A $300 million program meant to relieve drought in Australia’s most parched communities has “limited ability” to target areas hit hardest by the drought, according to an audit by Ernst and Young.
The Drought Community Program Extension (DCPE) provides up to $1 million in funding for drought-affected areas, but programs can take up to 18 months to implement and are poorly targeted, according to Ernst and Young. Data used to determine eligible councils was based on historical conditions and could change following an assessment.
“The current methodology used to determine areas in drought for the DCPE focuses on primary production areas and could be expanded to areas economically impacted by drought,” the report reads.
“The DCPE’s economic impact could be considered variable and unknown.”
The audit was commissioned by the minister for the drought, David Littleproud, after it was found that more than $1 million was given to some areas despite the fact that they were not in drought.
The audit also criticised the fact that allocations were fixed at up to $1 million per council and that the criteria for eligibility was not as transparent as it could be.
Further to this, social media channels highlighted the decreased public confidence and need for greater transparency,” the report reads.
“Comments included wanting to know what the criteria is to determine eligible councils, questions about what the money should be used for, and expressing their confusion about why their local areas were not considered eligible.”