UK aid puts Malawi politicians in limos

Published Oct 29, 2000


London - An investigation is to be launched into allegations that British aid to Malawi was used by the government to buy a fleet of 39 Mercedes Benz limousines, a newspaper claimed on Saturday.

According to early editions of the Sunday Telegraph, the impoverished country in east Africa spent £1,7-million (R18,7-million) on the purchase of the S-class cars.

Britain's High Commissioner to Malawi, George Finlayson, has told high-ranking officials there that the British government would be "embarrassed" to discover the allegations were true, the newspaper said.

It quoted Clare Short, the minister for International Development, as saying there was no possibility of Britain cutting aid to Malawi over the allegations.

Britain will give Malawi, the world's 16th poorest country, £135-million in aid over the next two years.

But MPs are reported to be concerned about what they fear is a misuse of British aid cash.

The House of Commons international development select committee, which scrutinises the work of Short's department, is to question her over the affair as part of an inquiry into corruption in the distribution of overseas aid, according to the newspaper.

Gary Streeter, spokesperson on international development for the opposition Conservative Party told the Sunday Telegraph: "It is unacceptable for British tax-payers' money to fund such extravagance while children in Malawi cannot go to school."

Bright Msaka, the Malawian high commissioner in London, insisted the limousines were bought to replace the government's ageing fleet.

They were not paid for with British aid cash, the diplomat told the Sunday Telegraph. - Sapa-AFP

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