It is one of the richest countries on Earth, yet millions of pounds of British taxpayers’ money is being sent to fund aid organisations in the US, The Mail on Sunday can reveal.
One Washington think-tank, the Center for Global Development (CGD), received £5.9 million – yet was so cash-rich that it moved into new £12 million offices complete with a 60-seat ‘ideas lab’.
According to the Department for International Development (DFID) website, Washington-based CGD has received nearly £6 million since November 2011 for ‘global development, research-based aid, food security, global health, technology and anti-corruption cases’.
While CGD is an internationally recognised and respected think- tank that focuses on ‘rigorous independent research’ into how to make aid more effective and reducing global poverty, it appears to have few qualms about spending money on its own highly paid bosses and moved into new offices at the end of 2013.
The CGD’s new headquarters occupies the 33,000 sq ft fifth floor of a modern office in one of Washington’s most prestigious areas.
The offices cost £9 million to buy, with a further £3 million spent on fixtures and fittings, including a ‘multi-media lab’ and 170-seat conference hall. Lawrence MacDonald, CGD’s then vice-president of communications, sought to head off criticism of the office purchase in a blog post that said: ‘Sometimes the thriftiest thing to do is buy your own place.’He said the millions ploughed into the building were available because the charity, which has around 50 US-based staff, had accumulated ‘a modest reserve fund’.
Staff at CGD – which also has offices in London’s exclusive Pimlico area – are encouraged to have fun. During President Barack Obama’s State of the Union address in January, they had a ‘bingo’ night complete with drinks and pizza. The winner was the first to cross off a card filled with words commonly used by the President, such as ‘terrorism’, ‘immigrations’ and ‘poverty’.
In an email, a CGD spokesman said: ‘The funding we receive from DFID supports our independent academic research. None of the funding we received from them was used to buy our offices.
‘The support from DFID funds specific programmes of work including research into how wealthy countries can make aid money more effective, strengthening education systems and strengthening global health, food security, anti-corruption and technology policies.’
The UK is not the only one funding CGD. Other funders include the governments of Australia and Canada, as well as the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, Ford Foundation, Johnson & Johnson, Omidyar Network, The Rockefeller Foundation, UBS, William & Flora Hewlett Foundation, and many others.