After 36 years: Mama graun bilong mi
Kiap system was dismantled too quickly

AusAID review moves in the right direction


TECHNICAL ASSISTANCE is any aid given for the purpose of transferring skills from donor countries to aid recipients.

It can take various forms, including scholarships and volunteer placements, but for Australia the most contentious issue has been technical assistance given through the employment of advisers: contractors or secondees paid with aid funds to work in recipient countries, often in government departments and ministries.

There is an obvious appeal to giving technical assistance in this form: in the short-term, when needs are pressing, advisers – already experts in their relevant field – can be inserted and are potentially capable of bringing about improvements in relatively short time frames.

While in the medium to long term, advisers can, in theory at least, train local staff and set in place durable systems which will provide benefits long after their departure. Advisers also have the potential advantage of existing outside the political economy and informal institutions of the locations where they are working, which means they are less likely to be corrupt and more likely to be able to put a stop to corrupt use of aid funds.

And they can serve as conduits for knowledge transfer. The right adviser at the right place at the right time can have significant impacts.

Advisers have their advantages. And presumably it’s these advantages, along with the good-governance focus of much Australian aid over the last two decades, that led to advisers becoming such a major component of Australian aid. At times under the Howard government, adviser contracts and salaries comprised nearly half of all Australian development aid.

The trouble is, using advisers as a form of aid also has its disadvantages.  Significant ones. First and foremost being the costs. Advisers are normally paid very well. In the past some advisers have been paid up to $500,000 a year tax free.

Good salaries are needed to recruit good advisers. But employing advisers is extremely costly when compared to some of the alternative means of spending aid money in developing countries (working through civil society, for example, or employing local staff, or paying the salaries of local bureaucrats).

The fact that advisers are costly isn’t reason on its own not to use them. A well placed adviser in the right government department could potentially bring about development benefits well in excess of their costs. But the magnitude of these costs does bring with it an onus to use advisers only when it is likely they will work.

And, unfortunately, sustained success is by no means guaranteed. Often the impact of advisers isn’t maintained after they leave their roles, even when those roles have a capacity development component. And often the governance and capacity issues that advisers are brought in to tackle are systemic, or a product of domestic political economy issues, and not easily resolved by the placement of a few key staff.

The decline in technical assistance started in 2005, was given increased impetus by the change of government in 2007 and became more rapid still in the wake of critical media coverage last year.

The AusAID adviser review report and the new remuneration guidelines are encouraging documents. Similarly the new principles for use of advisers — that they are no longer to be the ‘default response’; that their use will be dependent on the presence of a clear need that they can realistically meet; and that they will be used as part of a stronger partnership approach with aid recipient countries — is also good news.

Taken together these changes are evidence of AusAID moving towards a more transparent and better balanced approach to the use of advisers. All that remains now is to see how the changes play out on the ground.

Such challenges are inherent in all development work, though. They are why it’s almost never easy. And the main point for now remains that, at a policy level, the Australian aid program is moving in the right direction when it comes to technical assistance delivered through advisers.

And for this, the journalists who covered the scandals, the NGOs who lobbied and campaigned, the politicians who mandated the change, and the aid agency staff who have enacted it, all deserve credit.

Source: Extracted from ‘TA or not TA?’ by Terence Wood, Development Policy Newsletter, Australian National University, 27 February 2011

* Terence Wood is a PhD student at ANU. Prior to commencing study he worked for the New Zealand government aid program


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Peter Kranz

Sandy Hollway was interviewed by Jim Middleton about the AusAID review yesterday for the Australia Network.

He tackles questions like alleged wastage and corruption, expensive consultants, changing priorities, and competition with China for influence in the Pacific.

PNG is specifically referenced several times.

You can see it here -

Reginald Renagi

The aid review should also cover key strategic areas which impinge on PNG's national interests and security.

There is definitely a need to promote broader international relations with Australia and other countries. Any major threat to PNG and Australia can only come within the context of a wider and generalised breakdown in a global peace and order.

Present strategic assessments indicate no direct external military threat to PNG and Australia in the near future. Nevertheless, our security mechanisms must have a wider function.

As two sovereign nations linked by history (and good mateship), PNG must pursue national interest objectives that will also contribute towards both our country's regional security.

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