7 Responses

  1. Pundit
    Pundit August 19, 2015 at 2:15 pm

    This debate is over simplified. Those who work in the field will acknowledge that in practice “advising” and being “in line” are not so different. Out of respect for national sovereignty, “advisers” have until recently been encouraged to defer ultimate decision making to their national counterparts: it does not mean that advisers don’t get their “hands dirty”. To be “in line” may bring with it more formal authority but the authority can be undermined if a foreigner is unable to maintain the respect of colleagues or makes too many unpopular decisions. Personally I have worked in both capacities and have found that “in line” my authority could be subverted just as easily as my powers of persuasion as an adviser. Also, donors expect the people that they pay to show them loyalty: this potentially creates a conflict of interest because contractually an “in line” foreigner has a primary duty towards the Government of PNG. I’m not arguing against “in line” – just trying to dispel yet another “silver bullet” moment in aid policy.

  2. Rod Reeve
    Rod Reeve August 7, 2015 at 10:29 am

    The Foreign Affairs part of the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (DFAT) is all about people to people. The people of Australia and Papua New Guinea have shared a solid relationship for 50,000 years. Let’s hope that this latest change doesn’t mean that the ‘people’ part of this $477 million p.a. relationship is diminished or replaced by the easy option of steel, plastic and concrete. DFAT has got a bit of work to do here.

  3. Richard
    Richard August 6, 2015 at 5:48 pm

    Thanks for this, the adviser model does set people up to fail in many instances, trying to effect change through advising others – often in the face of active or passive resistance to that change and compounded by a dysfunctional operating environment.

    But one aspect of your piece might be an assumption – that those inline positions will go to overseas experts. Some of the PM’s recent comments seem to suggest that he believes PNGeans can do the work, that there is sufficient in-country expertise available and hints that overseas personnel here for a limited time do not leave any sustainable change behind and are, “taking Papua New Guinean jobs.” http://www.abc.net.au/news/2015-08-03/papua-new-guinea-plans-rethink-of-development-support-delivery/6667642

    Obviously the best person for the job would be most people’s wish but I wonder how in a highly politicised and nationalistic public service this can happen these days.

  4. Anon
    Anon August 6, 2015 at 4:01 pm

    Given that the Australian Government has recently cut its funding to the Overseas Development Institute Fellowship Scheme (which places high-caliber junior economists into in-line positions within GoPNG ministries and is highly valued by all participating ministries) due to the fact the fellows were not accountable to Australia’s Department for Foreign Affairs and Trade, it would be surprising to see them move towards an in-line approach. That said, perhaps pressure from GoPNG will be enough to force a move away from the excessively costly and relatively ineffective (though not without value) TA program.

  5. Paul Barker
    Paul Barker August 6, 2015 at 12:41 pm

    it’s effectively what was in place prior to the increase in project and then program assistance which progressively replaced budget aid in the early 1990s. In those days there were many overseas contract officers who were in inline positions on salaries well below the subsequent consulting rates, and who had direct responsibilities within the system, just like their PNG counterpart staff. At the time is was strongly suggested by some that the shift to project/program assistance, with all its associated program planning and oversight overheads, shuold take a different form. The Australians were increasingly concerned about weak accountability over budget aid by the Government of PNG, so introduced the programs partly as a way to increase accountability to the Australian (and PNG) public, but the programs greatly increased demands on the relatively weak capacity of the PNG government, especially with many staff being taken out of central agencies also to help manage the program from the AIDAB/AusAID/DFAT side. The suggestion was for a more compromise arrangement, which would still leave the PNG Government with some continued flexibility where to allocated funds and staff – and between overseas and local staff (as occurred under the previous Budget support), but to establish chains of oversight and accountability over those components of funding provided for specific activity, including the capacity to provide some shorter term support staff for specific functions, where needed (ie advisers) to complement funding inputs for PNG and longer term contract inline staff….training and advisory functions can be very useful for various specific functions, but one needs the flexibility, to be able to include a range of human and other resources to implement service provision by government..Of course, it also requires a clear understanding of what GoPNG shuold be funding and what the development partners should fund. Core functions shuold be undertaken by GoPNG, adn should be properly budgeted and accounted for, which also requires Govt avoids putting its money into status projects etc, and leaving core services often to be funded by donors (sometimes through church services etc)…the role of development partners should particularly be to assist in developing training and capacity building of the PNG institutions (and some physical infrastructure..so long as GoPNG commits to its maintenance); but human and institutional development by its nature does involve a fair amount of human input, without development partners being unduly burdened with funding routine staffing; but this input shuold be able to be provided from a range of PNG and overseas sources -including overseas volunteers, e.g. for teacher/teacher training etc, as required and as most cost effective…. But the shift needs to be well thought out and in close consultation..none of this silly business of announcing in November that one education system would replace another, before the successor curriculum has been prepared or teachers trained etc…!

  6. Phil Dowton
    Phil Dowton August 6, 2015 at 11:37 am

    I agree with much of what’s been said. In my experience over nearly 15 years (2000-2014) at provincial level in PNG health as a Project Manager and TA, TA, PNG needs TA. Again, in my experience, this is both recognised and highly valued by local counterparts. With regard to ‘accountability’, the issue is not that TAs are ‘unaccountable’. Papuan New Guineans are rightly concerned that Advisers work for and are accountable to donors etc not Papua New Guinea. They don’t ‘own’ TAs and often talk of being sidelined, bypassed, ignored and reduced to ‘spectators’. The current model for providing TA and other forms of aid is also not cost-effective. I’m not sure we’ve learnt the lessons of the past decade or so – or that we’re even listening – and I’m disappointed more Papua New Guineans, especially from provinces, who are responsible for service delivery, are not contributing to the discussion and speaking out.

  7. Jonah Tisam
    Jonah Tisam August 6, 2015 at 9:56 am

    I am in agreement with Stephen Howes’ analysis of strengthening governance and law and justice in PNG. I was one of the former civil servants in PNG right after independence (1980s-90s) and the process of training and capacity building for PNG public servants (succession planning) at that time was at its peak. I felt I was properly trained as I was well monitored and groomed. The preparation was to train as Assistant Secretary (AS) in all Divisions, and as I gained confidence I was moved to another Divisions in succession every three months or so to prepare me to move into the next level as First Assistant Secretary (FAS). At that time contracted civil servants were not only Australians but a mixture of expatriates from various countries. There were professions from New Zealand, Canada, USA, India, Singapore and so on who mingled with PNG nationals as colleagues rather than advisors. In-house training was on-going and the public service was thriving. There was enthusiasm in what we did – we were motivated despite the little salaries that I received for my efforts I was happy. I have visited PNG recently (from April – June 2015) and found the civil service had become stagnant; it lacked motivation and purpose – that is to serve the communities. Where I originate two three government funded projects had failed (the time I was there) as civil servants were unable to deliver; partly because of the rampant corruption in the procurement process, and partly because politicians kept stealing the show of service delivery, practically replacing civil servants. Clearly, civil servants in PNG have little purpose in service delivery which could be the impetus for their lack of motivation and enthusiasm. In other words, politicians in their quest to gain electoral voting support have perpetuated the demise of the PNG civil service. As long as corruption and the politicisation of the civil service exist, the Australian taxpayers money (AUD450m) will be wasted.

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