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Wednesday, 16 June 2010
Page: 5621

Mr McMULLAN (Parliamentary Secretary for International Development Assistance) (10:30 AM) —I cannot immediately give you an answer about the number of fraud investigations. I will check whether there are any and, if so, how many and let you know. With regard to the general question about the contracts and the particular example, I just want to say something in advance before I deal with the questions that have been raised. The government of Vanuatu yesterday and today made it clear to me, through one of their ministers who is here in Australia, the extent to which they value and appreciate the quality of the work provided by the adviser in question and by Australian advisers in general.

On one other general question, we inherited a system that was excessively dependent on technical assistance and advisers. We have been reducing the proportion of the aid program going through technical assistance and advisers since we came to office. It has declined quite significantly, but I think that we still use more than we should and that we sometimes respond too positively to requests for advisers. Obviously, the shadow minister would know that there are no advisers working who have not been asked for by a government with which we are working. But I think we have not responded as rigorously as we might have, so that is why the foreign minister has initiated a review.

As I say, we have been putting downward pressure on the proportion of the aid budget going through technical assistance and advisers. It has been reduced since we came to office but it is, arguably, still too high. With regard to ex-AusAID staff there is not an AusAID-specific policy about that. There is a Commonwealth-wide policy with regard to that, which is the Commonwealth procurement policy. AusAID applies that policy appropriately, as does every other agency. With regard to Mr Kelly, I am advised it was a public tender process; it was not a privately entered into arrangement. Tenders were called and a successful contractor won in accordance with the normal Commonwealth procurement guidelines.