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Australia’s TC Pam aid to Vanuatu has not met expectations: report

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Australia’s aid response to the most powerful cyclone recorded in the South Pacific — Vanuatu’s Cyclone Pam in 2015 — has been beset by problems, is well behind schedule and, according to the government’s own summation, requires ‘restorative action’.

The nation’s aid response to Cyclone Pam was delivered at a standard ‘somewhat less than expected’, according to the Department of Foreign Affairs’ own report into Vanuatu aid for the 2017 financial year, The Australian reports.

Australia contributed $10 million to fund immediate support in the wake of Cyclone Pam, including to provide food and short-term shelter, and a further $5m to support the ‘early recovery’ of Vanuatu following the disaster.

It also contributed $35m in ‘long-term recovery’ funding: how that money was spent and what was gained from the money remains unclear.

DFAT’s 2016-17 aid report for Vanuatu states ‘progress on cyclone recovery has not met expectations … largely due to delays in programming funds, procurement and construction’.

DFAT, which is responsible for the aid delivery, has given itself an ‘amber’ rating for the project, meaning ‘progress is somewhat less than expected’ and ‘restorative action will be necessary if the objective is to be achieved’.

A more detailed analysis, a 78-page DFAT review of Cyclone Pam aid, looks only at the $15m in early aid and not the $35m package, stating ‘long-term recovery funding is outside the scope of this evaluation’. According to the 2016-17 DFAT report, Tropical Cyclone Pam caused about $600m of damage and ‘affected the livelihoods of 195,000 people’.

Australia, which is Vanuatu’s biggest aid donor, was also the biggest donor to the Cyclone Pam recovery.

Delivery of the $35m in long-term recovery aid was poor because of ‘the complex and challenging funding modality’ of the aid package, the report said.

DFAT said yesterday funds were used to provide ‘recovery across multiple sectors in Vanuatu’ including ‘health, education, agriculture and water’.

Last month, The Australian reported DFAT’s delivery of a $31m road in Vanuatu was one of the most disastrously implemented aid projects in the region, behind schedule, millions of dollars over budget and of very poor quality.