Risk Areas

3.3 Misuse of defence funds: secret expenses

Explanation of risk area

A significant risk can come with any discretionary expenditure that occurs in secret and has little to no oversight. These budget lines are vulnerable to diversion and misuse for private gain.

Consequences for the mission

Diversion and waste of resources

Abuse of civilians and illegal activity


Case Study: Corruption and Plan Colombia: The Missing Link

Confidential expenses and false positives: Colombia

In Colombia, significant defence budget increases after 2000 included the so-called ‘confidential expenses’, covering spending on intelligence and counterintelligence operations, and the protection of witnesses and informants. While they only constituted a 0.5% of the security budget and were mostly used by the police, confidential expenses have been linked to one of the grisliest forms of defence sector corruption during the Plan Colombia years – the extrajudicial killings of civilians to boost insurgent body counts. There have been allegations that money spent under this budget was used to pay off soldiers accused of these ‘false positive’ killings, in order to buy their silence and prevent them from pointing out senior officers who had also been involved in the schemes.

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Indicators & Warnings

Classified budgets lacking any oversight, even internal

Outcomes or actions whose funding is difficult to explain

Reports of bribes or other forms of corruption