Foreign Aid Fraud Report Concerning
24 March 2011 at 12:19 pm
Claims that Australia’s billion dollar foreign aid program is plagued by record levels of fraud are concerning but should be seen in perspective, according to an independent peak body for Australia’s aid charities.
The Australian Council for International Development, ACFID says while every allegation of fraud must be taken seriously the Federal Government must be looking at better systems to track fraud.
The Brisbane Courier Mail reported that the chief agency AusAID has 175 cases of fraud under investigation stretching across 27 countries.
It reported that documents released under Federal Freedom of Information laws show a criminal trail through some of the world's poorest countries with widespread theft of money and forging of receipts.
They also show how food and other supplies are being diverted from dirt-poor communities and sold onto the black market at inflated prices.
ACFID Executive Director, Marc Purcell says the figures show that of the $20 billion dollars spent on foreign aid over the past seven years, $3.8 million has gone missing.
Purcell says say that while this is clearly not good it is a tiny percentage of the overall aid program.
He says the Federal Government’s current aid review should look at how systems can be improved to reduce this level of fraud.
In November 2010, Foreign Minister Kevin Rudd announced the first independent review of the Government's overseas aid and development program since 1996.
The review will examine the effectiveness and efficiency of Australia’s aid and guide the strategic direction of Australia’s future aid program.
The Gillard Government has previously committed to raising Australia’s Official Development Assistance to 0.5% of Gross National Income by 2015-16, and it says the Independent Review of Aid Effectiveness is designed to maximise the effectiveness of the program in light of this increase in funding.
The review, chaired by Sandy Hallway AO., a former secretary of two Australian Government departments is expected to be completed in April.
Marc Purcell says he is also concerned about the Courier newspaper’s editorial. He says the editorial exaggerated the amount of fraud in terms of billions instead of millions.
He says this undermines the public’s support for helping those in need in other countries.
The ACFID represents some 70 Not for Profit aid organisations working in 100 countries including large organisations such as Red Cross.
Purcell says $800 million dollars is raised by these organisation from public donations and another $300 from Government funding.