18 Feb 2010

Concerns at how much Australian aid is soaked up by consultants' fees

8:38 pm on 18 February 2010

Almost half of Australia's foreign aid budget goes back to Australian companies and Australian experts working tax-free as highly paid consultants.

Figures from the Australian Government aid agency, AusAID, reveal Australian tax payers are providing billions of dollars a year for costly aid advisors, ostensibly to build capacity in recipient countries.

They show that these advisors can earn in excess of 400 thousand US dollars annually when salary and allowances are tallied up.

Dr Sinclair Dinnen from Australian National University's School of Pacific and Asian Studies says aid has become a business.

He says many of the consultants used are former AusAID employees who know what is required to win a bid for project funding.

Australia provides nearly 350 million US dollars for its nearest neighbour, Papua New Guinea, yet indicators such as crime and corruption show that things are getting worse.

He says Australians are asking whether their money is being effectively spent on aid programmes.

Dr Dinnen says part of the problem is also a lack of transparency and accountability within AusAID.