Questioned the accuracy of reports in The Australian about Australian funding to UNRWA.
Senator FARUQI: On 12 August 2019, The Australian reported that Australia was reviewing its funding commitment to UNRWA. Can you confirm whether the report in The Australian is correct?
Dr King : The report is not correct. I would add that we are aware of that report. The allegations are being investigated by the UN Office of Internal Oversight Services. We’ve spoken to them. We expect full transparency.
Whole interaction with Dr Ralph King (Acting First Assistant Secretary, Middle East and Africa Division, DFAT) and Mr Jamie Isbister (First Assistant Secretary, Humanitarian, Non-Government, DFAT) during Senate Estimates (Foreign Affairs, Defence and Trade Legislation Committee, Foreign Affairs and Trade Portfolio).
Senator FARUQI: I have a few questions on aid to Palestinian refugees. I have a lot more questions, but obviously my time is running out so I will fit these in. The UN Relief and Works Agency, or UNRWA, is the UN body, as you know, tasked to provide basic services to Palestinian refugees. On 12 August 2019, The Australian reported that Australia was reviewing its funding commitment to UNRWA. Can you confirm whether the report in The Australian is correct?
Dr King : The report is not correct. I would add that we are aware of that report. The allegations are being investigated by the UN Office of Internal Oversight Services. We’ve spoken to them. We expect full transparency. We are withholding, as we always do, the final tranche of our payment this year, but we have not suspended our payments to UNRWA.
Senator FARUQI: So there is no review at the moment of the funding?
Dr King : Not as such, no.
Senator FARUQI: And have there been periodic reviews of the overall aid investment plan in Palestine?
Dr King : I could call on my colleague Jamie Isbister to speak to that. But, to the best of my knowledge, they’re regularly reviewed, yes.
Senator FARUQI: How often are these reviews conducted?
Dr King : I’ll defer to Mr Isbister, with your permission.
Mr Isbister : As my colleague said, the aid investment plans are regularly reviewed. The Palestine program, I understand, was reviewed in the last 12 months to review its ongoing effectiveness.
Senator FARUQI: How many reviews have happened in the last three years?
Mr Isbister : The exact number in the last three years I’d have to take on notice.
Senator FARUQI: That would be great.
Mr Isbister : But the overall program has been reviewed, and the AMENCA program. The AMENCA NGO program was reviewed in the last six months.
Senator FARUQI: Are the recommendations of the reviews made public at all? Are the reviews and the recommendations made public?
Mr Isbister : When they are completed, the evaluation reviews are made public and a management response is attached.
Senator FARUQI: So the ones in the last three years would be on some website?
Mr Isbister : Yes. I’d have to take on notice whether the AMENCA 1 has been finalised in terms of the final report and the management response. But once it is, yes, it would be.