'Astonishing' pay at poverty firm revealed

STAFF at a government-owned company set up to alleviate poverty in the developing world took home an "astonishing" average pay packet of nearly £130,000 each last year, Scotland on Sunday can reveal.

• Concerned: Glasgow Central MP Anas Sarwar, one of the members of the International Development Committee who quizzed the CDC last week.

The 47 staff at the Commonwealth Development Corporation (CDC), fully owned by the taxpayer, built up a wage bill of 6 million, split between basic salaries and bonuses.

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The sums had to be extracted from the organisation last week after executives failed to provide a straight answer to MPs who were questioning them about their costs.

Officials at its supervisory body, the Department for International Development, revealed last night that a review of remuneration would now be taking place.

The CDC is made up of fund managers who invest cash in private firms in developing countries to show it is possible to make a profit.

It claims it is helping commerce flourish in some of the poorest parts of the world, but critics say it has become overly interested in profits rather than poverty alleviation, with its own managers the most likely to benefit.

Recent documents released under Freedom of Information legislation revealed the lavish expense accounts of senior managers, including a 700 bill for a dinner at one Michelin-starred restaurant.

Following questioning from MPs on the International Development Committee last week, the CDC was forced into revealing the full extent of the remuneration it offers.

In 2009, basic salaries for its staff came to 3m. Short-term bonus payments totalled a further 1.5m, while long-term bonus payments came to 1.3m.

It was reported recently that chief executive Richard Laing had earned nearly 1m in 2007, thanks to performance-related bonuses.

The Corporation defends itself by pointing out that it has successfully grown its investment portfolio, and as a consequence has not required any taxpayer cash since 1995.

It says that it needs to pay its fund managers a going market rate in order to attract professionals who can make good investment decisions which, it argues, will help support the lives of the poorest people in society.

Glasgow Central MP Anas Sarwar, one of the members of the International Development Committee who quizzed the Corporation bosses last week, said: "It's bizarre that the CEO, chairman and managing director of a company that employs 46 people could not tell MPs at Wednesday's evidence session the combined annual remuneration of employees.

"We now know that figure and it is absolutely astonishing and very concerning. I'm also concerned that the figure does not include expenses."

However, a spokesman for CDC said last night: "CDC requires specific investment skills which can only be found in the private sector and we need to offer remuneration packages that will attract the best professionals to work with us."

He added: "Last year, CDC made 359m of new investments in developing countries and made a total profit of 207m."