Senate inquiry queries $444m allocation to Great Barrier Reef Foundation

A senate inquiry into the allocation of $444m of Commonwealth Funds to a small charitable organisation, the Great Barrier Reef Foundation, has raised questions about the funding process and the ability of the the Foundation to administer the funds to achieve the goals of the Reef 2050 Long-Term Sustainability Plan.

Submissions to the inquiry have pointed out that the Foundation currently lacks sufficient staff with expertise to administer the funds and questioned the lack of consultation with existing organisations, including the Department of Environment and Energy and the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority over the decision.

The Australian Conservation Foundation said the Foundation's “existing operating model presents questions regarding both the pipeline of viable projects for it to invest in and whether the Foundation is the best vehicle. rather than Govern ment. to directly deliver funding. Particularly if a large amount of the funding is going to be given to public entities.”

“Limited public information has been provided about oversight and accountability frameworks that will govern the new funding arrangement. Similarly. little information is available surrounding the budget process. grant application and tender procedure that was used to determine the donation to the Foundation.

“Considering the scale and capacity challenges facing the Foundation there is likely to be a significant delay in their ability to mobilise funding to 'on ground' projects and activities. This puts at risk the Federal Government's 2020 investment commitment made to the World Heritage Committee through the Reef 2050 Plan.”

The ACF recommended that the funding be redirected to public entities already engaged in protection and regeneration activities on the Reef directly. through standard budget procedure.

“The Government has outsourced most of its investment commitment to Reef 2050 Plan actions to the Great Barrier Reef Foundation. In doing so it has laden a single not-for-profit organisation with significant organisational scale, expertise and program delivery challenges. In doing so, the Federal Government has put at risk its 2020 investment commitment made to the World Heritage Committee.”

Details about the inquiry, including submissions, are available here.

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