Q&A: Adam Smith International's outgoing Executive Chairman William Morrison

By Molly Anders 06 March 2017

William Morrison (pictured in Iraq) has worked for ASI for 22 years. In 2004, he helped set up the prime minister’s office in Iraq. Photo by: ASI

The largest contractor for the U.K. Department for International Development, Adam Smith International, last week announced a package of reforms, the retirement of four of its executives, and a temporary withdrawal from new DfID procurement after a series of investigations into its misuse of proprietary information, alongside a long-running negative media campaign.

The for-profit firm came under fire late last year when one of its employees — a former civil servant at the DfID — was discovered sharing privileged documents with ASI colleagues with the aim of giving ASI an unfair advantage over competitors. Another offense surfaced simultaneously: Leaked emails showed that ASI executives had encouraged staff to inappropriately intervene in the writing and submission of beneficiary testimonials to a parliamentary inquiry. ASI has since fired the former DfID staffer who shared proprietary documents and launched its own internal investigations, alongside those launched by House of Commons’ International Development Committee and DfID. Last week, the firm announced that four executives would step down in the wake of the crisis, and ASI would reform its operations, beginning by shifting to a social enterprise model, in which the company invests a large share of profits in a not-for-profit foundation.

ASI’s founding director and one of the outgoing executives, William Morrison, spoke to Devex about the company’s commitment to becoming a “social enterprise” and offered his insights into how the sector is both improved — and impaired — by media scrutiny. The conversation has been edited for length and clarity.

What do you want other suppliers in the sector, particularly the leadership in those organizations, to learn from your experience?

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About the author

Molly Andersmollyanders_dev

Molly is a global development reporter for Devex. Based in London, she covers U.K. foreign aid and trends in international development. She draws on her experience covering aid legislation and the USAID implementer community in Washington, D.C., as well as her time as a Fulbright Fellow and development practitioner in the Middle East to develop stories with insider analysis.

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