed that Foreign Office staff were not implicated in the investigation.
It said in its annual report that the outstanding £870,572 has been identified in Dubai and the money had been frozen. However, it added: "Although police investigations are continuing, we have provided for this loss in its entirety because of the lack of precedence of successfully recovering these types of funds." In other words, it has assumed for the purposes of its annual accounts that this money is lost forever.
The Sun said this was just one of the disasters revealed in the Foreign Office annual accounts - which also showed that one diplomat won £950,000 after tripping on loose flooring in an overseas embassy. The individual was said to have "developed complications" after the fall, and submitted a claim based on being unable to work again. The Foreign Office actually accepted responsibility back in 2007, but it took this long for the payment to be agreed.
The annual report comes hot on the heels of a recent report detailing a number of ridiculous projects funded by the Foreign Office, using foreign aid funds. These included an anti-littering campaign in Jordan and the search to find mates for tropical fish off the coast of Africa. They also spent £14,000 on a game show that aims to teach young people in Egypt about British values, and £13,000 on measuring the carbon footprint of the Dakar rally. Following the revelations, the Foreign Office said there would be a tightening up of the approvals and authorisation process.
There will be plenty of people who are concerned that the UK's representatives overseas seem to be so prone to financial bungling. It's a kick in the teeth given that so many people within the UK are struggling to make ends meet. It's also unnerving to read so many tales of mistakes and oversights from an organisation entrusted with the safety of UK travellers at a time when the world is in incredible turmoil.
But what do you think? Are you worried? Let us know in the comments.
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