Friday, February 16, 2007

Australian aid: creative aid accounting flourishes under Coalition

One of the reasons I found the latter years of my career in AusAID damaging for my health was a growing awareness that aid funds were being redeployed from "programs to reduce poverty, hunger, illiteracy and ill-heath towards counter-terrorism and security co-operation, deflecting asylum seekers and fighting wars".

I witnessed substantial amounts of money being allocated to programs designed to shore up recipient government support for the Pacific Solution. Bullying and coercion of South Pacific recipients to accept an Australian Government template for security and governance was on the rise, along with appeasement of authoritarian regimes with a poor record of protecting human rights in order to secure trade and political advantages. Sadly, use of aid to achieve this latter outcome has been all to common in the annals of Australian official aid.

I tried to remain involved in the Pacific Solution area of AusAID operations as long as possible to retain a first-hand view of the process, but my lack of enthusiasm for the task and my growing inability to hide my deep unease undid me in the end.

Recent Senate estimates hearings have further revealed the lucrative fees paid 'consultants' and 'experts' representing our government in Iraq with links to the AWB. The paper trails associated with procurement of services and related financial delegations will reflect 'due process' was followed, but I venture political considerations came into play on several occasions, and 'waivers' or 'exceptions' to procurement and selection procedures have been applied.

In relation to the Long and Flugge payments retiring Labor Senator Robert Ray said "Are there any more jobs going like that in AusAid? I'm finished as a senator I thought I might move on,".

I suggest the Senate take a close look at many such contracts over the last ten years, especially in the areas of governance and security, and not just in Iraq.

No comments: