Review Slams Australian Aid to Papua New Guinea

A member of STOPAIDS, a theatre group from Papua New Guinea that performs in local markets, schools and community places to raise awareness about HIV/AIDS and supported by AusAID. Photo by: Rocky Roe / AusAID

There is widespread dissatisfaction with Australia’s aid program in Papua New Guinea due to ”perceived lack of impact and failure to obtain value-for-money.” This is one of the major findings of the Papua New Guinea-Australia Aid Treaty Review.

The assessment’s findings, released by Australian Minister for Foreign Affairs Stephen Smith, was conducted amid calls for a major change in the country’s aid program for the Pacific country.

The review gives credit to Australia for a number of significant successes in road infrastructure maintenance, health and education schemes, and support to government and non-governmental institutions.

However, the report points out that substantial change is needed on the use of consultants, and that more concrete results are necessary for AusAID-funded initiatives.

As Devex reported, AusAID consultants are receiving tax-free, six-figure pays, even higher than the salary of the Australian prime minister.

Though the average spending on technical assistance has declined under the Rudd administration, the report says the heavy reliance on technical assistance for capacity building in PNG has generated the most controversy. It further reveals that half, or perhaps more, of the total aid budget is allocated for consulting services. 

The report likewise highlights that AusAID’s program in PNG, which began in 1975, has been spread thinly as it focuses on too many areas, with many stakeholders raising the issue of the apparent lack of impact of Australia’s aid.

It emphasizes that “the Australian aid program also needs, but currently lacks, its own realistic standards by which to judge impact.”

The report stresses that status quo is not an option. It recommends the reduction of spending on hiring of technical advisers as “some consultants spend too little time in country to make a real difference.”

Aside from the use of technical assistance, the report also recommends supporting lower levels of government, budget alignment, aid delivery mechanisms, and sector-wide approaches or SWAPs.

An independent team conducted the review. It comprises a nominee from the Papua New Guinea government, a representative from the Australian government and a member jointly nominated by the two governments. The review was the first conducted since the treaty was signed in 1999.

About the author

  • Chiden Balmes

    Chiden, a correspondent based in Seoul, focuses on computer-assisted reporting to provide international development professionals with practical business and career information. He also contributes to the Development Newswire and the Global Development Briefing, two of the world's highest-circulation development publications.