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Planned changes to $26m aid funding creates concern

Fuseworks Media
Fuseworks Media
Phil Twyford
Phil Twyford

Wellington, April 20 NZPA - Aid programmes may miss out on funding because they do not meet Foreign Minister Murray McCully's agenda, Labour MP Phil Twyford says.

The Green Party has also condemned what it sees as political interference in aid work.

Charities doing overseas development work today said they were uncertain what was happening to $26 million of government funding which is currently allocated by a non-government organisation (NGO) umbrella group.

Uncertainty set in after Mr McCully wrote to The Council for International Development saying programmes were out of step with the government goal of driving economic growth in Pacific and time-wasting tender processes set back relief efforts.

Council executive director David Culverhouse told Radio New Zealand that it was difficult to plan ahead.

"Change is coming, we don't know what it is, we can't plan for it."

Major work by NGOs "which in their own right raise $145 million" was in limbo as groups did not know if they would continue to get matching funding, Mr Culverhouse said.

"I can't quite see the need for this degree of uncertainty. If there were firm decisions made we could get on and implement those decisions."

Mr Culverhouse said Foreign Affairs officials on Friday pulled out of planned regional meetings for this week.

Mr McCully told the broadcaster the Government was making changes and they would be announced soon.

"We've decided to start a different process as soon as we can get some proposed criteria for redesigning of this programme into the hands of NGOs."

Mr McCully said he was looking at two funds; one of $21m and the other of $5m. The $26m was administered by the council.

"That's drawn criticism because obviously those who miss out on funding believe that the fact they are not on the committee has meant they have missed out so there have been issues of perceived fairness and actual fairness, there's a question of alignment with our overall objectives."

The Government last year moved aid funding agency NZAID back into Foreign Affairs and refocussed its goals on economic development as the way to lift people out of poverty, with special attention on the Pacific region.

"...we've still got rather too many of these programmes focussed on trade union rights in obscure parts of the world, rather than on stuff that's in accord with the mandate."

Mr McCully said he wanted to put in place a programme with clear objectives and transparent administration. He also wanted a partnership set up so tenders did not need to be called for in disaster relief situations.

Mr Twyford said there was no issue with improving efficiency and accountability but he was concerned aid programmes would miss out "simply because they didn't meet Mr McCully's narrow political agenda".

"Supporting the rights of workers in poor countries to get a fair deal might not be Mr McCully's idea of reducing poverty, but his comment does raise the prospect of him vetting all the aid projects against his own version of political correctness, Mr Twyford said.

The council had already had funding reduced, he said.

Green MP Kennedy Graham said his party was concerned that respected aid organisations such as Caritas could lose their funding.

"The goal of driving economic development should not mean that aid programmes developed over many years are cancelled," Dr Graham said.

"Mr McCully seems unable to discern the respective merits of sustainable development from material economic growth.

"In recent comments made to the media the minister's personal antipathy to some aspects of the work done by NGOs seems to be driving the current aid overhaul. This promises disaster for the aid effort in the Pacific."

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