AusAID to continue work in Uruzgan amid controversy

    Students at the Mala Lia Girl's School in Uruzgan province, Afghanistan. Education for Afghan girls will remain one of AusAID’s post-2014 focus sectors in Uruzgan. Photo by: Lorrie Graham / AusAID

    The Australian Agency for International Development has not disclosed plans to engage another organization to carry out consultancy work in Afghanistan’s Uruzgan province, where it aims to continue providing aid even after NATO troops exit in 2014.

    Australia now has “sufficient capacity and expertise, including strong direct relationships with implementing partners and Provincial and District government counterparts, to undertake the work,” a spokesman for the agency told Devex in an email.

    Further, “results tracking” of multilateral partners such as the World Bank provide “strong independent evidence of progress on development and governance in Afghanistan,” the spokesman said, adding that the agency will “supplement” these with its own independent tracking in Uruzgan.

    The question arose following the agency’s termination of The Liaison Office’s contract in May. TLO is a Kabul-based nongovernmental organization that used to provide research and analysis work for AusAID in Uruzgan.

    There is speculation that the termination may have something to do with TLO experts’ independent report on AusAID’s work in the province, which claimed “little progress” in several focus sectors, including in agriculture and the justice system. But the agency said the termination was because of TLO’s inability to meet “obligations” under its contract, which was not supposed to end until 2013. Among the said obligations is the timely provision of reports.

    AusAID also dismissed allegations that it tried to change the report’s findings to show Australian aid in a more positive light. The agency just provided suggestions, “as we do with all reports,” AusAID Deputy Director General Ewen McDonald told ABC.

    The agency plans to continue providing aid to Uruzgan, and will keep its focus on education and health services, road rehabilitation and agriculture. The assistance will come from its estimated 250 million Australian dollars ($255.7 million) annual commitment to Afghanistan until 2016, which was pledged in support of the country’s security transition.

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    About the author

    • Jenny Lei Ravelo

      Jenny Lei Ravelo is a Devex Senior Reporter based in Manila. She covers global health, with a particular focus on the World Health Organization, and other development and humanitarian aid trends in Asia Pacific. Prior to Devex, she wrote for ABS-CBN, one of the largest broadcasting networks in the Philippines, and was a copy editor for various international scientific journals. She received her journalism degree from the University of Santo Tomas.