Millions wasted on ‘briefcase’ advisers
An extensive investigation by the newspapers had uncovered what they termed “a lucrative foreign aid industry” and raising questions about the Australian government’s decision to double funding to more than A$8 billion (K18.69 billion) a year.
The damning publications come on a day when the high-level review of the Australia-PNG Development Cooperation Treaty was publicly released in Canberra, slamming the A$414 million (K967.5 million) programme, claiming that A$100 million (K233.6 million) was being paid to a handful of firms – but delivering little.
The latest developments confirms Foreign Affairs Minister Sam Abal’s worst fears expressed early this year when he called for an overhaul of the annual aid to PNG, saying he believed too much money was wasted on costly consultants.
Yesterday, the newspapers – The Courier-Mail, Daily Telegraph, The Adelaide Advertiser and The Herald Sun – reported that aid experts were questioning the size of contracts paid to “briefcase” advisers who fly into poor countries, including PNG,
The newspapers’ investigation reveal:
- Just five firms – led by Coffey, GRM and Cardno ACIL – secured A$1 billion (K2.46 billion) in AusAID contracts;
- More than a dozen aid consultants earn more than prime minister Kevin Rudd and fly around the Pacific advising on everything from “gender integration” to sport, transport, energy and justice;
- Millions of dollars are being diverted to questionable aid programmes, including A$12 million (K30.38 million) to research the giant panda in China and A$13 million to redevelop a single school in Nauru;
- nAusAID, the agency in charge of foreign aid, is investigating a small number of cases of fraud and is about to undergo significant restructuring; and
- Millions are being spent by the AFL, girl guides, ACTU and other community groups on “selling” a pro-aid message to the public.
The newspapers named one highly-paid consultant in PNG as John Dinsdale, a former clerk of a court in
He is paid more than A$500,000 a year, tax-free, as PNG law and justice adviser.
Executive Gerald Gahima, a former justice in his native
Nikhil Desai, whose glamour address is listed as
Around the Pacific Rim, questions are being asked as to why consultants, such as Peter Kelly, who is paid A$433,000 a year to supervise
That explained why Susan Ferguson earns A$293,423 tax-free a year as “gender integration adviser” to PNG, the newspapers said.
“The review into the flagship PNG programme is particularly embarrassing – and raises serious questions over the value of pumping billions of dollars into fragile states.
“The former Howard government tightened aid to PNG in 2005 after it received secret intelligence of scams involving senior members of the then PNG administration.”
They reported that AusAID will pour A$415 million into PNG next year but the review – conducted by three independent experts Stephen Howes, from the Australian National University, Dr Eric Kwa from the University of PNG and Canadian Soe Lin – is scathing of the present scheme.
They found tens of millions of dollars was “wasted” on consultants and glossy reports. Money also props up bureaucracies instead of buying life saving medicines and equipment.
The review team found
The review has criticised the amounts being spent on highly-paid advisers and called for a shake-up in how the PNG scheme is managed. It did identify some positive outcomes – particularly in health programmes run by churches and other non-governmental organisations.
It wants a stronger focus on this sort of programme – and, yesterday, Australian foreign minister Stephen Smith backed changes in the aid programme when he announced the public release of the treaty review in
“Advisers have been a feature of Australian aid over many years and, while we do not intend to pre-judge the outcome of the (PNG) review, it may be that there is an over-reliance on advisers in some countries,” Smith’s spokesperson said.
In a media statement, the minister said: “Under the Rudd government, the proportion of foreign aid spent on technical assistance is already significantly lower than it has been previously.
“During the Howard government, average spending on technical assistance was 41.8% of the foreign aid budget. It peaked at 47.4% in 2004.
“During the Rudd government, average spending on technical assistance has been 34.5%.”