Councils under fire for aid cash
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”.