“If targeted effectively, foreign aid can make a positive contribution to improving people’s lives, reducing inequality and promoting justice – and the government’s response represents a step in the right direction,” said Gary Lee, Co-Director, AID/WATCH.

 “The government’s statement that the fundamental purpose of Australian aid is to help people overcome poverty is welcome. However using ‘national interest’ as one of the criteria for determining the allocation of aid remains a concern. AID/WATCH will continue to closely monitor the aid program to ensure aid spending is focused on reducing poverty and not Australia’s commercial and security interests.

“The government’s announcement to develop a Transparency Charter is also welcome and we hope that this will result in more detailed information about how decisions are made in AusAID being made publicly available in a timely manner. We hope AusAID looks to the examples of DFID and USAID in making web-tools that are free, accurate and easy to use.

“AID/WATCH has repeatedly advocated for increased transparency in where and how aid money is being spent. While the charter is being developed, we urge the government to begin releasing evaluations, reports and commercial aid contracts that still remain inaccessible to the public. This will demonstrate that they are genuine in their commitment to transparency.

 “AID/WATCH believes that independent monitoring and evaluation of the aid spending is critical to ensure the quality and effectiveness of aid spending. In this respect, AID/WATCH believes that the Office of Development Effectiveness should be established as an independent body, separate from AusAID. This can be done by following the example of UK’s Independent Commission on Aid Impact, which reports directly to Parliament.

“AID/WATCH is disappointed that the Government has not committed to establishing AusAID as a separate department with a cabinet-level minister for aid and development. Currently, AusAID sits within Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade, which has a primary objective of advancing Australia’s national interest. With the aid budget expected to increase to around $8billion by 2015-16, having a separate department with a cabinet-level minister would help ensure that aid and development remains a priority and focused on poverty reduction,” Gary Lee said.

Contact Gary Lee 0416 373 621