By YEHIURA HRIEHWAZI in Brisbane
AUSTRALIAN consultants and advisers to PNG bring crucial skills that are often not available locally, according to the office parliamentary secretary for international development assistance Bob McMullan.
“Australia and PNG jointly decide on the areas of focus of the Australian aid programme.
“The PNG Government frequently requests Australia to provide technical experts to advise PNG Government departments, and approves these appointments.
“These advisers bring crucial skills that often do not exist locally,” a spokesman for Mr McMullan told The National via email yesterday from Canberra.
He was responding to an AAP story yesterday which quoted PNG Foreign Minister Sam Abal as saying that too much Australian aid was wasted on consultants and not reaching the needy areas such as health and education.
Mr McMullan’s spokesman said Australia had already reduced the proportion of funds spent on advisers and consultants in PNG.
“In 2007, advisers and consultants represented more than 40% of Australia’s aid to PNG. This figure has fallen to 34%,” he said.
“The Australian government is aware of Mr Abal’s comments regarding the level of spending on aid advisers in Papua New Guinea.
“The government looks forward to discussing this and a range of development-
related issues at the next PNG-Australia Ministerial Forum,” he said.
The AAP reported that Mr Abal wanted an overhaul of Australia’s $414 million aid to PNG because too much was “wasted on costly consultants”.
AusAID figures reveal that nearly half (46%) of all Australian aid in PNG goes to advisers, contractors or experts providing “technical assistance” for “capacity building”.
That’s twice the rate of other countries’ aid programmes.
And despite delivering billions of dollars in aid to PNG over the years, a 2009 AusAID report found PNG was not meeting any of its human development goals despite strong economic growth and political stability.
Mr Abal wanted aid effectiveness discussed at the joint Australia PNG ministers meeting scheduled for later this year.