Author Archives: Peter Glover

Ethics, Compliance, and Oversight in International Development: Lessons from the UK

Photo Credit: DFID (via Flickr)

Although the international development community aspires to noble ends, the firms and organizations therein are not free from the same ethical lapses that can befall corporations with more naked profit motives. Adam Smith International (ASI), the largest international development contractor for the United Kingdom’s Department for International Development (DfID), can attest to that point. In February 2017, ASI suffered a major blow when DfID froze all future contracts with ASI after uncovering unethical behavior on the part of ASI. These firm-specific compliance issues open up abroader conversation about the roles of ethics, compliance, and the public in international development.

ASI earned their DfID sanction by hiring an ex-DfID employee who then used their access to proprietary DfID documents to help ASI gain inside information into how to win DfID contracts. ASI also sought to influence the results of parliamentary hearings by engineering the content in letters of support from its beneficiaries. In both of these cases, ASI sought to cover up their wrongdoing with more deception. Taken together, these cover-ups revealed a toxic culture that had been given the time and space to fester.

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