Australians can no longer be confident that their aid dollars are being spent effectively after the Morrison Government secretly abolished a key independent aid evaluation body last month.
Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade officials have revealed in a hearing of Parliament’s Joint Standing Committee on Foreign Affairs, Defence and Trade the Office of Development Effectiveness (ODE) has been scrapped and its staff transferred to other areas in the Department.
The ODE has been conducting rigorous and independent evaluations of Australia’s aid programs since 2006.
It has been an operationally independent branch within DFAT, has won awards for its work and has been recognised internationally as an example of the need for donor countries to evaluate the performance of their aid programs.
The ODE has played a critical role in ensuring Australian taxpayers’ aid funds are spent wisely and in assessing whether Australia’s aid investments are achieving real outcomes in improving the lives of the poorest people in the world.
Coming on top of the Morrison Government’s decision to cut $11.8 billion from Australia’s Official Development Assistance and at a time when the COVID-19 crisis makes Australia’s aid program more important than ever, this is a highly retrograde step.
It is appalling that after cutting billions from foreign aid, the Minister for Foreign Affairs Senator Marise Payne and the Minister for International Development and the Pacific Alex Hawke have now scrapped the independent evaluation unit that would have examined whether the remaining funds are spent effectively.
This is the latest backwards step on international development by a Government which has cut aid funding massively, eroded DFAT’s skills and expertise in international development, and increasingly contracted out the delivery of the aid program to for-profit companies.
It shows the Morrison Government will do anything to avoid independent evaluation, oversight and scrutiny of the effectiveness of its policies and programs.