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Corporate Australia gets fat on foreign aid money

An independent office, reporting direct to federal parliament, should be established to ensure the billions of Australia's foreign aid now flowing to corporate Australia is delivering the best results to help reduce inequality, says Greens Senator Lee Rhiannon ("Seven corporations rake in $1.81 billion dollars from foreign aid program", p 9 Daily Telegraph today).

"As Australia's aid budget increases so does the need for tougher independent scrutiny, particularly in light of the reported $1.81 billion going to seven corporations," Australian Greens spokesperson on foreign aid Lee Rhiannon said.

"The Gillard government urgently needs to follow the UK's lead and establish an Independent Commission on Aid Impact, reporting direct to parliament.

"Handing foreign aid money to Australian consulting companies may boost their profits but it risks the benefits of foreign aid missing people most in need.

"Contractor aid is commonly spent on technical assistance which can be very expensive and does not optimise the building of capacity in very poor countries.

"The government has failed to follow a recommendation of an AusAID 2010 Blueprint which recommends less dependence on contractor-delivered, technical assistance-orientated, stand-alone projects.

"The contracts governing the millions granted to for-profit Australian consulting companies often include commercial-in-confidence clauses which make it difficult to properly scrutinise the money spent.

"Transparency and independent evaluation is key to ensuring the $8.5 billion due to be spent by 2015/2016 on aid projects is well-directed and effective.

"AusAID also needs to more regularly release evaluations, reports and commercial aid contracts for public scrutiny.

"There are great opportunities for Australia's foreign aid budget to reduce poverty and improve lives. This should be a very strong incentive to get its delivery right," Senator Rhiannon said.

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