Peter Varghese: forced redundancies would only be used as a "last resort".

Peter Varghese: forced redundancies would only be used as a "last resort". Photo: Andrew Meares

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  • About 500 public service jobs will be cut at the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade in the next 13 months, DFAT bosses have warned.

    Departmental Secretary Peter Varghese warned staff on Wednesday morning of the cull of 12 per cent of the department, which swallowed the overseas aid agency AusAID last year, after the federal budget imposed cuts of $100 million in the 2014-15 financial year.

    Mr Varghese told his 4200 workers that forced redundancies would only be used as a “last resort”, with the axe to fall most heavily on former AusAID staffers and officials working in DFAT’s “corporate services”.

    “While the full implications of the budget have not yet been worked through, our current assessment is that there will need to be a reduction of about 500 APS positions over the course of the 2013-14 and 2014-15 financial years,” Mr Varghese said.

    “Divisions providing corporate services and delivering or supporting the delivery of the aid program will be most affected by the reductions. 

    “The final overall reduction and allocations will be decided by the committee at its meeting on 26 May.”

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    With the budget delivering a $7 billion cut to aid in the coming years and more than 500 staff being cut at the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade in the coming financial year, staff from the department were on Wednesday morning asking whether the major department would be left "devolved" from the process of delivering aid.

    The concern was brought up at a breakfast hosted by Devpolicy at the Australian National University.

    Australian National University development policy centre director Stephen Howes said he doubted funding reductions would go as far as taking DFAT out of service delivery.

    Foreign affairs experts also said Tuesday's budget brought in what appeared to be less transparency of foreign aid expenditure with no "blue book" - a document outlining in extreme details about where, when, how and why money is spent -  handed out for the first time in decades.

    Professor Howes and others said information on the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade website had not been updated, leaving observers struggling to answer crucial questions.