By TBS Newsbot
As Gladys Berejiklian fronts the ICAC over Wagga Wagga, her replacement, Dominic Perrottet, allegedly approved the project.
As The Guardian noted, “One of former New South Wales premier Mike Baird’s top staff members questioned why Gladys Berejiklian wanted to spend $5.5m funding a clay target shooting range in the “safe seat” of Wagga Wagga, according to documents tendered to the NSW Independent Commission Against Corruption (ICAC).”
But while Mike Baird is set to give evidence today, we have an even juicier nugget. According to leaked internal documents, the person who eventually rubber-stamped the project was the treasurer at the time, one Dominic Perrottet.
As journalist Anthony Klan summarised, “Documents from a cache released by the NSW Commission Against Corruption (ICAC) show that just weeks before the grant was awarded to the private Wagga Wagga gun club, in August 2017, NSW Government staff were concerned about the grant process – which needed to go to the ‘Treasurer’ for approval.
“‘We need to ensure that the funding goes to public infrastructure, not to private assets on private land,’ wrote Jenny Davis of Infrastructure NSW.
“The July 8, 2017 email was to seven colleagues, spanning three NSW Government departments.
“‘The project is unusual,’ Davis wrote.
“‘The ERC (Expenditure Review Committee) minute approved it before we had ever heard of it. Our recommendation doesn’t need to go back to ERC, but it does need the Treasurer to approve it.’
“The $5.5m grant, which is at the heart of ICAC’s investigations, was approved just weeks later, in August 2017. Perrottet was NSW Treasurer at the time.”
The Berejiklian Government has long been plagued with scandals, including the high profile ICAC investigation into ‘dodgy dealings’ by former Wagga Wagga MP Daryl Maguire, whom the Premier admitted to having a secret long term relationship with over the course of several years.
The ICAC expanded the investigation into Mr Maguire to include an alleged ‘cash for visa’ scheme as well as further allegations he sought payment for property deals during his time as MP.
Mr Maguire resigned from the NSW Government in disgrace in 2018.
When Ms Berejiklian’s personal relationship with Mr Maguire was revealed during ICAC hearings late last year, many people suspected that the Premier knew about his ‘dodgy deals’ and chose to turn a blind eye, breaching her legal obligation to report suspected corruption within government ranks.
Under examination by ICAC, Mr Maguire repeatedly said he tried to protect the Premier from knowing too much, and that he knew that some of his activities could place her in a position of conflict.
Premier denies knowledge of corruption
Ms Berejiklian has repeatedly denied any knowledge of the various business dealings of Mr Maguire.
She told ICAC she did not recall some of the conversations and text messages played to her as evidence, and despite other inconsistencies in her testimony, she has been cleared of any wrongdoing by the ICAC, although the entire saga has left her reputation tainted and her integrity in question in the court of public opinion.
Ms Berejiklian has also faced accusations of ‘pork barrelling’ related to the distribution of more than $25 million in Stronger Communities Fund grants, around 95% of which were allocated to councils in Coalition seats in the lead up to the last state election, which in itself is not illegal, but many voters consider it unethical.
Following the revelation that key documents relating to the allocation of these as well as other grants had been destroyed by her office, NSW State Archives and Records (SARA) conducted its own inquiry.
It found that the Office of the Premier breached section 21(1) of the State Records Act 1988 (NSW), which makes it an offence for a person to abandon, dispose of, damage, alter or neglectfully cause the damage of a state record.
The maximum penalty for this offence is a fine of $5,500.
Despite the finding, SARA decided not to prosecute anyone from the Premier’s office.
This article was originally published on The Big Smoke.
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