Officials from the Australian National Audit Office (ANAO) appeared before a Senate inquiry last night, revealing further details about the sports rorts scandal.
We’ve pulled out some of the highlights from the evidence.
‘Deficient in a number of important areas’
GRANT HEHIR (auditor-general): “Overall we concluded that the design of the program was deficient in a number of important areas, including: greater analysis was needed of the likely demand for grant funding and strategies developed for the managing of high-level demand; strategies to manage risk to the quality of the assessment process set out in the Sport Australia grants management framework were not implemented; and conflict-of-interest management arrangements were not to a consistently high standard.
“A further significant shortcoming was that, while the program guidelines identified that the minister for sport would approve the grants, and despite both the Department of Health and Sport Australia identifying doubts about the minister’s legal authority, there are no records evidencing that the minister was advised of the legal basis on which the minister could undertake an approval role, and it is not evident to the ANAO what the legal authority was.”
SENATOR JANE RICE (Greens Senator for Victoria): “OK. Based on the evidence available to you what parties did the prime minister’s office make representations on behalf of?”
BRIAN BOYD (ANAO executive director): “The only ones we saw were Coalition.”
SENATOR RICE: “And were they all on behalf of MPs?”
BRIAN BOYD: “Some were from candidates or, you know, as in people that were hoping to be elected to parliament and weren’t in parliament.”
SENATOR RICE: “Okay, and how about the Liberal Party or campaign teams or state bodies? Were there representations from those by the PM?”
BRIAN BOYD: “I recall at least one where it was the state body who was because, there was, I understand, who were pulling together the list for that electorate and then provided that to the minister’s office.
“The process, we understand, initially they were called wish lists and became what was called ‘Fighting For’, which are ‘these are the projects I’m fighting for’. And those lists were identifying — and it wasn’t just for this program, it was broadly that these are the projects in this electorate that we’re looking to secure funding for.
“And so those were being put together and some of those were coming through the minister’s office saying, ‘Can this be accommodated within CSIG’. Some of those would be an existing application. Some of them were not an application and so never became an application.”
SENATOR RICE: “Where there representations other than from Coalition-aligned members of parliament or the Liberal Party or their campaign bodies?”
BRIAN BOYD: “If they were, they weren’t in the records.”
No, senator, that’s not what we found
SENATOR ERIC ABETZ (Liberal Senator for Tasmania): ” … I seek to clarify, you did find that no ineligible project or application was funded?”
BRIAN BOYD: “No Senator that’s not what we found. So if you go to the start of chapter three, which is the chapter on assessment, the finding there was ‘ineligible applications were identified and no applications assessed as ineligible were awarded grant funding’.
“So that’s the Sport Australia eligibility assessment process. What then happened subsequently was there’s applications, late applications were taken on board, which were ineligible under the guidelines.
“Amendments were made for existing applications which were ineligible under the guidelines and they were funded.
“But at the time — this relates to the Sport Australia assessment process. Sport Australia removed from its list those assessed as ineligible — that’s what that finding is.
“Subsequent to that there were the five new applications, the four amended applications. And then because things took longer — because you are now running two rounds, rather than three, and funding agreements are in place — you had eight projects where, according to the details provided by the proponent, the project had been completed before the funding grant was signed. They’re ineligible under the program.
“And there were 270 something where the project had started before the funding agreement was signed, which is also ineligible under the program. So we get to around 43% of those which were awarded funding, by the time the funding agreement signed, were ineligible.”
And the colour-coded spreadsheet(s)
BRIAN BOYD: “There isn’t a single spreadsheet, there’s dozens of versions of a spreadsheet. And for each round there were various iterations indicating on different days — and sometimes different hours of the day — which are the projects which the minister’s office were indicating were going be approved for funding.”