Adam Smith International rejects Panorama charges

05/12/2017

London, 4 December 2017 - Adam Smith International deplores the false and misleading allegations that have been broadcast on the BBC programme Panorama and will pursue every avenue to defend the integrity of its project to bring safety and security to devastated communities in Syria.  

The Access to Justice and Community Security (AJACS) project in Syria, funded by six international governments, supports the Free Syrian Police, an unarmed community police service that brings rule of law. It is the first line of defence against terrorist control of security and justice systems in liberated Syria.

We gave Panorama extensive information and explanations refuting the programme's spurious claims about the AJACS project. Yet Panorama's report was almost entirely based on the stories of three unreliable and conflicted  sources: One source, Tareq al-Khalil was a former ASI staff member dismissed for unethical conduct including corruption; another source, Waseem Enawi also a former staff member, attempted to extort funds with threats to discredit the project through contact with journalists. Further, the source identified by Panorama as a human rights lawyer had applied to work for AJACS but was rejected  because he failed vetting processes which screen for corruption and conflict of interest.

ASI's legal counsel had put Panorama on notice about our concerns that their sources were deeply unreliable, and provided specific information on them. Yet the programme relied almost exclusively on them. Panorama did not substantiate their allegations with evidence, beyond highly selective extracts from ASI materials in which we carefully document our procedures, and transparently report incidents where recalibration was required.

"It is disappointing to see the BBC using unsubstantiated reporting to attack British aid, especially an outstanding example of UK assistance that improves the safety and security of people in a region afflicted by terrorists and ravaged by war," said Jonathan Pell, interim CEO of ASI. 

AJACS’s mission is to provide stability in the midst of conflict and take on terrorists, meaning it operates in a complex, high risk environment. Therefore AJACS is subject to strict governance with built-in checks and balances, including two separate implementing companies and an objective independent third-party monitor, operating in line with robust systems of verification and control. Six funding governments exercise exceptionally tight supervision over all aspects of programming and delivery.

The Free Syrian Police won the praise of the Foreign Secretary, Boris Johnson who saluted the "bravery and integrity" of the unarmed police force when he visited last year. The founder of the FSP, General Shallaf, called the BBC report one-sided and said it ignored the resounding support it receives from Syrian communities it serves. "Without it, we would open the field to extremists who are just waiting for the chance to take over," he said. "People would suffer".

A summary of information rebutting the allegations is available at:
http://www.adamsmithinternational.com/news-and-insights/

Adam Smith International
For media requests please contact:
Brigid Janssen, Communications Adviser – Adam Smith International
Tel: 020 7091 3503
Email: brigid.janssen@adamsmithinternational.com    

Adam Smith International
ASI works closely with governments, civil society organisations, and the private sector to bring lasting prosperity to people in developing countries, through policies and programmes that underpin economic growth and governance reform. ASI has undergone fundamental restructuring since the founding directors left the board in early 2017. The company has transformed into an employee-owned company with a new code of conduct and enhanced governance and controls. ASI is committed to a triple bottom line, accountable for economic, environmental and social performance. It is creating a foundation that will use a portion of company revenues to support innovative development work.