Political whining about the failed insulation program, alleged rorting of the Building Education Revolution and the taxpayer-funded mining tax "(mis)information" campaign suggests that both sides of the political divide are concerned about taxpayers' brass. The order of the day is, it seems, value for every dollar spent.
If taxpayers' money can be wasted in this country, right under our noses, what's the likelihood that aid money being funnelled into Afghanistan, which has been ranked 179 out of 180 countries on Transparency International's Corruption Perceptions Index, might slide off the balance sheet?
With two more Australian soldiers dying in this conflict, shouldn't taxpayers be confident that our money is being used for legitimate purposes? And shouldn't we, as Greens leader Bob Brown will move tomorrow in Parliament, debate our role in this conflict?
Australia's total aid commitment to Afghanistan is $650 million so far. Why then is no information available about any audit activities for aid expenditure in Afghanistan? And why hasn't there been a Senate inquiry to ensure that the aid is being spent efficiently, effectively and with full accounting since the 2001 invasion?
Aid worker Jason Thomas said in an article in The National Times recently: "The majority of aid organisations run their operations from highly fortified locations in Kabul. They rarely go out into the villages and there is little monitoring of projects."
And surely it raises questions when the October 2009 Supplementary Estimates (2009-10) revealed that from 2001 to 2005 AusAid's online databases can't ascribe Official Development Assistance (ODA) and ODA eligible funding flows to any particular receiving agency/organisation. Then, for the period from 2005 to 2009, the external agencies/organisations to which AusAid ODA funding has flowed can be identified, but information on individual recipients hasn't been collected for ODA eligible funding provided by other Australian government departments and agencies. It just isn't good enough.
As both major political parties support the ongoing war in Afghanistan as the means to bring peace, perhaps they may care to explain why we would we give the Asian Development Bank - who are also keen to bankroll the proposed TAPI pipeline - $19,934,953 for Pakistan but only $915,049 for Afghanistan (2005-2009)?
Canberra’s also given $4,322,559 of our money to The Asia Foundation (TAF) whose foundation many years ago was tied up with the CIA. Given the reports about ATF and ”phantom aid”, did the Government first satisfy itself that the books are in order?
Why allocate a paltry $2,126 to the Birthing Kit Foundation (Australia) when Afghanistan has one of the highest maternal mortality rates in the world, but $US328,000 to the Sorgh Morghab Bazaar for the construction of a 30-shop bazaar and bakery? Is commerce that much more important than saving the lives of mothers and their newborns?
If the government and the Coalition want to keep us involved in, and paying for, their war in Afghanistan then the least they can do is a bit of honest accounting. If they're such conscientious guardians of taxpayer monies they should welcome the letting loose of the fiscal ferrets and an initiate an immediate Senate inquiry into the issue of aid to Afghanistan.
With the recent exposure of covert payments, bribes and other dubious business practices by Australian overseas emissaries like the Australian Wheat Board and Securency, that's the only way we can be satisfied that Australian taxpayer dollars first, are not being squandered or misdirected for ulterior purposes and second, are not being used for kickbacks or bribes.
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