Aid Minister and the scandal school tsar: We give Pakistan £700m each year towards education – yet the Punjab schools minister is being investigated amid corruption allegations.

Hundreds of millions of pounds in British aid are being poured into education in Pakistan – where corrupt officials have creamed off vast amounts of cash by creating thousands of fake teaching jobs and pocketing the salaries.

A judicial inquiry in one province, Sindh, uncovered how the money was being siphoned off to as many as 5,000 schools and 40,000 teachers – which exist only on paper.

The fraud is just one of the scandals in education across Pakistan, to which Britain’s Department for International Development (DFID) has committed £700 million, supposedly to help the country’s impoverished children.

Continuing support: Justine Greening meets Rana Mashhood last year. Britain gives more aid than Australia, Canada, Holland, Italy and Spain combined. We give 0.7% of our wealth - the average for richer nations is 0.29%...the US gives 0.19%.

Continuing support: Justine Greening meets Rana Mashhood last year. Britain gives more aid than Australia, Canada, Holland, Italy and Spain combined. We give 0.7% of our wealth – the average for richer nations is 0.29%…the US gives 0.19%.

Hundreds of millions of pounds in British aid are given to education in Pakistan. In one province, Sindh, a judicial inquiry found it was being siphoned off by 5,000 schools and 40,000 teachers. File image

Hundreds of millions of pounds in British aid are given to education in Pakistan. In one province, Sindh, a judicial inquiry found it was being siphoned off by 5,000 schools and 40,000 teachers. File image

In the state of Punjab, where school projects have been allotted £383 million of UK aid, Pakistan’s auditor general uncovered corruption on a huge scale. The investigation revealed that £35 million had disappeared from the region’s higher-education budget, including £25 million on ‘bad investments’ and hundreds of thousands in fraudulent ‘advances’ to teachers.

Although Britain does not fund higher education in the region, the damning findings confirm DFID’s own assessment of its complex ‘support programme’ in Punjab, where it rated the risk of fraud as ‘substantial’.

The Punjab schools minister is Rana Mashhood, who was pictured shaking hands with Justine Greening, the International Development Secretary, during a meeting in London at the end of last year. Mr Mashhood has been under investigation since September by Pakistan’s National Accountability Bureau for corruption allegations unrelated to UK aid. He denies any wrongdoing. Last week, with the inquiry still ongoing, he quit as minister for higher education, sport and tourism saying that he wanted to concentrate on his schools portfolio.

And yet another scandal has arisen after DFID, in an attempt to avoid some of the problems involved in working with state governments, turned to giving money to private companies running non-government schools. DFID has since found that women teachers in ‘low-cost private schools’ are paid sweatshop wages of just 70p a day – less than a quarter the legal minimum.

SUPERSONIC CAR IS A CASH-GUZZLER: £1MILLION LAND SPEED RECORD HOPEFUL BUILT IN THE UK WAS PAID FOR BY FOREIGN OFFICE MONEY 

Gleaming, sleek and designed to be supersonic, this is the incredible car which it is hoped will break the land speed record.

But what’s even more incredible is that the futuristic Bloodhound project has been the recipient of British aid cash, which taxpayers might have imagined was going to combat disease or poverty.

An astonishing £1million has been given by the UK in a grant for schemes involving the super car. Last night the TaxPayers’ Alliance said: ‘It is stupefying that funding a world record attempt in a supersonic car can apparently be regarded in any way as foreign aid.’

The project, led by entrepeneur Richard Noble, above, is listed as a science and education initiative and receives funding from the Foreign Office, the MoD and the British Council. A record attempt is planned for later year in South Africa.

A Government spokesman said last night: ‘The UK has provided the funding to promote British companies and to support educational projects.’

A review in February 2014 warned that ‘pay to teachers in LCPS [low-cost private schools] is often significantly below the official minimum wage… and in many cases below a dollar a day’.

In Punjab, these schools are funded through the Punjab Education Foundation (PEF), which receives £68.7 million in UK aid. It costs about £40 a year to put a child through a PEF school. But an academic study of the programme co-authored by Professor Roy Carr-Hill, from University College London, and his Pakistan-based colleague Ali Murtaza found that the way areas were selected to receive UK help ‘almost certainly means the very poor are excluded’.They concluded that private sector involvement increased the ‘likelihood of corruption’.

Critics say Pakistan is dependent on UK support partly because only 0.5 per cent of its population pay tax.

A DFID spokesman said: ‘Providing education in Pakistan is inevitably challenging, but that is why we need to be there. Our support is getting millions of children into school and we’ve worked with the education department in Punjab to tackle this issue, helping to save £10 million. The challenge of delivering education in Pakistan is huge but thanks to UK support, 6.3 million children are getting a decent schooling who otherwise wouldn’t.

‘In large parts of Pakistan low-cost private schools, many employing part-time teachers, are the only means of providing education for thousands of those children, so it makes sense to work with them.’

Source: Dailymail. Date: 2 April 2016

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