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Overseas Aid Review welcome, more accountability needed

Greens NSW Senator and International Aid and Development spokesperson Lee Rhiannon has welcomed the government’s response to the ‘Review of Aid Effectiveness’ but says more can be done to increase accountability and transparency.

Senator Rhiannon says that the Greens believe that Aid and Development needs its own Cabinet–level minister, as well as an independent Office of Development Effectiveness that reports direct to Parliament.

“The Australian Greens welcome the government’s response to the overseas aid review which, if well-implemented and backed by adequate funding, will make a real difference to people’s lives in developing countries,” Ms Rhiannon, who was also a founding Director of the organisation AID/WATCH said.

“The Greens support the significant projected increase in Australia’s aid budget, but we believe more can be done to develop a culture of accountability and transparency to ensure public money is well spent.

“It’s time Australia’s overseas aid program had its own discrete champion at the cabinet table, with a Cabinet-level Minister. While Minister Rudd has a passion for overseas aid, there’s no guarantee this will be mirrored in future governments.

“The UK has not just one but three Ministers for overseas aid - a Minister of State, Secretary of State and a Parliamentary Secretary, elevating the status of foreign aid.

“Independent evaluation of the effectiveness of Australia’s aid spending is critical. With almost half the world living on less than $2.50 a day, it’s clear we must be as effective as possible to best reduce inequity.

“The Greens back the widespread view in submissions to the Review that the Office of Development Effectiveness be an independent body, reporting to parliament not AusAID. Australia could adopt the UK model of an Independent Commission on Aid Impact that reports to a parliamentary committee.

“Heeding the report’s call for increased parliamentary engagement, for example by establishing a parliamentary committee or sub-committee on aid and development, is also worth exploring.

“The Greens applaud the Review’s call for a ‘warts and all’ approach to transparency in how aid money is spent. AusAID has been criticised by the National Audit Office and NGOs for its failures in this area.

“A new Transparency Charter is welcome, but the proof will be in the pudding in terms of how thorough AusAID is in fearlessly releasing evaluations, reports and commercial aid contracts for public scrutiny.

“Turning the light on exactly how Australian aid money is spent, particularly with the plans to increase the aid budget, will help ensure money is going to where it’s needed: reducing poverty, empowering people living in developing countries to improve their lives and dealing with the urgency of climate change,” Ms Rhiannon said.

Contact: Alison Orme for Lee Rhiannon 0487 350 880

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