NSW Premier Dominic Perrottet as Treasurer was responsible for the $5.5 million Wagga Wagga gun club grant, which was green-stamped despite it being “unusual” and the NSW Office of Sport not wanting “any involvement” in the project, according to internal government emails.
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.
“It does need the Treasurer to approve it” — Jenny Davis, Infrastructure NSW
Perrotet was appointed NSW Treasurer in January 2017.
The grant was for a new club house and 1000-person convention centre at the Wagga Wagga, NSW premises of the Australian Clay Target Association.
The club allows entry to members of the public but is a private entity and is situated on land that it privately owns.
“We need to ensure that the funding goes to public infrastructure, not private assets on private land”
— Jenny Davis, Infrastructure NSW
Perrottet has so far avoided the fall out from the gun club scandal.
He has not been accused by ICAC of any wrongdoing.
Perrottet’s office did not respond to a series of written questions put to the Premier at midday Tuesday.
The latest revelations suggest the new NSW Premier may be called to give evidence before ICAC’s public hearings, which started yesterday and are expected to run for two weeks.
The $5.5m grant was made through the Restart NSW Fund.
Under the Restart NSW Fund Act (2011), Infrastructure NSW is “responsible for providing independent funding recommendations to the NSW Government” on “all infrastructure projects to be funded from Restart NSW”.
NSW Government documents state: “Infrastructure NSW administers the funding deed process for these projects on behalf of the Treasurer”.
The revelations come a week after Perrottet said he was open to changing the law to remove “weaknesses” in ICAC.
“It is always a good part of public policy that aspects of government are reviewed and looked at and if there are ways in which things can be improved then they should,” the NSW was quoted as saying in a page-one article published in The Australian newspaper.
The emails by Davis of NSW Infrastructure and Lejins of NSW Treasury. Source: NSW ICAC.
The July 2017 Davis email says the NSW Office of Sport wanted “no involvement” in the gun club funding.
“Michael Toohey (NSW Office of Sport director) has advised that the that the original ERC minute was not correct, and the Office of Sport has no involvement at all, and do not want any involvement in the funding,” Davis wrote.
The NSW Department of Sport was the proponent listed on the document which went to the NSW Cabinet Expenditure Review Committee in December 2016.
“The Office of Sport has no involvement at all, and do not want any involvement in the funding” — Jenny Davis, NSW Infrastructure
The Treasurer of the day is responsible for overseeing the Expenditure Review Committee, and in December 2016 the NSW Treasurer was Berejiklian.
Berejiklian is under investigation by ICAC, including regarding whether she breached “public trust”.
In October last year it emerged Berejiklian had for several years been in a secret relationship with then Wagga Wagga MP Daryl Maguire, including at the time the gun club grant was approved.
Berejiklian has previously denied any wrongdoing.
Toohey, the director of the NSW Office of Sport, appeared before the ICAC public hearings yesterday.
He said of the grant, in relation to the Berejiklian-Maguire relationship: “I can’t see how that’s anything but a conflict of interest”.
The December 2016 Expenditure Review Committee approval for funds to be set aside. Source: ICAC NSW
Documents released by ICAC show there were also concerns within NSW Treasury regarding the $5.5m grant.
Ziggi Lejins, NSW Treasury Director of Capital Analysis, Budget Strategy, wrote to colleagues on Friday, July 7, 2017.
Lejins was asking for information regarding the “competitive process” being run in relation to the gun club facility.
Maguire and Berejiklian before Maguire was forced to resign from NSW Parliament in disgrace in 2018. Source: Supplied
The email was addressed to Davis, of NSW Infrastructure and Toohey, of the NSW Office of Sport.
It was also sent to three other of colleagues: Evelyn Shen of the NSW Treasurer’s office, and two other colleagues in NSW Treasury.
“Could you provide any more information on the competitive process being run to fix the cost of the facilities at Wagga?” Lejins wrote.
“This was a condition precedent set by ERC to any Restart funding being approved.
“If under way, when is it likely to be concluded?”
“The competitive process…was a condition precedent set by ERC to any Restart funding being approved” — Ziggi Lejins, NSW Treasury
The following day, Saturday July 8, 2017, Jenny Davis, of Infrastructure NSW, emailed seven colleagues, and included the Lejins email.
This is the Davis email referred to above.
“This project is unusual,” Davis wrote.
“The Deputy Premiers Office are being contacted daily by the Club who are ready to go to tender, and nervous about going to market without a funding agreement”.
The NSW Office of Sport wanted no involvement in the funding.
“If it is to be a normal Restart Deed, which seems best, there are three changes to make,” wrote Davis.
The first is for the money to be an “allocation to the sports association (the gun club)” directly, rather than to the NSW Office of Sport.
The second is to “satisfy the other pre-requisites” in the December 2016 Expenditure Review Committee minute “about the competitive process to determine the cost”.
This “would have been (an) Office of Sport responsibility”, however they had said they wanted no involvement in the grant.
“Normally we would put (the) funding deed in place before a competitive tender, and could advise the Treasurer that the process is being overseen and funding won’t flow until after the tender and won’t exceed actual costs,” wrote Davis.
Regarding the third “change” Davis wrote: “We need to ensure that the funding goes to public infrastructure, not private assets on private land”.
“This would have been (an) Office of Sport responsibility”.
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