Dominic Perrottet‘s approval as treasurer needed for Wagga Wagga project: ICAC
Dominic Perrottet’s approval might have been needed to rubber-stamp a controversial money request by Gladys Berejiklian and her secret lover, according to ICAC documents.
Mr Perrottet, who was treasurer from January 2017 until becoming premier this month, was mentioned in an email tendered into evidence at the Independent Commission Against Corruption this week.
As treasurer, Mr Perrottet would have needed to approve an Infrastructure NSW recommendation to move the money, a July 2017 email between bureaucrats revealed.
The $5.5 million was given to a gun club in Wagga Wagga that had been championed by local MP Daryl Maguire and advanced through a cabinet committee by Gladys Berejiklian.
“Our recommendation doesn‘t need to go back to (the cabinet’s expenditure review committee), but it does need the treasurer to approve it,” the email said.
The grant to the Australian Clay Target Association is a key issue being probed by the ICAC in relation to an allegation Ms Berejiklian’s relationship with Mr Maguire caused a conflict of interest.
Neither Mr Perrottet, ACTA or any gun club officials are accused of any wrongdoing.
The process by which the project came to be funded bewildered many who were involved, including the gun club officials who benefited.
ACTA executive officer Tony Turner told ICAC investigators that he was told the club would receive the money on January 2, 2017.
That same morning, Mr Maguire had circulated a press release saying the NSW government would fund the gun club.
But over the next six months, the gun club officials grew worried when no money arrived.
Mr Turner said he called Mr Maguire, who assured him: “It is just a simple case of where the money is going to come from within portfolios.”
“It’s got nothing to do with you, this is … internal,” Mr Turner said Mr Maguire told him.
Inside the government, many bureaucrats were also confused and concerned.
Despite concerns from the Office of Sport that the business case didn‘t stack up, the gun club funding was rushed through in late 2016, the commission heard.
Ms Berejiklian, who was treasurer at the time, was in a secret relationship with Mr Maguire.
She met with the MP in November and requested the funding be placed on the agenda of the expenditure review committee, which she chaired, according to ICAC documents.
The funding bid was heard by the expenditure review committee in December.
The following month, Ms Berejiklian ascended to the role of premier and Mr Perrottet took over as treasurer.
By mid-2017, the project was handed over to Infrastructure NSW.
Mr Turner told ICAC he heard nothing from the government from January until either May or June, when “NSW Infrastructure became involved and I started to get contact through them”.
He said it was eventually arranged that the building project managers would put contractors‘ invoices through an online payment system and that the government would then make the payments.
Inside Infrastructure NSW, bureaucrats were as confused by the project as their colleagues at the Office of Sport had been.
“This project is unusual – the ERC minute approved it before we had ever heard of it, subject to conditions including an unconditional recommendation,” an Infrastructure official wrote on July 8, 2017.
The email mentioned club officials were “nervous about going to market without a funding agreement” and Mr Perrottet, as treasurer, would need to approve the Infrastructure NSW paperwork.
Mr Perrottet declined to comment.
However Treasury officials have consistently argued they acted in accordance with official rules and guidelines.
Ms Berejiklian has previously said she always acted with integrity in her time in office.
“In all decisions I've ever made as a minister or as premier of NSW, my first consideration has always been the wellbeing and welfare of the people of the state,” she said in her resignation speech.
Originally published as Dominic Perrottet‘s approval as treasurer needed for Wagga Wagga project: ICAC
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