Direct Aid Program (DAP) General Guidelines
The day-to-day administration of the Direct Aid Program (DAP) is the responsibility of Australia's overseas Posts. The program coordination function is located within the Executive, Planning and Evaluation Branch of the Australian Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (DFAT).
At each Post a DAP Committee is formed to consider applications and to agree on the Post's strategic DAP plan. The Committee would normally be chaired by a DFAT officer at the Post, and may include other Australia-based staff at the Post, locally engaged staff, or members of the local community. The Committee makes recommendations to the Head of Mission, who makes the final decision for funding.
There are a range of approaches for sourcing applications, according to local circumstances. Some Posts may conduct annual application rounds, while other Posts may respond to requests on a case-by-case basis. On occasion, Posts may invite particular communities to identify a project.
The Canberra DAP Committee is chaired by the Assistant Secretary, Executive, Planning and Evaluation Branch and includes representatives from DFAT geographic divisions. It convenes each year soon after the Budget announcement to prepare draft Post DAP allocations for the coming financial year. The regional breakdown of DAP allocations is approved by the Minister. The Assistant Secretary, EXB is authorised to make ad hoc reallocation decisions throughout the year.
Eligibility for funding
In selecting projects to fund, Post DAP Committees need to ensure that projects have developmental outcomes, and are consistent with the international relations and public diplomacy objectives of the Post.
Attention is given to projects providing direct benefits to those most in need in the local community, including vulnerable or disadvantaged groups, children and youth.
Eligible activities include community health, education, small scale infrastructure, sanitation, rural development, environmental development, gender equality, conferences and training activities, and cultural and sporting activities. All such projects must have a developmental outcome and be implemented within a relatively short period of time. In certain cases, consideration may be given to contributions to disaster relief operations.
As a general rule, the following activities and inputs are not funded:
- items of a routine or recurrent nature, such as staff salaries, office rental and utility costs, spare parts, office supplies, routine maintenance and repairs and purchase of major assets such as property or vehicles;
- payment of salaries or fees for consultants and advisors, where they constitute a major cost component;
- generic conferences, training, cultural and sporting activities that can not demonstrate a developmental outcome; and
- micro-finance projects or micro-credit schemes that involve a return of money.
The focus is on activities that have a direct, practical, immediate impact.
Consideration may at times be given to small-scale community activities that have prospects of eventually generating commercial benefits where the community can demonstrate to the satisfaction of Post that proceeds from the activity will be reinvested in the project.
Applications should be directed to, and are considered at, Posts. Prospective applicants should contact the relevant Australian Embassy or High Commission for details of the application process for the country in which the project is to be undertaken.
Proposals must be clearly defined with specific outputs. Where the proposed activity has been submitted to other possible funding sources, or is being implemented in conjunction with activities funded through other sources, this must be clearly stated in the application.
Assessments of applications by Post DAP Committees are made primarily on the basis of the supporting information supplied by applicants. Prospective applicants should contact the relevant Australian Embassy or High Commission for their application forms and procedures.
Activities must be consistent with the Post’s international relations and public diplomacy objectives for the country. In addition, consideration is given to the following issues:
- applications should clearly detail the expected developmental impact of the project, for example in terms of promoting community development, education, health, gender equality, disadvantaged groups, and environmental sustainability;
- DAP projects must be sustainable, oriented towards self-help and should not rely on future DAP grants. Submissions should demonstrate a commitment on the part of the local community to implement the activities and sustain them;
- appropriate institutional support arrangements must be described, for example, the level of recurrent costs generated and evidence of capacity to sustain these costs in the longer term;
- details of the extent to which the DAP activity might act as a catalyst for further development of the target community or a model for similar projects elsewhere;
- preference is given to innovative and creative projects, particularly those using low technology solutions.
Posts are required to advise applicants in writing of the project approvals and of the conditions relating to the grant as soon as possible after the completion of a selection round. If recipients are unable to commence and/or complete projects in the agreed timeframe, they should not proceed with the application. If the agreed terms and conditions of the grant are not met, DAP recipients may be required to repay the grant to the Post.
Conflicts of interest
In order to maintain the integrity of the DAP Program, DAP Committee members must report any perceived conflicts of interest to the Committee. Where a conflict of interest arises, DAP Committee members are expected to remove themselves from involvement with that particular project.
To minimise the risk of conflict of interest, decision makers are asked to guard against any suggestions of favouritism or bias in funding decisions.
That said, it is not the intention of Posts to discriminate among applicants on the basis of literacy, or other skills. Depending on local conditions, some Posts may need to assist potential applicants to complete the forms and to outline the project proposal in a way that does justice to the proposal. In addition, Posts may invite applications from other organisations, including NGOs, to assist in the development of strategic partnerships.
Posts should ensure that DAP documentation and the conditions contained therein are in accordance with local legal requirements and adequately protect the Post’s interests. Where necessary, Posts should consult their local legal advisers. The extent to which local legal advice is required will depend on the Post’s risk assessment of both the project and the legal environment.
A general test for the DAP Committee and Head of Mission when approving projects is whether the proposed expenditure is an appropriate use of Australian Government funds and conforms with the DAP guidelines. Each Post must have in place an appropriate and transparent accountability process and be able to justify its selection process when reporting on its annual DAP allocation expenditure. In the event that a Post is audited on its DAP processes, it may be required to defend a funding decision.
All project recipients are required to complete acquittal reports on conclusion of the DAP project. This includes evidence of expenditure, such as receipts, and written reports on tangible outcomes.
Project acquittals should focus on the outcomes and outputs, and not just inputs.
Applicants are required to demonstrate their bona fides at the outset through referrals or references and detailed proposals. When providing funds to successful applicants, Post DAP Committees will issue letters of grant agreements, which outline the responsibilities of the applicants (for example, progress reports, acquittals, liability in case of accidents, returning funds if the project does not go ahead). The acceptance letters may also include a paragraph on counter-terrorism laws and policies and where relevant, reference to child protection policies. The DAP Committee may also consider making payments in several tranches.
Posts will endeavour to ascertain whether the project has been completed as proposed. A report will be kept with other project papers at the Post. A "best endeavours" approach recognises that site visits are neither practical nor cost-effective in many circumstances. In such cases, Posts are asked to seek feedback from regional governments, local councils, NGOs or local cooperatives to vouch that a project has been completed.
Preference is given to low risk, low cost, comparatively low technology projects (for example building wells, other construction activities or purchasing school furniture).
Badging and promotion of projects
Where practical and cost effective, Posts will seek to arrange with project recipients some form of permanent reminder of the role the Post has played in funding a project. Limited DAP funds may be used to fund such badging activities. The Australian Aid identifier can be used to badge DAP projects.
Building and construction projects
Post DAP Committees are asked to consider appropriate environmental, construction, and occupational health and safety standards in assessing projects that involve construction. This may include assessing the effectiveness of the administering organisation in its management of safe work practices and application of environmental and building code standards. Building and construction related projects should attempt to meet or exceed Australian standards within the limits of materials and technical skills available in one country, but it may not be feasible to impose Australian standards on projects in countries where national standards already exist. UN WHO standards should be adhered to where appropriate. Post DAP Committees should observe Australian Government guidelines, which do not allow the use of asbestos as a building material.
As outlined above, all recipients of DAP funds are required to submit an acquittal report that provides an accurate assessment of the actual outcomes of the activities (compared with the anticipated outcomes stated in the application), as well as financial information. The Acquittal Report is the major vehicle Posts have for ensuring that recipients comply with accountability and evaluation requirements. Posts will provide recipients with details of the requirements for financial accountability and acquittals.