7 Responses

  1. Stephen Howes
    Stephen Howes June 15, 2016 at 10:44 am

    Also, on Twitter DFAT has responded that “we don’t accept devpolicy claim on transparency. No major difference between what was on AusAID’s website and DFAT’s now” Great to get a response, but this misunderstands my argument which is that the Coalition has promised but not delivered more aid transparency. We seem to more or less have stood still while other donors have moved ahead quickly.

    Given the interest the blog has generated, we’re going to proceed with another transparency audit, similar to the one we did three years ago. We’ll put the results up as soon as we have them.

    1. Joel Negin
      Joel Negin June 15, 2016 at 1:39 pm

      Please do undertake the transparency audit. It is very important. DFAT’s response is disingenuous – as your blog shows, transparency is certainly no better and almost certainly worse now than it was. They should provide a blog to attempt to prove that their transparency is the same or better – rather than tweeting that they don’t accept the argument.

      1. Stephen Howes
        Stephen Howes December 20, 2016 at 1:55 pm

        Joel, thanks for your advice, which we followed. As you predicted it would, the detailed analysis does show a clear decline in project-level aid transparency. See the blog here with report to back it up.

    2. Garth Luke
      Garth Luke June 19, 2016 at 11:13 am

      While I appreciated the somewhat retro colours that were used to organise documents in the old AusAID page above, my main reason for suggesting a return to this is that it makes it easy for both DFAT staff and external readers to identify the state of documentation for an activity and also easier to find a document than in the somewhat quirky ordering on the DFID site.

  2. Stephen Howes
    Stephen Howes June 14, 2016 at 3:31 pm

    Mel, you make a very good point. Sometimes the documents are on the web, but not where most people would look for them. For example, the procurement site which you point to has the draft design document for the PNG Governance Facility from April 2015. The final design was released with the tender for this document last year. Yet neither the draft nor the final design for this facility is listed or linked to under the PNG aid for governance section – more than a year later, and even though it is such a critical change for the sector.

    The Transport Sector Support Program website is another interesting example of how other websites can be more or less helpful. I’ve now gone back to see what it looked like in 2013 (again using web.archive.org), and it is full of up-to-date annual plans and performance reports. It is a pity that that tradition has not been maintained, with the current TSSP website focused more on announceables and much less on information.

    Garth, I’m not so sure that we need to go back to the way in which AusAID categorized documents. We just need more and more timely documents on the web.

  3. Garth Luke
    Garth Luke June 14, 2016 at 10:48 am

    It would be great to also go back to the document organisation provided on the 2013 website (the four coloured headings) which was designed to show the progress of a project and its documentation.

  4. Mel Dunn
    Mel Dunn June 10, 2016 at 9:50 am

    Stephen

    Thanks for this commentary on what is a tremendously important topic.

    In the context of transparency, I would argue we could do well to widen the lens on the conversation for it is not just an essential feature to ensure openness about what is being or has been spent. I would argue that it is an essential feature across the whole aid programming cycle including and importantly at the front end when concepts and designs are being conceived and developed – and of course when investment is made and services procured.

    There has been some obvious effort by the aid program to redress the information gaps that is the feature of the Austender system by DFAT posting here information about forward planned investments. I think it fair to acknowledge DFAT’s effort in increasing this level of information at the front end, even if more could possibly be done.

    In October 2013 on this forum here I wrote of the value the private sector can offer aid programming by earlier and more purposeful engagement, so it is pleasing that we are seeing more industry engagement sessions, early release of concept notes seeking comment and so on – but maybe there is room for more regular and consistent application of this practice.

    I argue there is an important link between transparency and the possibility of doing better development. Releasing information to the market as early as practicable not only helps to level a playing field and address any perception of advantage; regularly engaging the market in the thinking and concept development might well create an enhanced solution. Again, there are increasing examples of the market being engaged in this manner, including as recently as this week on the Design Concept: Proposed New Australian Government International Volunteering Program here. Again, DFAT should be acknowledged for this.

    Conversely, there has been a great deal of procurement through the Aid Advisory Services (AAS) Panels, some of not insignificant value. These investments did not make the Annual Procurement Plan. There was once a separate page on the DFAT website that had declared five planned procurements, but that information was not maintained and now no longer exists here. To be fair, the sheer volume of AAS activity, including of smaller value procurement, probably does not warrant the administrative costs of maintaining such detail. In the context of transparency, however, there could be opportunity for improvement in transparency in how decisions are made in terms of which Panel to use and which Panellists are invited to propose a solution. It should be noted that an exercise is currently underway to assess the current AAS in preparation for a successor arrangement.

    Finally, a feature of the aid program over recent years is the mobility for former AusAID personnel into other delivery partners of the aid program. This has tremendous value, by keeping quality, smart, experienced people involved in supporting the Australian aid program. In the context of transparency across the whole aid programming cycle it would be naïve to assume this feature does not create complications.

    Stephen, I think your call to action is warranted and I think it needs to holistically consider transparency in all aspects of aid programming. It is to do with much more than accountability; it is as you say about contributing to best practice in effectiveness.

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