France has blacklisted17 countries including the Philippines and Switzerland that do not help investigate foreign aid fraud, banning the use of their banks to help distribute development funds, officials said on Monday.
Aides to development minister Pascal Canfin were unable to say how much French foreign aid currently transits via banks in the countries featured on the new blacklist.
The blacklist expands on an already-established register of eight “non-cooperative states and territories” that already includes Botswana, Brunei, Nauru, Guatemala and the Philippines.
It adds Switzerland, Lebanon, Panama, Costa Rica, the United Arab Emirates, Dominica, Liberia, Trinidad and Tobago, and Vanuatu.
The officials justified the move by saying there was a lack of transparency in the nations on the list, adding that poor and developing countries were often the main victims of fraud.
“The aim is primarily preventative, to put pressure on these countries by publicizing this list to progress towards more transparency,” they said.
It comes hot on the heels of a damaging scandal involving Jerome Cahuzac, a former budget minister who was once in charge of fighting tax evasion but admitted to having a secret, foreign bank account after months of denial.
France’s blacklist surprised Malacañang.
In a press briefing, Palace deputy spokesman Abigail Valte said Finance Secretary Cesar Purisima is trying to get additional information on the issue so that the Philippine government can properly address it.
“I spoke to Secretary Purisima this morning about that and we’re looking to get more details on this particular report because, from the media reports that we picked up, it seems that we’re in the company of Switzerland and Brunei, among other countries,” she said
“And we’re trying to get a better handle on what it really is and what the observations are because I understand that we’re working with them on the finance side, on several initiatives, and parang wala pa daw pong nadi-discuss na ganyan [there had been no previous discussions on the matter],” she added.
The Philippine government would like to get “the scope of the factors that they considered when it came to that particular conclusion,” Valte said.
She explained that there are some foreign donations that are not given directly to the Philippine government but through non-governmental organizations (NGOs).
Valte said the government would want clarification on how the country ended up in the blacklist and if there were demands or conditions that the government failed to meet and in what particular grant.
WITH REPORTS FROM AFP