Mail anti-poverty expenses probe prompts review

An anti-poverty organisation was under review today amid reports that it ran up lavish expenses claims.

The Daily Mail claimed executives at the Commonwealth Development Corporation (CDC) stayed in luxury hotels and dined at some of London’s finest restaurants at the taxpayers’ expense.

One bill for dinner for CDC non-executive directors at the Michelin-starred L’Autre Pied restaurant came to £700, according to documents obtained by the paper in a Freedom of Information request.

The CDC insisted today that the Department for International Development (DFID) review was not new but had been ordered when International Development Secretary Andrew Mitchell took office months ago.

But a DFID statement read: “Lavish expenses are completely unacceptable. The Secretary of State has set up a review of all aspects of CDC’s work, including pay and remuneration.”

The DFID spokeswoman added that the review would ensure the CDC’s investments “help the poorest and provide real value for money for the taxpayer”.

One CDC executive, Anubha Shrivastava, was said to have claimed £530 for a one-night stay at the Four Seasons hotel in Hong Kong and £661.48 for a two-night stay at the five-star Portman Ritz Carlton in Shanghai.

Chief executive Richard Laing, whose pay came under scrutiny last year following reports that he received salary and bonuses totalling £970,000, claimed £7,414 in expenses last year, the paper said.

A CDC spokeswoman said today: “CDC’s expenses policy covers reasonable costs incurred in the course of our business.

“On behalf of the Government, we’re running a £2.5 billion company investing in businesses in the developing world because the private sector and economic growth are essential for sustainable development.

“We’re not a quango. We don’t cost the taxpayer a single penny and have created £1.2 billion in the last four years alone for investment in yet more promising businesses in Africa and Asia.

“We invest in 800 businesses supporting the lives of some three million people in poor countries. Of course we incur expenses in the course of doing that.”

The CDC, which is owned by the DFID, provides capital to businesses in some of the poorest countries in the world.

DFID’s budget was spared from the coalition Government’s cuts and is the only department to be protected apart from the Department of Health.

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