The federal opposition seized on the warning as further evidence that an unchecked Foreign Affairs Minister Kevin Rudd, who last week was spruiking Australia’s benevolence to the United Nations, will only accelerate the program’s failure.
Deputy opposition leader and foreign affairs spokeswoman Julie Bishop told AAP the coalition would ‘ferociously’ scrutinise Mr Rudd’s handling of aid.
Ms Bishop said the massive aid budget now warranted a new ministry with a specific minster for international development.
‘Instead the government has not replaced the parliamentary secretary on international development (Bob McMullan) and allowed Kevin Rudd to take over completely,’ she said.
‘This is a concern given Kevin Rudd’s management style and inability to effectively and efficiently run government programs.
‘We all know Rudd wants to win a seat on the UN security council and is diverting funding from our region to Africa and Latin America to achieve this.
‘But what can the PM (Julia Gillard) do to control Kevin Rudd?
‘She can’t interfere on his patch and she certainly can’t contain his aspirations’.
Mr Rudd’s spokeswoman said ‘the minister’s direct engagement with AusAID and the aid program reflects the priority that the government attaches to the aid program’.
Australia’s Overseas Development Assistance (ODA) will increase from $4.3 billion this year to $8.6 million by 2015/16, reaching 0.5 per cent of Gross National Income.
According to Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) figures, the projected expenditure makes Australia one of the world’s largest aid donors behind the US, Japan, France, Germany and the UK.
But Australia’s Treasury incoming government brief, known as the `red book,’ warns that more aid money means more problems.
‘There is a risk that the increase in the ODA budget, if not handled well, will result in less effective delivery and public criticism of the aid program.
‘Aid and other development policies will require close scrutiny to ensure they meet basic value for money metric.
‘Close monitoring of the developments in the Pacific is important, along with assessing the effectiveness of existing assistance strategies’.
Last November an Australian National Audit Office report found ‘AusAID faces considerable management challenges amidst ongoing program growth’.
The report stated Australia had ‘a tendency to rely too much’ on technical assistance, which was about 46 per cent of AusAID budgets, twice the average of other OECD countries.
Last year AAP reported that numerous advisers offering technical assistance in the Pacific earned more than the PM’s base salary of $335,000.
One adviser in Papua New Guinea is on more than a million dollars tax free for two years while a transport adviser in Vanuatu, overseeing locals fixing potholes on 73km of paved road, costs Australian taxpayers $865,000.