Comment on Aid advisers in Papua New Guinea: a full solution

Hi Paul and Harry,

Thank you for the positive feedback on our paper and blogs.

We agree with your comment that it is difficult to get the right balance between the (sometimes competing) sovereignty interests of the host country and the development partner when it comes to the placement of non-citizen TAs. The events in PNG in 2016 which led to the departure of some SGP advisers certainly highlighted this tension.

Our model suggests PNG is the employer of the TA. It doesn’t seem appropriate or logical to us that the adviser is employed by a third party contractor when in reality they work within the PNG public service. As you point out, advisers can have access to all sorts of information about government business/interests which can often be of a confidential nature. A lot of the frustration from the PNG side in 2016 centered around the fact that there was essentially no legal relationship between the various Australian advisers embedded in the public service and their Agency head. We think the new requirement to sign a performance contract (PCA) only goes a part of the way and the best model should recognise PNG as the employer. This approach shows appropriate respect for PNGs sovereignty.

Having said that, you make the very valid point that TAs are ultimately funded by the Australian taxpayer. We agree with your observation that there should be appropriate accountability back to DFAT to ensure taxpayers resources are being spent wisely. It is perfectly legitimate for Australia (or any other development partner) to have this expectation. We think a model where aid-funded TAs are employed by PNG can still have appropriate monitoring and accountability mechanisms, including via the contractor who is retained to provide the logistics and other support.

We also accept this couldn't happen overnight primarily because there is no regulatory framework in PNG to accomodate it. At the very least we hoped to generate some discussion and thought through the NRI piece and the blogs.

Thanks again for your comments,

Michael, Joachim and Carmen

Comment on New Zealand needs a fence for aid, not aid for fences

Minister McCully explained his logic nicely in a recent speech:

"And slowly improving our delivery of agricultural programmes not only provides many countries in the Pacific, South East Asia and Africa with the support they most want from New Zealand, it also paves the way for our commercial agricultural interests to play the more active global role that this country will require in the future."


Comment on Significance of the centenary: history and commemoration of the Kokoda Campaign in Papua New Guinea

Dear Greg, Thanks for your post - timely given the seventy-fifth anniversary of the Kokoda campaign is only a few months away.

Anyone who wants to see an outstanding exemplar of a collaboration to raise awareness of the impact of WWII on Papua New Guineans (an estimated 40,000 died from 1942-45), come along tonight (26 April) to our screening of

ANGELS OF WAR. 5:15pm for 5:30pm start, Weston Theatre, Crawford School ANU. More event information can be found here.

This screening will be followed by a Q&A discussion with Mr Deveni Temu (whose father was drawn into the war) and Dr Keiko Tamura, who can offer Japanese perspectives on the New Guinea campaign (in which 150,000 Japanese, 9,000 Australian and 3,000 American military personnel lost their lives).

Hope to see you there!

Comment on PNG’s frightening fiscal figures

Scary budget. It is good to review all this because it is public money that is at stake

Comment on Aid advisers in Papua New Guinea: a full solution

i agree with Paul's comments (disclosure: he was my Team Leader for most of thr time that i worked as an adviser in PNG Treasury). here are a few additional thoughts:
1. The ODI program is an imperfect model to draw partly because it is so remarkable: I'm not aware of any other similar program that draws such a consistently high calibre of candidates. So it may be difficult to replicate.

It is imperfect in other ways. It tends to place one or at most two individuals into an organisation when any chance of achieving sustainable systemic change in the organisation requires a team of advisers to help identify shortfalls in capability and support management to address them. (For example, addressing internal siloes, performance management, or recruitment.)

Finally, a team of advisers helps to moderate the idiosyncrasies that any one adviser may bring to a typically challenging, diverse role.

2. I agree that there is virtue in having some in-line roles but, as Paul suggests, there is a tension here: it is very hard to achieve the same emphasis on capability development once an officer is in-line. Being constrained as an "adviser" can act as an important discipline to work through local colleagues although it can, of course, also be an unhelpful limitation. (Getting the right balance between advising and doing was something I grappled with throughout my 3 year posting and discussed further in a 2014 paper i co-authored on Capacity Development in Economic Policy Agencies.)

3. Finally, there is the very difficult question of what to do when a Departmental Secretary may be engaged in corruption (several have been subject to corruption allegations in recent years). It places the adviser (and DFAT) in an invidious position if the adviser is solely responsible to such a person. This is also a problem for advisers but the problem is not quite as acute when the person is not your boss.

Comment on Aid advisers in Papua New Guinea: a full solution

Hi Joachim, Michael and Carmen
Thanks for this analysis. Some interesting background and thoughts on this previously very important element of the PNG Australia relationship.
Three quick thoughts.
First, I agree strongly with Michael's "A Personal Account" in the NRI paper which states "I had no issue signing the new performance and Conduct Agreement and the Code of Conduct. In fact, the PCA just confirmed what was already happening in my placement. All of the other technical advisers I have spoken to were also happy to sign it, recognising that it did not change their current working arrangements (page 9)." This reflects my own experiences as a Team Leader under the Strongim Gavman Program from 2011 to 2013. Good advisors knew they were working for the PNG government and doing otherwise risked one's acceptance in any PNG team and hence overall effectiveness.
Second, one of the issues for the previous aid adviser review was the issue of accountability. This includes accountability linkages to Australian taxpayers for the effective expenditure of TA advisors. A major issue with the suggested model is that there is no arrow with a clear accountability linkage back to the box marked "DFAT" which is of course the proxy for accountability on the performance of aid expenditure. This is a difficult linkage to put in place in a way that respects the sovereignty and rights of both countries. I do remember getting in trouble with DFAT under the old framework for indicating that I had examples of where advisors had worked effectively as part of a PNG team to produce major development gains for PNG - but I couldn't be specific given the requirements of PNG cabinet confidentiality.
Finally, it could have been useful for the paper to use some broader background material other than the 2010 aid adviser review and PNG government comments. After 2010, there has been quite an active discussion, including on this blog, on different views about the effectiveness of technical advisers and governance in PNG - for example a 2012 effectiveness review of the SGP program (see There are some nuances around "in-line" positions and the lessons which moved the former ECP program towards the more capacity orientated SGP program should not be forgotten. My view is that institutional linkages programs were extremely effective (for example, see my presentation to the 2016 Aid Conference at So I agree entirely with Bob McMullan's and Robin Davies recent blog on 21 April that an "easy piece" for addressing a gap in Australia's aid program is "Public policies and institutions, through the re-establishment of a mechanism to support Australian public sector assistance to public institutions in the developing countries of our region." PNG is losing out quite badly from the fake "spies" allegations from its Prime Minister which led to the closure of much of the SGP program. Many elements of PNG's poor economic management in recent years (at least the loss of confidence flowing from major technical errors) are probably linked to the reliance on other very well paid foreign economic advisors working directly in the Prime Minister's Office rather than a program of institutional support which has a number of in-built checks and balances.
Paul Flanagan
PNG Economics and former SGP adviser

Comment on The policy framework for Australian aid: from countries to themes

Do we have any examples of bilateral or multilateral donors where this sort of approach has worked well?

The most significant eg seems to be the World Bank and I don't think that is one that many would say has been a real success.

Would moving aid from bilateral programs to regional/thematic/ multilateral programs also probably work against the government's focus on more closely aligning foreign policy objectives and aid program objective?

Comment on Five easy pieces, and five more demanding: allocation priorities for Australia’s 2017 aid budget

While it is obvious this has been written for time poor senior decision makers preparing for budget (with a nice neat five formulation), to add any weight to
these choices the esteemed authors could clearly explain why they chose both lots of five areas over other sectors.

Why for example should the government not focus on elections, human rights and other governance related programming or other areas that the graphs above show are no longer as much of a focus- disaster prevention/ health policy/rural devt?

Perhaps though the ten areas highlighted above are chosen based on some sort of assumed underlying logic around added value/effectiveness/ need for these sectors?

Comment on The aid policy network in Pakistan

Sir, at the same time can you suggest that are the strategies that can be used to avoid overlapping and doubling. I As a policy practitioner noticed in Naseerabad District of Balochistan after 2012 floods that alot of organizations engaged in similar things and this waste a lot of resources.

Comment on Aid advisers in Papua New Guinea: a partial solution

This is a welcome discussion about advisers and I look forward to reading further contributions on this theme. There is much to be concerned about. Whilst there are many professionally outstanding, enthusiastic and dedicated advisers working in development, there is a disturbing number who lack these qualities. This should concern us.

What Carmen, Joachim and Michael correctly refer to as aid contractors were disparagingly known as “body shops” in the past. For good reason too; they frequently appointed people to advisers roles who were noticeably lacking in appropriate knowledge, skills and attitudes to undertake their assignments but were, none-the-less, “bodies” on the ground.

My recent experience in development projects in different countries suggests this situation is not much changed: well qualified nationals overlooked for employing under qualified foreigners; out-of-field professionals working in technical specialisations (specifically in education and in monitoring and evaluation); and too many with no in-country experience or language skills whatsoever. I know this to be true not only from observation and direct experience but because I have personally been in each of these uncomfortable situations myself at times.

Yes, it can be very tough for contractors to find the right people to undertake some roles but on the face of it contractors, development agencies and recipient governments need to do very much better in collaboratively deploying and managing the best people possible – especially nationals. I have much sympathy with the PNG Government’s approach.