Coun­cils un­der fire for aid cash

Sunday Herald Sun - - News -

VICTORIAN coun­cils have been crit­i­cised for spend­ing hun­dreds of thou­sands of dol­lars on “for­eign aid” to strug­gling East Ti­mor at a time when many are “cry­ing poor”.

More than 20 coun­cils have signed “friend­ship” agree­ments with the tiny na­tion’s re­gional gov­ern­ments, of­ten ap­point­ing ad­min­is­tra­tive of­fi­cers to run pro­grams and col­lect do­na­tions.

Some mu­nic­i­pal­i­ties have also spent ratepay­ers’ money to send coun­cil­lors and staff on trips to East Ti­mor while spon­sor­ing the vis­its of Ti­morese of­fi­cials.

Port Phillip Coun­cil al­lo­cated $142,598 for its Friends of Suai/Co­val­ima pro­gram last year and Boroon­dara Coun­cil spends $13,915 an­nu­ally for its Friends of Same scheme, a Sun­day Her­ald Sun in­ves­ti­ga­tion has found.

The City of Dare­bin has spent about $27,000 on coun­cil­lor and staff travel to East Ti­mor since 2000.

Port Phillip Mayor Ber­nadene Voss said coun­cils had ex­per­tise in de­vel­op­ing ef­fec­tive “lo­cal demo­cratic struc­tures”.

But In­sti­tute of Pub­lic Af­fairs ex­ec­u­tive di­rec­tor John Roskam said that while some of the coun­cil pro­grams were well-mean­ing, for­eign aid was “more ap­pro­pri­ately han­dled by the Fed­eral Gov­ern­ment”.

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