UK suspends part of funding to Commonwealth Secretariat

International | Written by : IANS| Updated:

UK suspends part of funding to Commonwealth Secretariat

London, Feb 12 (IANS) The Boris Johnson government has suspended a part of funding to the Commonwealth Secretariat and has made the provision - around �4.7 million a year - conditional to its processes meeting high standards. It was revealed here on Wednesday.

The UK's decision has come after Patricia Janet Scotland, Secretary-General of the Commonwealth, was criticised by auditors for "circumventing" the competitive tendering rules in award of a lucrative consultancy contract to a company run by one of her friends, according to a BBC report.

The auditors also discovered that procurement rules were waived by the Secretariat on around 50 occasions in the last three years.

Responding to the criticism, the London-based Secretariat said it had been implementing recommendations made by external auditors.

The Johnson government's decision threatens to plunge the Secretariat into a financial crisis and will raise fresh questions about Lady Scotland's leadership.

New Zealand and Australia have also suspended their discretionary funding to the Commonwealth Secretariat until its financial systems are streamlined and tested by external auditors.

A Foreign Office spokeswoman said, "We are committed to an effective Commonwealth that delivers for its member states, so we have set a number of conditions on the UK funding to the Commonwealth Fund for Technical Cooperation for this financial year.

"These include conditions relating to ensuring that the Secretariat's procurement policy and its implementation are in line with international best practice."

Commonwealth heads of government had previously rejected calls to automatically renew Lady Scotland's job when her term of office ends later this year.

A Commonwealth spokesman told the BBC, "The Commonwealth Secretariat doesn't comment on private exchanges with its member countries. The Secretariat complies fully with the audit process and implements recommendations accordingly."

The Commonwealth Secretariat is the central administrative system for the inter-governmental organisation that comprises 54 countries - many of them former British colonies - and encompasses almost a third of the world's population.