Canberra’s top mandarin will investigate whether former sports minister Bridget McKenzie breached ministerial standards in her handling of a $100m sports grants program which favoured marginal seats.
Scott Morrison ordered Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet secretary Philip Gaetjens to lead the probe into the scheme, spurred by a recent audit report by national auditor-general Grant Hehir. The report was referred to Gaetjens last week, according to a statement from the Prime Minister’s office.
“Last Friday, the Prime Minister referred the matter of the auditor-general’s report to the secretary of PM&C for advice in relation to any actions in the application of the statement of ministerial standards,” it said.
“The Prime Minister is awaiting the secretary’s advice and will continue to follow due process. The matters raised in the media today have also been referred.”
The audit from the Australian National Audit Office found projects in target electorates identified by McKenzie’s office’ had only applied for 36% of the funding, but received 47% of the amount in the first round, while 73% of projects given money in the third round had not been recommended by the Australian Sports Commission. The target electorates were often marginal seats the Coalition needed to win at the 2019 election.
Gaetjens will also look into McKenzie’s dealings with a shooting club in Wangaratta.
On Wednesday it was reported that McKenzie had approved a $35,980 grant for the Wangaratta Clay Target Club in early 2019 to assist with the installation of new toilets and amenities, but had not disclosed that she was a member of the club. The gifted membership was not added to her senator’s register of interests when it was updated in November 21, despite having joined almost 10 months earlier.
A spokesperson for McKenzie argued the membership did not need to be declared.
“The gift of membership from the Wangaratta Clay Target Club was made during a site visit on 25 January 2019. It is valued at less than $300 making a declaration to the Senate unnecessary,” they said.
“Round-two funding became available in December 2018 at MYEFO and funding decisions were made from that time.”