Australian PM sets up oversight body to inspect disaster spending

14:33, February 07, 2011      

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Australian Prime Minister Julia Gillard on Monday announced the formation of a "reconstruction inspectorate" to ensure no money is wasted during disaster rebuilding efforts around the country.

The new oversight body will report directly to the cabinet sub- committee guiding the reconstruction work on natural disasters, which is chaired by Gillard and deputy chaired by Regional Development Minister Simon Crean.

Gillard said Australia is facing a tough road ahead after the summer's unprecedented floods, together with the destructive Cyclone Yasi and the bushfires in Western Australia.

The reconstruction inspectorate will be chaired by former New South Wales premier and federal finance minister John Fahey, and will oversee arrangements and guard against waste.

"As we rebuild from these large-scale and widespread natural disasters, it's appropriate to have these mechanisms to ensure that every dollar is a dollar that is spent effectively, and that every dollar spent from taxpayers' money goes to do work that is necessary to rebuild the nation," Gillard told reporters in Canberra on Monday.

The states will be forced to provide independent audited financial statements accounting for all federal reconstruction money. While the reconstruction agency would scrutinize contracts, inspect projects, and investigate complaints or issues raised by the public.

In addition to the inspectorate, the federal government has also appointed two Commonwealth representatives to sit on the board of the Queensland Reconstruction Taskforce, to ensure the Government's 75 percent contribution towards rebuilding is spent wisely.

The representatives are former merchant banker Brad Orgill, and the departmental head of Regional Australia, Glenys Beauchamp.

Orgill, whose audit of the Building the Education Revolution stimulus program has been criticised by the opposition, said there are lessons from the school building program that can be applied to the reconstruction effort in Queensland.

"In whatever way I can contribute -- the lessons of our involvement in BER and my experience across finance and other areas, I'll be doing everything I can to contribute," he told ABC News on Monday.

Earlier, Gillard announced a 5.68 billion U.S. dollars contribution to floods reconstruction, including a 1.826 billion U. S. dollars levy, which will impose on those who were not affected by the floods and earn income of more then 50,735 U.S. dollars a year.

She has warned further budget cuts will be required to fund rebuilding following Cyclone Yasi, which wreaked havoc across Queensland.

However, the Opposition has attacked the levy, and is drawing up its own savings measures to prove to the public that the levy is unnecessary.

Opposition Leader Tony Abbott said the government's announcement on Monday showed it cannot be trusted with taxpayers' money.

Source: Xinhua
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