The Netherlands halts aid to Benin

Minister for Foreign Trade and Development Cooperation Lilianne Ploumen has suspended development relations with Benin with immediate effect, following a serious fraud case. ‘The Netherlands is keen to offer the people of Benin the prospect of a better life, by implementing effective programmes,’ Ms Ploumen said. ‘But if serious failings on the part of the government authorities come to light, we have to take action.’ Investigation has shown that €4 million in Dutch development aid has disappeared at Benin’s water ministry.

The Netherlands is the largest donor in Benin with regard to water. The PPEA II programme for clean drinking water and sanitation involves an approximate total of €70 million (€50 million from the Netherlands, €20 million from the EU). When suspicions of fraud first arose, the 2014 audit was brought forward. Those suspicions have since been confirmed. ‘Expenses were being made that hadn’t been agreed and small start-ups were being given large sums of money. I can’t let that happen,’ said Ms Ploumen. ‘So that’s why our bilateral aid to the government of Benin is being halted until they actually put a stop to the fraud.’

The development programmes that the Netherlands carries out with the Beninese government focus mainly on three key areas: water, food security and SRHR (sexual and reproductive health and rights, for instance supporting HIV/AIDS patients and reducing maternal mortality). More than €22 million was earmarked for these programmes in 2014 and for this year the amount was €21 million. As a precaution, the Dutch embassy has withheld all payments for the water programme since December 2014. ‘It’s now up to Benin to repair the relationship,’ remarked the minister. ‘By having an internationally recognised agency conduct a thorough investigation, by taking legal steps and by putting measures in place to prevent this from happening again. We will of course do everything we can to retrieve the money that was received fraudulently.’

In addition to funding through the government, the Netherlands also supports several NGOs in Benin and will continue to do so. ‘The aim of this measure is to tackle the fraud,’ said Ms Ploumen. ‘We’ll continue to help the people of Benin as much as possible. But we’ll do so without the involvement of the government, until they show us they are reliable. It’s in the interests of the Beninese people, too, for these practices to be stopped.’