Responding to a report today on lucrative contracts awarded to consultants from the overseas aid budget, Greens NSW Senator and overseas aid spokesperson Lee Rhiannon has called on the Foreign Affairs Minister Kevin Rudd to move quickly to clean up this waste.
“The Australian Government has been warned on many occasions that our overseas development programs are too reliant on highly paid consultants,” said Senator Rhiannon who takes up her new position today.
“The latest revelations that millions of dollars of public money are going to a handful of ‘technical advisers’ reveals that AusAID has not done enough to reduce the reliance on highly paid management consultants to meet the needs of recipient countries.
“Foreign Affairs Minister Kevin Rudd should give this problem his urgent attention.
“These new developments further underline the need for overseas aid to have its own minister.
“Australians in the main support overseas aid. I am sure the public want to know that our aid dollar is used to help empower local communities and to improve education and health standards and is not wasted on overpaid consultants.
“With Australia's aid program increasing in size this needs to be a priority for the Minister. Aid should not be a tool of our foreign policy. Establishing a separate ministry would be an important step towards achieving this.
“Our aid budget by 2015 is due to reach $8 billion, making AusAID the fifth largest government agency by spending.
“The Greens do support an increase beyond the current level to 0.7% of GNI as many developed nations have done as part of helping to meet the Milennium Development Goals.
“Minister Rudd needs to give urgent priority to getting Australia’s aid program back on track.
“AusAID has estimated that about 2.7 million people in Pacific Island countries to Australia’s north do not have the means from either income or land use to meet their basic human needs.
“These are alarming figures that reflect the urgent need for a shift away from millions of dollars of the aid budget going to consultants paid six-figure tax-free salaries to provide technical assistance.
“This problem could be even more serious. A 2009 report (PDF, page 9) from the Australian National Audit Office of Australia’s aid found that 70 per cent of Australia’s bilateral aid was spent on managing contractors.
“Last year AusAID Director General Peter Baxter committed to tighten up on consultants earning six-figure contracts. The ball is now with Minister Rudd to act,” Ms Rhiannon said.
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