A recent conference in Geneva, Switzerland on fraud and corruption prevention within the humanitarian sector explored the problems and damage that can be caused when aid fails to reach its intended recipients.

The conference was organized by the IFRC, Transparency International Norway and PwC Switzerland, and sought ways to respond to increasing threats and risks of fraud and corruption. It concluded that the humanitarian sector would be best served by a move from detection and response towards fraud prevention.

Jagan Chapagain, IFRC Chief of Staff, said that cooperation within, and between, different organization was a key aspect in ensuring the effective distribution of development support and disaster response. “Fraud and Corruption does not differentiate between organizations, private or public, profit or not-for-profit,” he said. “The benefits of cooperating outweigh the risks of not doing it. Together, our prevention programmes can be stronger.”

The effects of corruption are stark in both financial cost and in terms of lives lost. In 2012, the then Secretary General of the UN, Ban Ki-moon, said that up to 30 per cent of the global aid budget was lost to corruption.

Transparency International Norway said an effective response had to include not just the organizations involved in aid delivery, but also the communities being supported by them. Its recommendations included funding more research into the scale of corruption, using technology to ensure aid got to the people it was intended to support, and the promotion of industry-wide transparency systems that hold organizations and commercial partners to account for the money they spend.

Chapagain said international organizations and NGOs were trusted with billions of dollars every year and donors had the right to be confident that their contributions were not going to the wrong people. “We seek accountability for accountability’s sake. We push ourselves to be accountable and transparent because it is the right thing to do,” he said.