The Auditor-General has cleared the Prime Minister and the Treasurer and their offices of any wrongdoing in the faked email affair, declaring that representations by Ipswich car dealer John Grant were handled appropriately by Wayne Swan and that there was no evidence that Rudd or his office had any involvement. However, the ANAO has criticised Treasury’s implementation of the OzCar scheme and the poor level of resourcing it directed to it, and suggested that the bureaucrat at the heart of the affair, Godwin Grech, may have breached the Australian Public Service Code of Conduct. Grech is reported today in The Australian to have admitted faking an email from Prime Ministerial adviser Andrew Charlton to him.

The ANAO’s findings in brief:

  • 10 motor vehicle dealers made representations to Treasury or the Treasurer after the slow implementation of the OzCar scheme; 5 received little or no assistance; 6 provided a moderate level of assistance and 1, John Grants received “significantly more assistance over a longer period of time.”
  • Ford Credit was not seeking Government assistance at the time three dealers, including Grant, were raised with them by Treasury officials, but nevertheless it was “inadvisable” for Treasury to have raised the dealers, and not prudent for Treasury to have raised John Grant’s relationship with the Prime Minister.
  • There were “significant weaknesses” in Treasury’s implementation of the Government’s OzCar policy decision, a finding Treasury has accepted.
  • Only one representation was made by the Prime Minister’s Office on behalf of a car dealer and it was not John Grant. There is no evidence that the Prime Minister or his Office played any role in referring the Grant representation or any other. This is consistent with Kevin Rudd’s statements to Parliament.
  • There is no evidence the Treasurer applied any pressure to Treasury to give John Grant more or better assistance.
  • Material was sent to Wayne Swan’s home fax because Swan had raised concerns about how slow OzCar was being rolled out. The first occasion material was sent by a Departmental Liaison Officer on his own initiative, the second time at the instigation of Treasury; thereafter Swan’s office told Treasury to stop sending the material.
  • The approach taken to assist Grant was not successful, but no further assistance was offered by Treasury.

Read the full report here [pdf]

Comment: The ANAO seems to suggest that the Treasury was too enthusiastic in being seen to assist perceived friends of senior Ministers, and acted imprudently in doing so. However, the ANAO is clearer in saying that the Prime Minister and Treasurer and their staff behaved entirely appropriately. The finding is a vindication of Wayne Swan, who was most under the hammer over the affair. The ANAO makes clear he did not seek to provide special treatment to John Grant, and that any assistance — ultimately futile — provided by Treasury was on the initiative of Treasury officials and not politicians.

Peter Fray

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