'Culture of accountability' future of Australian aid?

Julie Bishop, Australian minister for foreign affairs, wants a strict policy of reviewing programs that do not perform well. Photo by: CSIS SEAP / CC BY-NC-SA

How can Australian aid become more effective and efficient? By putting its programs under scrutiny to create and enforce a strong “culture of accountability,” instead of just pumping in funds and looking the other way.

That’s foreign minister Julie Bishop’s vision for the country’s foreign aid strategy, under the spotlight since the conservative government elected in September first decided to merge AusAID into the Department of Foreign Affairs and then slash the budget of several programs, on top of thousands of staff soon to be out of a job.

“I take issue with those who focus on quantity not quality,” Bishop said in a speech on Thursday. “There are many examples in domestic policies where billions of dollars have been poured into aid programs, only to find that standards have gone backwards.

She singled out Papua New Guinea, the second largest recipient of Australian aid after Indonesia, as an example of where they need to be a much better job of checking how funds are spent and if the programs being implemented are actually working: “[It’s] distressing to know that despite the fact that Australia invests about half a billion dollars each and every year into Papua New Guinea it will not meet one of its Millenium Development Goals. In fact, it is going backwards.”

Bishop said that DFAT will push for a strict policy of reviewing programs that are not performing well, and — if necessary — pulling the plug on the funds.

What do you think? Should Australia discontinue development efforts that are not effective but may provide a lifeline for poor people around the world? Could this become a trend among the world’s top donors a time of dwindling foreign aid budgets? Please let us know by leaving a comment below or sending us an email to news@devex.com.

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About the author

  • Carlos Santamaria

    Carlos is a former associate editor for breaking news in Devex's Manila-based news team. He joined Devex after a decade working for international wire services Reuters, AP, Xinhua, EFE ,and Philippine social news network Rappler in Madrid, Beijing, Manila, New York, and Bangkok. During that time, he also covered natural disasters on the ground in Myanmar and Japan.