Who puts a Vietnamese earthmoving contractor in charge of $11M HIV/Aids contract in Papua New Guinea?
Alexander Downer and Bill Clinton, that's who.
When Bill Clinton signed the MOU with the Australian Government on 22 February 2006 he said a few words to the crowd of business people who'd gathered at the Lowy Institute to mark the occasion.
PRESIDENT CLINTON: Thank you very much. Well, Foreign Minister, I can't wait for your memoirs to come out. Thanks Margaret (JACKSON, chair of the Asia Pacific Business Coalition on HIV/AIDS), thank you. I'd also like to thank the Director General of AusAID, Bruce Davis and the people who run our Clinton Foundation HIV/AIDS initiative, Ira Magaziner who conceived and organised the whole thing, and Ruby Shang who represents us here in Asia.
Ruby Shang was the President of the Caterpillar earthmoving dealership in Vietnam, Vtrac. Her husband Anthony Salzman - or as he prefers to be known Mr Vietnam - is a US citizen.
Salzman had some dealings with Clinton in "opening up" the Vietnamese economy. At one stage he was apparently worth quite a bit until he and Caterpillar had a falling out. In 2011 Caterpillar sued him over a failed dealership agreement, claiming Salzman still owed Caterpillar $12M for equipment he'd purchased.
His wife Ruby was everywhere for Clinton. China, Vietnam, Singapore, PNG and Australia with a range of impressive Clinton Foundation job titles, ranging from advisor to director of the board in climate change, health and the Clinton Global Initiative.
Maybe Ruby had too much on her plate with the Clinton Foundation to find the time to sell graders and backhoes.
Ruby would feature prominently in Clinton's plans for New Guinea.
First a little background.
At the UN World Summit in September 2005, then Prime Minister John Howard announced plans to double Australia's aid program by 2010 to $4 billion.
There was big money available from the Australian Government in 2006 and it seemed to have difficulty in spending it well. A review of Australia's aid effectiveness noted:
“Non–state donors are increasingly influencing international aid behaviour as their share of total aid flows to developing countries increases … the ratio of almost one private dollar for every two dollars of official aid is significantly higher than a decade ago when the ratio was closer to one to five.”
Not only have well–known NGOs such as World Vision and Oxfam grown, but completely new non–government donors have also emerged such as the Bill and Melinda Gates and Clinton Foundations. These have brought with them new resources and ways of doing business, including more attention to results.
Downer's remarks at the MOU signing give some sense of the government's thinking:
I would like to talk briefly now about what the Government is currently doing to reverse the spread of HIV/AIDS. Eighteen months ago, I announced a significant increase in Australia's contribution to the fight against HIV/AIDS in the region: through the aid program, the Australian Government is committing $600 million in assistance to HIV/AIDS activities in the decade to 2010: most of this support is directed to activities in the Asia Pacific by way of bilateral assistance. Clearly, the Australian Government is already investing heavily in the battle against HIV. But if we are to deepen and strengthen the Australian response, we must look for new opportunities and partnerships to build on what has been achieved. Our partnership with the Clinton Foundation will build on the Foundation's impressive track record to provide practical assistance with procurement, supply chains and health system strengthening.
It's not clear whether Downer knew this at the time - but the Clinton Foundation was already accessing our $600M, particularly in Papua New Guinea.
On 29 October, 2005, the Clinton Foundation HIV/Aids Initiative Inc signed a Memorandum of Understanding with the PNG Government.
Here's a copy of an MoU superseding it in 2011.
What's clear is that by October 2005, Papua New Guinea already had access to the Clinton negotiated prices for HIV and related drugs and Australian aid money was funding those purchases.
THE CLINTON FOUNDATION WAS ALREADY REPORTING ITS EXPANSION INTO ASIA BEFORE THE AUSTRALIAN AGREEMENT
Clinton made much of his 2005 agreement with PNG in the Clinton Foundation 2005 Annual Report.
The Clinton Foundation HIV/AIDS Initiative (CHAI) greatly expanded the scale, intensity, geographic, and programmatic scope of its global efforts in the fight against HIV/AIDS in 2005. By year’s end, the Initiative had increased the number of people accessing AIDS treatment drugs under CHAI’s agreements by nearly 300%, from 61,000 on treatment at the end of 2004 to over 240,000 on treatment by the end of 2005. CHAI also increased the number of partner countries and members of the Procurement Consortium who can purchase AIDS medicines and diagnostic equipment at CHAI’s reduced prices to 55.
DRAMATICALLY EXPANDING TREATMENT
Working in close partnership with governments, other non-governmental organizations, and the private sector, CHAI strives to make treatment for HIV/AIDS more affordable and to implement large-scale integrated care, treatment, and prevention programs that are helping to turn the tide of the pandemic. CHAI’s efforts to increase access to HIV/AIDS care and treatment led to dramatic geographic and programmatic expansion in 2005. By the end of 2005, the number of people accessing antiretroviral medicines (ARVs) purchased under CHAI agreements increased fourfold from the end of 2004. Over the course of the year, CHAI entered into partnerships with the governments of Cambodia, Vietnam, Papua New Guinea, and Ukraine to assist in the implementation of large-scale HIV/AIDS care, treatment, and prevention programs.
So if Clinton was already committed by an MOU to "assisting the government of Papua New Guinea in the implementation of large-scale HIV/Aids care, treatment and prevention programs", what did Australia or the people of PNG stand to gain out of the 22 February 2006 MOU with Australia?
That's a good question.