Friday, October 15, 2010

AusAID to cut down on advisers

AUSTRALIA will sack more than a third of AusAID advisers in an attempt to eliminate waste in the nation’s A$457 million PNG assistance programme, a move immediately welcomed by the Somare government, The National reports.

Australian foreign minister Kevin Rudd yesterday advised his PNG counterpart Sam Abal of the government’s decision to make big cuts in the ranks of the 487 Australian advisers working on PNG aid.

Rudd said a review of the PNG-Australia development cooperation treaty had found “widespread dissatisfaction with the aid programme” and the “capacity building through advisers model is not working”.

A string of negative reports about Australia’s PNG aid programme have pointed to a pattern of waste through spending on consultancies and training, as well as exorbitant salaries.

In June, it was revealed that one aid adviser working in PNG was on a package of A$55,000 a month. However, Rudd did not provide details of which positions would be axed.

“The review considered 487 positions. An outcome of this review is that PNG and Australia have now agreed that more than one-third of positions will be phased out within two years,” Rudd said in a statement.

National Planning Minister Paul Tiensten last night welcomed the decision.

“This is consistent with our view. But, maybe, they should go a step further by tying the Australian aid to our budget, so we fund the Australian taxpayers funding our programmes directly.

“The medium-term development plan will be reflected in our national budget starting next year, and the Australian taxpayers can be assured they will get results for their dollar,” Tiensten said.

Tiensten added: “This is a good start for the re-elected Labor government,” Tiensten said.

Rudd told the Australian media building up skills in PNG would be a high priority for Australia over the next decade, particularly as revenues from a liquefied natural gas project would boost the economy and require a skilled workforce.

“The Australian government is committed to strengthening the aid programme and ensuring value for money across all the development assistance programmes,” Rudd said.

Jenny Howard Jones, from the Sydney-based Lowy Institute, said the sharp cut in the number of technical advisers was a positive move in a prickly situation between PNG and Australia.

“Capacity building is still needed in PNG by all means, but the issue has been the proportion of aid to technical assistance,” she said.

“Both sides were frustrated with years spent on capacity building with little to show and, now, with the doubling of Australia’s aid budget, there will be greater scrutiny from parliament and the taxpayer to see value for their aid dollar.”

Assistance in areas likely to bring direct benefits, such as the massive ExxonMobil LNG project, was potentially a more effective use of advisers, she said. – AAP


1 comment:

  1. I was just about to post a comment when there was a blackout. Should I swear? Well, whatever it was I was planning to say just went like that, Malum. But now the power's back on, and quickly, is Rudd really serious about this AusAID stuff? Look, all I need in my village is a water pump and a generator to light up the house. That's all. How much do I have to lose before I get all that help?
    Thanks. And sorry, Kevin.