Australian Greens foreign aid spokesperson Senator Lee Rhiannon, commenting on the Defence Department admission in a Senate inquiry that it wrongly categorised almost $190 million in military spending as foreign aid, said the error was serious and undermines the government's stated commitment to increase aid spending to 0.5 per cent of Australia's GDP within three years (SBS TV News).
"The Australian aid budget is looking rubbery and the government has breached faith with the public who expect foreign aid to alleviate poverty and assist people in low income countries," Senator Lee Rhiannon said.
"Foreign Affairs Minister Bob Carr should move quickly to ensure that the $190 million misallocated by Defence is restored to aid programs that assist the people of Afghanistan.
"The Defence 'mistake' represents about 30 per cent of Australia's overall aid budget to Afghanistan.
"How Australian Defence came to claim some of their operations, in a highly unpopular war, as foreign aid needs more of an explanation than the apology the Defence Department Deputy Secretary Brendan Sargeant offered to the hearing of the Inquiry into Aid to Afghanistan.
"This mistake reveals that Defence and AusAID have not been following the OECD guidelines that set out what can be categorised as aid in national budgets. Military 'regular salaries and expenses' cannot be included.
"Defence have revealed that their mistake started in 2006. They admitted that, despite previous assurances that AusAID checks the classification of aid, in the case of the Defence Department this had not occurred.
"While it is useful to know that AusAID is now revising what was included in the overall Afghanistan aid budget the government's foreign aid agency needs to also explain why since 2006 it failed to check Defence's calculations," Senator Rhiannon said.
Note: The Defence's original figure of money spent on ODA eligible projects was $255.4 million. The revised figure, following discovery of the error, was $65.97 million. This reveals an error of $189.44 million.