3 Responses

  1. Randy
    Randy December 23, 2013 at 12:15 am

    It is interesting to see how the AusAID people rate their own agency effectiveness. I am wondering if the high turnover (Staff Continuity weakness) has to do with the knowledge in the agency’s inefficiency and lack of effectiveness. I believe the sincerity of the aid staff in desiring to help people have better lives, and I think this survey’s statistic shows that many become disillusioned with the organization. I, too, have become disillusioned at the aid organizations (UNDP, AusAID, USAid, etc).

    I first came to Indonesia after the tsunami. On the island of Nias, I helped our faith-based organization build houses for a small community. We stayed with the community while all the other organizations stayed in hotels in the larger city and drove through the countryside in their signed vehicles. The locals called them “drive by helpers.” On a trip to the city to purchase materials, we passed by the UN offices. We stopped in to ask what they were doing about water for the communities throughout the area. The person there was actually an acquaintance and told us the truth that the UN had about $100,000 for the water projects but the man in charge would not give it out unless someone agreed to give him 15%. We called people from our extended organization who cheerfully gave about half that and put shallow wells in 30 communities.

    Three years ago I moved here to Indonesia to help academy students learn about themselves and the specific skills they have so that they can be successful in their lives. During that time I have had first hand experience in the education sector corruption. Our school was “given” $18,000 to refurbish several classrooms. We had to use the government supplied contractor who promised that the job would be done in three months. Six months later the job was not finished because they ran out of money. Having been in the construction business for 30 years, I estimated the remodel at $6,000. For the $18,000 we could have purchased 25 computers for a state of the art computer lab as well. I mentioned this to my friend who also has a school where I help,, and she said that she was approached to be “given” $7,500, but she would have to “return” $2,500 to the person who was “giving” it. I told her that I calculated that about 60% of aid money gets to the people who need it and she corrected me and said it is the other way around, only 40% gets to the people. She has been in the business for many years.

    I have more stories from the other sectors as well, but my point is that the aid organizations are just avenues for corruption. People are making big money from “helping” others. The survey of people who are making money from the aid institutions is interesting. A better survey for the effectiveness of aid would be to ask people to whom the aid is directed.

    The other foreigners that live here have excellent ideas that work and actually help the local people, but they do not have Master’s degrees and many years of experience for ideas that do not work that are required to work for a development organization. They are simple folks who learn and understand the indigenous people and know what works. If they had one-half the budget, they could have twice the effectiveness of the current system.

    But, as they say here when I disagree with what the “all knowing” government says, “That is my opinion.”

  2. Mel Dunn
    Mel Dunn December 19, 2013 at 10:15 am


    Thanks for this continuing summary for it is a conversation worth keeping alive.

    As I presented at the results launch last week, I agree that the findings/perceptions relating to the knowledge burden are most interesting and I offer there are two (at least) opportunities that emerge from this.

    First, there has been much commentary about the changes to the aid program and the potential of changes to the staffing base. And survey perceptions talk to issues with turnover and hence a consequent risk of intellectual property loss exacerbating the knowledge burden. So, the data seems very timely and rich to assist DFAT with its planning and change considerations and it is hoped it is considered.

    Second, relates to one specific aspect of managing the knowledge burden that you have previously defined – working through effective partnerships. Not all intellectual property of value to the aid program sits in agency. The stakeholders surveyed, and undoubtedly countless others, also have knowledge and value to contribute. The breadth of experiences from the private sector implementing partners remains.

    Many such implementing partners are members of IDC Australia. By continuing to explore more effective partnerships with the private sector implementing partners, and with the IDC, at a minimum the perceptions of any risk of IP loss from staffing changes could be mitigated. More strategically, the private sector implementing partners are development professionals, not just contract and project managers, and they bring a lot of learning and experience to better inform practice that is usefully harnessed. Importantly, the private sector implementing partners are not homogenous – individuals and SMEs are critically important in this complex development tapestry and we need to ensure their involvement and contribution is sought and valued.

    Mel Dunn
    (Chair, IDC Australia)

    1. Tess Newton Cain
      Tess Newton Cain December 19, 2013 at 3:18 pm

      Mel, thanks for continuing to provide leadership on this point (engaging with the intellectual resources within the private sector) which is one with which I fully agree. Looking forward to talking more on this and other things in February (assuming you will be at the 13th/14th conference)

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