The Morrison Government has tried to bury a scathing Audit into the administration of the Regional Jobs and Investment Packages by tabling the report less than an hour before the running of the Melbourne Cup.
The Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for Regional Development Michael McCormack must provide a full explanation of the Ministerial Panel’s approach in response to this Audit, and explain how the Morrison Government will act on the Audit Office’s findings.
Deputy Prime Minister Michael McCormack sat on both Ministerial Panels responsible for awarding over $220.5 million in grants, that the Audit Office found:
- Approved an ineligible application for funding.
- Approved five late applications for funding, with no exemption reasons recorded.
- Awarded 89 per cent of funding for the South Coast NSW region to applications from the then highly marginal Liberal electorate of Gilmore, at the expense of Labor-held Eden-Monaro.
- Failed to verify claims around ongoing jobs created by each proposed grant.
- Did not re-score or provide reasons when rejecting 28 percent of applications recommended by the Department.
- Approved 17 percent of applications not recommended by the Department without adequate reasons.
- Failed to appropriately consider co-funding exemptions, awarding four of the 16 applications where a co-funding exemption was requested a total of $1.74 million.
- Increasingly overturned decisions over time.
- Did not consistently apply the eligibility requirements relating to the content of applications.
- Did not manage conflict of interest to a consistently appropriate standard.
- Did not soundly assess applications in accordance with the program guidelines.
The Audit of the Regional Jobs and Investment Packages follows the program’s inclusion on the audit priorities of the Joint Committee on Public Account and Audit and correspondence from Labor Members Stephen Jones and Mike Kelly. Mr Jones’ referral related to a grant in the Tropical North Queensland region where there may have been a conflict of interest and which may not have met the objectives of the program. Mr Kelly’s referral related to inconsistency of funding between Gilmore and Eden-Monaro.
If the Deputy Prime Minister fails to provide an adequate response to this scathing Audit, Labor will pursue the Morrison Government through the Parliament.