In both the Senate and the media, questions are being asked about Malcolm Turnbull’s decision to gift almost half a billion dollars to a few mates to save the reef.
And they should be.
Much as the government may think it is a law unto itself and that the Treasury is its own personal piggy bank, there is actually legislation that covers Commonwealth Grants.
The Commonwealth Grants Rules and Guidelines 2017 (CGRGs) came into effect at the end of August last year and is administered by the Department of Finance.
This instrument outlines the mandatory requirements and better practice principles for all non-corporate Commonwealth entities and third parties that undertake grant administration on behalf of the Commonwealth, including Ministers, accountable authorities and officials.
Requirements that must be complied with are denoted by the use of the term must in the CGRGs.
Officials must provide written advice to Ministers, where Ministers exercise the role of an approver. This advice must, at a minimum:
- explicitly state that the spending proposal being considered for approval is a ‘grant’;
- provide information on the applicable requirements of the PGPA Act and Rule and the CGRGs (particularly any ministerial reporting obligations), including the legal authority for the grant;
- outline the application and selection process followed, including the selection criteria, that were used to select potential grantees; and
- include the merits of the proposed grant or grants relative to the grant opportunity guidelines and the key principle of achieving value with relevant money.
Requirements for Ministers
In addition to the requirements under the PGPA Act, where the proposed expenditure relates to a grant or group of grants, the Minister:
- must not approve the grant without first receiving written advice from officials on the merits of the proposed grant or group of grants. That advice must meet the requirements of the CGRGs and
- must record, in writing, the basis for the approval relative to the grant opportunity guidelines and the key principle of achieving value with relevant money.
Sooooo Malcolm, show us your paperwork. And while we’re at it, let’s see Mitch’s paperwork for gifting Rupert $30 million.