Questioned the status of the DFAT investigation into allegations that Australian aid funds to World Vision were diverted to Hamas.
I have some limited questions about a matter which also was in the media, which is the allegation of diversion of Australian aid funds to Hamas. In terms of the process to date, your media release of 5 August 2016 said that the department was investigating that matter. Is that investigation still on foot or has it been concluded?
Whole interaction with Mr Ewen McDonald (Deputy Secretary, DFAT) and Mr Marc Innes-Brown (First Assistant Secretary, DFAT) during Senate Estimates (Foreign Affairs, Defence and Trade Legislation Committee, Foreign Affairs and Trade Portfolio).
Senator WONG: I have some limited questions about a matter which also was in the media, which is the allegation of diversion of Australian aid funds to Hamas. In terms of the process to date, your media release of 5 August 2016 said that the department was investigating that matter. Is that investigation still on foot or has it been concluded?
Mr McDonald : It is still ongoing.
Senator WONG: Is that an internal investigation?
Mr McDonald : One of the investigations is internal. There is an internal investigation and there are some external investigations which Mr Innes-Brown can give you some more detail on.
Mr Innes-Brown : There is the Israeli legal process.
Senator WONG: I am not asking questions about that.
Mr Innes-Brown : Sure, but I am just giving the totality.
Senator WONG: I am just letting you know that, to be fair to you, I am not actually asking for answers about another country’s process.
Mr Innes-Brown : We are looking into what we knew and what our processes were. As Mr McDonald said, that is still underway. There are two World Vision inquiries underway. World Vision International has engaged a forensic auditor to look into whether they could possibly have known about the events that are alleged Mr Mohammed El Halabi was involved in. They are looking at their own processes. So that is being run by World Vision International. They have engaged Deloitte to do that. Separately to that, World Vision Australia is doing a review of their processes in relation to their relationship with the World Vision offices in the Middle East. That independent investigation is being done by Ernst and Young.
Senator WONG: So they are World Vision investigations. Did I miss the first part of your evidence. Is there one being conducted by the department as well?
Mr Innes-Brown : Yes. That is right. Mr McDonald said that, yes.
Senator WONG: So where is that being done?
Mr McDonald : Internally, our aid and contracting area. The head of our fraud area is undertaking that investigation. As I have said, it is not yet complete.
Senator WONG: Well, given that, I will not ask too much more about it. Are you able to give us some timeframe around completion?
Mr McDonald : Look, I do not think it is far off. So they have done the investigation. They have done some of the initial work. So maybe in the next few weeks or month. I cannot be definitive because we need the report.
Senator WONG: Need the report to?
Mr McDonald : Well, we need the report to be finalised.
Senator WONG: And the report would be to the secretary?
Mr McDonald : Well, yes, it will be the secretary or the relevant division heads. But it will be considered by the department, yes.