By Paul Oates
The lid is lifted on Australia’s Foreign Aid program
In a Special Report in today’s Courier Mail on Australian Foreign Aid, some of our overseas aid were listed in detail. The report claimed that around a quarter of our aid to PNG is paid to a handful of firms who in practice deliver little of substance.
Under the heading ‘Pacific nations outraged by huge salaries paid for
advisors’, examples include a former clerk of a Melbourne court who now receives $500,000 a year, tax free, as the law and justice adviser to PNG.
Under the ‘Millennium Development Goals’, a female adviser is paid $293,423 tax free a year as a ‘gender integration adviser’ to PNG.
It was reported that the newly appointed head of AusAID, Peter Baxter, has ‘vowed to crack down on highly paid consultants as part of a broader restructuring of the foreign aid program’.
Other references to PNG include:
– over 12.5 million for private rental accommodation contracts in Port
– three quarters of a million dollars paid to the Media Council of PNG for a ‘new funding agreement’.
– an independent review of the PNG/Australia treaty found ‘millions of dollars being “wasted” on consultants and glossy reports’. Australia’s financial support was “being spread too thinly” across areas including health, education, transport, law and justice and HIV/AIDS.
– Health programs run by non government agencies and churches received a tick of approval however.
“It may be that there is an over reliance on advisers in some countries,” Australia’s Foreign Affairs Minister is quoted as saying.
So what about introducing outcomes based auditing into our Foreign aid programs? I searched and searched the report but couldn’t find any reference that might be even slightly construed as approaching anywhere near that revolutionary concept.
Tens of millions in foreign aid wasted on salaries and commissions
By Steve Lewis and Nic Christensen: The Courier-Mail, May 24, 2010 12:00AM
AUSTRALIA’S foreign aid program is under siege after revelations tens of millions of dollars are being wasted on huge salaries for consultants and rich contracts for private firms.
An extensive investigation has uncovered a lucrative foreign aid “industry”, raising questions about the Rudd Government’s decision to double annual spending to more than $8 billion.
And a high-level review has slammed the $414 million program in Papua New Guinea, claiming $100 million is being paid to a handful of firms – but delivering little.
Aid experts also have questioned the size of contracts paid to “briefcase” advisers who fly in to poor countries, including East Timor, Vanuatu, Solomon Islands and Tonga.
The Courier-Mail’s extensive investigation can reveal:
. A small clutch of five firms have secured $1 billion in contracts.
. More than a dozen aid consultants are earning more than Prime Minister Kevin Rudd, flying around the Pacific to advise on everything from “gender integration” to sport, transport, energy and justice.
. Millions of dollars are being diverted to aid programs including $12 million to research the giant panda in China and $13 million to redevelop a single school in Nauru.
. AusAID, the agency in charge of foreign aid, is investigating allegations of fraud
– and is about to undergo a significant restructuring.
. And millions of dollars are being spent by the AFL, Girl Guides, ACTU and other community groups “selling” a pro-aid message to the public.
The review is embarrassing for the Government – and raises serious questions about the value of pumping billions of dollars into fragile states.
On pages 4 and 5 of the same paper there are some further details:
Foreign Spending as at December 31, 2009 was quoted as:
1. Major 5 consultancies $955,090,376
2. Government payments $759,912,587
3. Corporations $537,205,016
4. Non Government organisations $225,700,306
5. Major charities $213,056,756
6. Universities $85,942,386
7. Smaller consulting firms $ 78,514,144
8. Advisors $24,271,039
Big 5 Australian Contractrors:
Total value of current contracts as of Dec 31, 2009:
1. Coffey International $310,079,609
2. Cardno Acil Pty Ltd $302,413,369
3. GRM International $266,538,015
4. GHD Pty Ltd $54,534,579
5. Sinclair Knigh Merz $21,704,802