31 Aug 2011

McCully acts on aid for Africa, after criticism of delays

5:34 am on 31 August 2011

Foreign Affairs Minister Murray McCully says he has decided which aid agencies will get $1 million of African drought assistance, after claims of "unacceptable delays" in providing the money.

After criticism by aid agencies and opposition parties, Mr McCully issued a statement on Friday afternoon saying that money has been allocated to four non-government organisations following a due diligence process.

They are Childfund, Oxfam, Caritas and World Vision.

Overseas aid agencies were unhappy at the delays in drought assistance promised by the Government to eastern Africa.

Mr McCully promised $2 million six weeks ago for Somalia and neighbouring countries in the Horn of Africa. There is no word as yet on the other $1 million.

The United Nations says the drought crisis is the worst for 20 years, and has not peaked. It estimates 12 million people are starving in the region.

Of the $2 million the Government has pledged, half was to go through the World Food Programme and the other half through New Zealand aid agencies. In July, the agencies were given eight days to apply for applications for the funds and nine did so.

International Development Council director Wren Green said the agencies heard nothing for five weeks and the delay was unacceptable when thousands of people are dying every day.

Dr Green said the federal government in Australia allocated money for a similar process within 48 hours.

Green Party overseas assistance spokesperson Kennedy Graham, earlier said on Friday the Government had to act.

"I don't know whether it's within the bureaucracy or whether it's the political preoccupations of the minister himself with the Rugby World Cup. But that doesn't matter, if he's preoccupied, he needs to delegate authority."

Labour Party foreign affairs spokesperson Maryan Street said it had taken too long to get to this stage and she was not satisfied the response has been adequate.

The New Zealand Aid programme says the agencies are being notified, and paid next week after contracts are signed.

Radio New Zealand understands a final paper about the allocation went from officials to the minister on Thursday.