Swimming pool maintenance, chauffeur uniforms, gourmet wine, and a flagpole that cost almost $1,800 were just some of the items squandered by foreign governments receiving Irish Aid last year, a Freedom of Information (FOI) request by a major Irish newspaper has revealed.
Among some of the most controversial items discovered in the newspaper’s request was an almost $700 bill for fixing a swimming pool pump at the Ambassador’s residence in Uganda, and a massive $1,500 spend to Zambia’s Fine Fashion Centre for “staff uniforms”.
Perhaps most objectionable of all was the $820 spent at the Hope Extreme Adventures recreational centre in Mohale, Lesotho ostensibly dubbed as a team-building junket to help the people of Lesotho better oversee their development strategy.
The expense, officially logged by government staffers as being for “team fun games for two days" took place at an African adventure centre which advertises pursuits such as horse riding and archery, among other activities, on its website.
Elsewhere a figure just shy of $2,500 was dropped on New Zealand wine, seemingly the tipple of choice at Irish Aid functions, while another team building sortie took place in the rather more opulent surroundings of a five star hotel.
Extensive investment went into Uganda’s efforts to increase its policing and domestic security efforts: a fleet of 40 mountain bikes cost the Irish taxpayer just short of $77,000, while elsewhere at the Ambassador’s residence, $1,000 was spent outfitting the kitchen with what must presumably be gold-plated cutlery.
Ireland’s Aid programme currently runs on a budget of roughly €623m and is used to fund infrastructural and developmental projects in parts of the developed world.
The money, however, effectively comes through borrowed funds, as Ireland’s budget deficit now stands at over $17bn.
Partner countries benefiting from the Aid effort include Timor Leste, Uganda, Ethiopia, Lesotho, and Mozambique.
Irish Aid to Uganda was temporarily suspended last year after it emerged that its government had misappropriated over $5.3m out of the $17m annual aid budget given to the war-torn country. However Tánaiste (Deputy Prime Minister) and Minister for Foreign Affairs Eamonn Gilmore later confirmed that after what he described as “high level talks” some restitution agreement had been reached between the two countries.