PNG consultants paid $360,000 tax-free

| 20.05,09. 01:45 PM |

PNG consultants paid $360,000 tax-free

 May 20, 2009 12:06pm

AUSTRALIAN taxpayers are shelling out millions of dollars for top level consultants in Papua New Guinea who earn up to $360,000 a year tax-free.

The figure is more than Australian Prime Minister Kevin Rudd's base salary of almost $335,000.

Documents obtained by AAP show a single consultant hired in PNG through Coffey International Development receives $10,517 a month in tax-free allowances under AusAID's Advisory Support Facility.

And if the consultant brings their partner along they get $14,239 a month for accommodation, hardship, medical or utility fees.

That alone costs Australian taxpayers about $170,000 a year.

If the couple have children the allowance goes up approximately another $1000 a month for each child.

Consultants on short stays under 180 days receive $469 per day for the first 28 days then $400 a day for the rest.

If they work 180 days that earns them up to $74,000 in allowances.

An agreement between the Australian and PNG governments gives aid advisers tax-free salaries, putting a married senior consultant in PNG on approximately $30,000 a month, netting them $360,000 a year.

Junior single consultants gross approximately $20,000 a month, adding up to $240,000 a year in salary and allowances.

An AusAID spokesperson said there were around 250 long-term advisers and around 50 short-term advisers working under the PNG-Australia development program.

"The allowance rates for people contracted are reviewed regularly against actual costs in PNG and allowances can change,'' the spokesperson said.

"The allowances paid to advisers in PNG are comparable with rates for this kind of work around the world."

According to an AusAID website, ASF assists the PNG government to improve public sector management and administration.

It is estimated $200 million of AusAID's almost $400 million a year goes to agents, consultants and staff who provide 'technical assistance' to PNG.

Prime Minister Rudd flagged his concern at AusAID's reliance on consultants when speaking last month at a press conference with PNG counterpart Michael Somare.

''Too much money has been consumed by consultants and not enough money was actually delivered to essential assistance in teaching, in infrastructure, in health services on the ground, in the villages,'' Mr Rudd said.



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