Overseas aid advisers to lose 25pc of salaries
The Gillard Government must stop paying huge salaries to aid officials working in poor countries, Australia's main foreign aid group said yesterday.
The strong reaction from the Australian Council for International Development came after Foreign Minister Kevin Rudd said the huge salaries paid to Australians administering aid programs would be trimmed by one-quarter.
He confirmed the Government would axe 257 long-term positions from 11 different programs over two years.
Council executive director Marc Purcell said reducing advisers must be the first step as part of a larger reform and questioning of what made foreign aid effective.
Opposition foreign affairs spokeswoman Julie Bishop said the high level of advisers' salaries had been raised with her by heads of state and foreign ministers from the region.
''This is a matter of concern to them, that Australian aid is being absorbed by payments to the officials in charge of the aid program and that it wasn't reaching the required destination, particularly in the areas of health and education,'' she said.
''These concerns were raised in a National Audit Office report in 2009 and the Government has taken some time to address them.
''But I welcome the fact that the Foreign Minister is taking action to ensure more efficient and effective aid delivery.''
Some of the Australian-paid technical advisers were reported to be on $500,000 tax-free salaries, more than Mr Rudd was paid as prime minister when he announced the review into salaries last May.
He said yesterday the review would ensure that salaries and allowances paid to AusAID-funded advisers were capped at levels roughly 25 per cent less than the highest rates currently being paid.
Papua New Guinea and East Timor will be the main targets for phasing out technical advisers paid for under the aid program.
Mr Rudd said the review would ensure that Australia's overseas aid was used efficiently and effectively.