Risk Areas

3.1 Resource diversion and corruption in the acquisition process

Explanation of risk area

Corruption related to materiel, be that in procurement, logistics, or asset management and disposal, is one of the most frequent forms of illicit activity in the armed forces. At the tactical level, even low-ranking officers or privates can benefit from diverting and selling equipment, fuel or food rations. At operational and strategic levels, large amounts of money involved and processes that are often opaque create incentives and opportunities for manipulating tender processes and equipment specifications, demanding kickbacks, and funnelling money to corrupt networks through purchases that only happen on paper. But whatever the level and type of corruption, the overall effect is a weaker, badly equipped force and a significant waste of money.

Consequences for the mission

Waste of resources

Ineffective resource allocation

Inadvertent strengthening of adversaries who have access to mission and host nation resources


Case Study: Making the system work: security assistance to Ukraine, 2014-2017

Resource diversion in Ukraine

Following the outbreak of separatist conflict in eastern Ukraine in 2014, donor states (including Canada, the US, the UK, Poland and Lithuania) provided equipment, clothing, and medical supplies – later extending to defensive weapons and enablers such as night-vision goggles – to Ukrainian armed forces. Widespread corruption in Ukraine’s military, however, meant that some donors resorted to working with volunteer groups, which ended up supplanting the army’s logistics branch.

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Case Study: Corruption and Plan Colombia: The Missing Link

Plan Colombia and opportunities for diversion

Plan Colombia, a comprehensive US-run assistance plan for the Colombian armed forces, was accompanied by a significant rise in Colombia’s defence budget. The latter appears to have provided additional opportunity for diversion of resources through the procurement process – primarily kickbacks related to the awarding of contracts at the lower level, for example those related to unit –level supplies such as food. As recently as December 2017, Semana magazine reported that there had been significant diversions of confidential expenses by military personnel, with an internal MOD investigation finding that some 1 billion pesos (£260,000) had been stolen every two months.

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External Link

Procurement corruption in Nigeria's military

In Nigeria, former military chiefs have been accused of having stolen as much as US$15 billion through fraudulent arms and equipment procurement deals.

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Case Study: Afghanistan: Corruption and the making of warlords

Weapons and fuel diversion in Afghanistan

In Afghanistan, some estimates put the number of soldiers who have at some point sold their weapons or ammunition for personal gain – including, in some cases, selling them to insurgent groups – at 80%. Similar numbers have been reported for the ANP, with commanders allegedly selling heavy vehicles and ammunition to the highest bidder. Fuel – a key resource – was frequently left unaccounted for and unmonitored, enabling fuel theft schemes such as that in the Kapisa province: Brigadier General Abdul Karim Fayeq, the provincial chief of police masterminded a scheme that diverted 60,000 gallons of fuel meant for ANA units.

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Indicators & Warnings

Inability to account for weapons and other items

Donated equipment for sale on the black market or online

Donor or host nation equipment in the adversary's hands

Reports of inadequate resource distribution

Low levels of ammunition and other resources, especially for frontline troops

Repeated requests for assistance, often regarding the same items