In 2008-2009, AusAID jointly with the New Zealand Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade (NZMFAT) entered into a funding agreement with the Australian Commonwealth Ombudsman Office to support the Pacific Ombudsman Alliance (POA). AusAID and NZMFAT agreed to contribute a total of AUD1.86 million over the period 2009-2013, for the consolidation phase of the POA.
POA supports The Pacific Plan for Strengthening Regional Cooperation and Integration (the Pacific Plan), which was first endorsed by leaders at the Pacific Islands Forum meeting in October 2005. The Pacific Plan commits Forum member countries to a number of goals, objectives and initiatives for the region. POA is a mutual support network for ombudsman and allied institutions of Pacific Islands Forum member countries. It does not have any legal powers in relation to ombudsman activities in any country.
AusAID, NZMFAT and the Australian Commonwealth Ombudsman Office agreed that an independent review of POA should be conducted by AusAID in its third year of funding (2012-2013). This independent review report assesses the relevance, effectiveness and efficiency of POA as a mechanism to strengthen cooperation amongst Pacific Ombudsman institutions, with the goal to strengthen transparency and accountability of government services. The review also examines POA in light of its objectives, as set out in the POA charter. The findings from the review will inform AusAID and NZMFAT’s thinking around the merits of providing further funding support for the next phase of the POA.
It should be noted that the program is relatively small, proving financial support of about $1.8 million over 4 years. The resources provided for the review were thus also relatively small, which might be considered appropriate. However, this limited the coverage of the Review which is consequently largely desk-based research and analysis, but with significant weight put on interviews and observations made during the 2012 POA Annual Members’ Meeting held in Wellington (2012 POA members’ meeting). This provided an invaluable opportunity for face-to-face discussions with members. Country visits were not feasible, but those met in Wellington represents almost all member countries.