Sports rorts: McKenzie denies changing list of successful clubs during caretaker period

By Shannon Jenkins

Friday March 6, 2020

Bridget McKenzie. Source: McKenzie’s website

The former sports minister has taken to her website to deny she had altered a list of clubs approved for funding under the Commonwealth’s sports grants program while the government was in caretaker mode.

During Senate estimates this week it was revealed that Sport Australia had received two emails from Bridget McKenzie’s office the day the federal election was announced.

The first email — received at 8.46 am — detailed the successful projects for the final round of the $100 million sports grants program. The second email was received at 12.43 pm, with a changed list of projects. Both emails were received after Parliament had gone into caretaker mode.

McKenzie has denied that she had anything to do with the changed list.

“This week through the Senate Estimates process I became aware of changes made to a Ministerial decision brief that I signed in Canberra on 4 April 2019, for the third round of the Community Sporting Infrastructure Grants program,” she wrote.

“The brief authorised approved projects for the third round this included nine new and emerging projects which, it must be emphasised, had been identified and sent to Sport Australia in March for assessment in line with program guidelines.

“I did not make any changes or annotations to this brief or its attachments after 4 April 2019. My expectation was that the brief would be processed in a timely and appropriate manner.

“Nevertheless, changes were made and administrative errors occurred in processing the brief.”

She noted she would take responsibility for the actions of her office.

“I was the Minister for Sport and therefore ultimately and entirely responsible for funding decisions that were signed off under my name, including and regrettably, any changes that were made unbeknown to me,” she added.

“It is unfortunate to see a popular community program, which has delivered 684 projects, with 337 being delivered regionally, being undermined.”

Read more: Sport Australia gave Senate inquiry into sports rorts wrong evidence

Sport Australia had initially told estimates there had only been one email, but corrected themselves on Wednesday.

Last week it was revealed that 136 emails were exchanged between Scott Morrison’s office and McKenzie’s office regarding the grants scheme between October 17 2018 and April 11 2019. Morrison claimed his office had merely “passed on information about other funding options or programs relevant to project proposals” in the emails.

Despite having conducted an investigation into McKenzie’s handling of the grants program, Morrison’s former chief of staff and the current secretary of the Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet, Phil Gaetjens, said he had not been aware of the 136 emails.

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