The shooting club subsidy scandal led to the resignation of Gladys Berejiklian in September but this exclusive October inquiry by Anthony Klan – read by over 80,000 people – revealed that the fiasco may well claim the scalp of another NSW premier.
NSW Premier Dominique Perrottet as treasurer was responsible for the $ 5.5 million grant to the Wagga Wagga Shooting Club, which was stamped green although it was “unusual” and the NSW Office of Sport wanted “no involvement” in the project, according to internal government emails.
Documents from a cache published by the NSW Independent Commission Against Corruption (CCIC) show that just weeks before the grant was awarded to the Wagga Wagga Private Shooting Club in August 2017, NSW government staff were concerned about the grant process, which was to be submitted to the treasurer for approval.
“We need to make sure that the funding goes to public infrastructure, not to private assets on private land,” wrote Jenny davis of NSW Infrastructure.
The July 8, 2017 email was addressed to seven colleagues, spanning three departments of the NSW government.
“The project is unusual – the ERC [Expenditure Review Committee] minute approved it before even hearing about it …
Our recommendation does not need to go back to the ERC, but it needs to be approved by the treasurer … ‘
The $ 5.5 million grant, which is at the heart of the ICAC’s investigations, was approved a few weeks later, in August 2017.
Perrottet was treasurer of NSW at the time, having been appointed in January 2017.
The grant was for a new clubhouse and 1,000-person convention center in Wagga Wagga, NSW, on the premises of the Australian Association of Clay Targets.
The club allows entry to members of the public but is a private entity and is located on land that is privately owned.
Perrottet has so far avoided the fallout from the shooting club scandal and has not been accused by the ICAC of any wrongdoing.
Perrottet’s office did not respond to a series of written questions posed to the Prime Minister at noon on Tuesday.
The latest revelations suggest the new NSW premier may be called to testify ahead of the ICAC public hearings, which began this week and are expected to last two weeks.
The $ 5.5 million grant was made as part of the Restart the NSW Fund.
Under the Restart NSW Fund Act (2011), NSW Infrastructure is “Responsible for providing independent funding recommendations to the government of New South Wales” to “All infrastructure projects will be funded by Restart NSW”.
The NSW government documents state: “NSW Infrastructure manages the deed process for these projects on behalf of the Treasurer. “
The revelations come a week after Perrottet said he was open to a change in the law to eliminate “weaknesses” in the ICAC.
“It’s always a good part of public policy that aspects of government are looked at and scrutinized and if there are ways to improve things, they should.” the premier of New South Wales was quoted in a one-page article published in the australian newspaper.
Davis’s July 2017 email says the NSW Office of Sport wanted ‘no implication’ in the financing of the shooting club.
‘Michael toohey [NSW Office of Sport director] indicated that the original ERC record was not correct and that the Office of Sport has no involvement at all, and does not want any funding involvement. ‘
The NSW Department of Sports was the promoter on the document which was forwarded to the NSW Cabinet Expenditure Review Committee in December 2016.
The Treasurer of the Day is responsible for overseeing the Expenditure Review Committee and in December 2016, the Treasurer of NSW was Gladys Berejiklian.
Berejiklian is the subject of an investigation by the ICAC, including whether she has breached “public confidence.”
In October of last year, it emerged that Berejiklian had had a secret relationship with then-MP Wagga Wagga for several years. Daryl maguireincluding when the shooting club grant was approved.
Berejiklian has previously denied any wrongdoing.
Toohey, the director of the NSW Office of Sport, appeared before the ICAC public hearings and said of the grant, in relation to the Berejiklian-Maguire relationship:
“I don’t see how this is anything other than a conflict of interest.”
Documents released by the ICAC show that there were also concerns within the NSW Treasury over the $ 5.5 million grant.
Ziggi Lejin, NSW Treasury Director of Capital Analysis, Budget Strategy, wrote to colleagues on Friday July 7, 2017.
Lejins requested information on the ongoing “competitive process” regarding the installation of the shooting club.
The email was addressed to Davis, of NSW Infrastructure and Toohey, of the NSW Office of Sport.
It was also sent to three other colleagues: Evelyne shen from the office of the treasurer of NSW and two other colleagues from the treasury of NSW.
“Could you provide more information on the competitive process underway to set the cost of facilities at Wagga?”
This was a prerequisite set by the ERC to the approval of any restart funding.
If it is in progress, when is it likely to be concluded? “
The next day, Saturday July 8, 2017, Jenny Davis of Infrastructure NSW emailed seven colleagues and included Lejins’ email.
This is the email from Davis mentioned above.
“This project is unusual”, Davis wrote:
” The office of deputy prime ministers [is] contacted daily by the Club which [is] ready to go out to tender and nervous about going to market without a financing deal. ‘
The NSW Office of Sport did not want any involvement in the funding.
“If this is going to be a normal reboot act, which sounds best, there are three changes to be made.”
The first is that the money be a ‘attribution to the sports association [the gun club]‘ directly, rather than the NSW Office of Sport.
The second is ” meet the other prerequisites in the December 2016 Expenditure Review Committee minutes “About the competitive process to determine the cost”.
This ‘would have been [an] Sports Responsibility Office ”, however, they had said they did not want any involvement in the grant.
“Normally, we would put [the] funding act in place prior to a tender and could inform the treasurer that the process is being overseen and that funding will only be released after the tender and will not exceed actual costs.
Regarding the third “change,” Davis wrote:
“We need to make sure that funding goes to public infrastructure, not to private assets on private land.
That would have been [an] Sports Responsibility Office. ‘
Anthony Klan is an investigative journalist and editor-in-chief of The Horn. You can follow him on Twitter @Anthony_Klan. This article was originally published to The Horn and has been republished with permission.
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