Several staff members at the British High Commission in Sierra Leone have been suspended on suspicion of defrauding the UK government of approximately £2 million, as reported by the UK Financial Times.

Sir Philip Barton, the permanent secretary at the Foreign Office, informed the Commons foreign affairs committee about the loss, which will be recorded in the department’s annual accounts.

The fraudulent activities primarily revolved around the procurement of diesel fuel for electricity generators at the UK High Commission in Freetown. The full extent of the scheme and the total amount lost is still under investigation.

In a letter to the committee, Barton stated that it is believed that a group of staff members colluded to bypass controls. The individuals implicated in the fraud have been suspended, and disciplinary measures are currently underway.

Barton also mentioned that he initiated a review to determine what went wrong and implemented a program to enhance safeguards at the outpost.

This disclosure has raised concerns among Members of Parliament (MPs) regarding broader issues of fraud, theft, and corruption associated with UK government and UK-related charitable funds abroad.

Neil Coyle, a Labour MP on the committee, criticized the Foreign Office’s leadership for neglecting the management of embassies and commissions since the department’s merger with the Department for International Aid in 2020.

Coyle called for reassurance that there is no other fraud or corruption within the Sierra Leone office and demanded measures to prevent fraud and the misuse of British taxpayers’ money across all global operations.

Alicia Kearns, a Conservative MP and the committee’s chair, pointed out that Barton’s letter followed news of a fraud case in the Democratic Republic of Congo involving a charity led by Rory Stewart, a former UK international development secretary.