Former NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian has been found to have engaged in “serious corrupt conduct” after a multi-year probe by the NSW Independent Commission Against Corruption.
In findings released this morning the ICAC found Berejiklian engaged in serious corrupt conduct in relation to a $5.5 million grant to the Australian Clay Targets Association (ACTA) in Wagga Wagga NSW.
It found Berejiklian had engaged in “serious corrupt conduct” for not reporting her concerns or corrupt conduct, or improper conduct, of former MP Daryl Maguire, who the ICAC also found had engaged in corrupt conduct over a series of private business dealings.
Berejiklian and Maguire had been in a secret relationship from about 2015 to 2020, which Berejiklian had not disclosed, despite presiding over millions of dollars of grants to projects in Maguire’s then electorate of Wagga Wagga, central NSW.
The ICAC also found Berejiklian had breached the public trust over funding for the Riverina Conservatorium of Music, also in Wagga Wagga.
The ACTA gun club was given a $5.5m grant for a new “club house and function centre” — despite it failing to meet the required criteria and strong objections from departmental officials — after an intervention by Berejiklian.
The ICAC said Maguire had been a “strong proponent” of both the ACTA project and the Riverina Conservatorium of Music.
“The Commission finds that Ms Berejiklian engaged in serious corrupt conduct by breaching public trust in 2016 and 2017 through exercising her official functions in relation to funding promised and/or awarded to ACTA, without disclosing her close personal relationship with [Former NSW MP Daryl] Maguire…which could objectively have the potential to influence the performance of her public duty,” the ICAC states.
It found Berejiklian “took a number of actions in relation to the ACTA proposal in circumstances where she knew that Mr Maguire was its principal proponent”.
“These included, when she was [NSW} treasurer, causing the proposal to be included on the agenda and supporting it at the ERC [Expenditure Review Committee] meeting on 14 December 2016,” the ICAC said.
It also included, after she became Premier in January 2017, “causing steps to be taken by staff from her office to follow up on the progress” of the ACTA proposal.
The ICAC has heard the $5.5m grant proposal failed to meet investment criteria because it had scored “cost benefit ratio” of less than one. To be successful, projects needed to score 1 or higher, meaning they were not a net cost to taxpayers. The ICAC heard Berejiklian intervened after the project failed.
A second analysis was done after her intervention and it passed.
The ICAC today found Berejiklian’s actions included “communicating a request that the initial benefit–cost ratio (BCR) calculation of 0.88, by the Department of Premier and Cabinet Investment Appraisal Unit, be revisited”.
“This ultimately led to it achieving a BCR satisfactory for Infrastructure NSW to approve its funding,” the ICAC found.
As exclusively revealed by The Klaxon, the $5.5m gun club grant was approved by then NSW Treasurer Dominic Perrottet, who became NSW Premier when Berejiklian resigned over the scandal in October 2021.
The Klaxon in April revealed the ACTA gun club project has been a taxpayer disaster, and even a financial albatross for the club itself.
None of the major conferences flagged in an “updated business plan”— used to get the highly-contentious grant over the line — have materialised in the five years since the 1000-person function centre opened its doors.
In July last year The Klaxon revealed the gun club grant was illegal because it failed to meet any of the meet any of the funding requirements under the Restart NSW Fund Act, the relevant legislation.
Adding to the disgrace – and the duration and expense of the ICAC’s probe – Berejiklian at all times protested her innocence.
“Adding to the disgrace – and the duration and expense of the ICAC’s probe – Berejiklian at all times protested her innocence”
In 2021 she also ran a campaign with a large part of the commercial media pushing the false narrative that she had been attacked by the ICAC because of her choice in Maguire as a partner, rather than because she had been involved in alleged corruption.
The findings raise serious questions for Singaporean Government-owned Optus, Australia’s second biggest telecommunications company, which appointed Berejiklian to a senior role just months after she resigned as NSW Premier, despite the ongoing ICAC investigation.
“The findings raise serious questions for Singaporean Government-owned Optus”
The ICAC today found Berejiklian “engaged in serious corrupt conduct” by “refusing to discharge her duty” to notify the ICAC “of her suspicion that Mr Maguire had engaged in activities which concerned, or might have concerned, corrupt conduct”.
“At the time Ms Berejiklian failed to report her suspicions to the Commission, she was the premier of the state,” the ICAC found.
“The report notes that Ms Berejiklian must have known that she was not entitled to refuse to exercise her official functions for her own private benefit, or for the benefit of Mr Maguire”.
Today the ICAC also found that Maguire, between 2012 and August 2018, “misused his role as an MP to advance his own financial interests, as well as the commercial interests of his associates”, including through a visa scheme targeted at Chinese nationals proposed sale of “development land in NSW”.
The ICAC found Berejiklian “breached public trust” by “exercising her official functions in relation to decisions” concerning the Riverina Conservatorium of Music (RCM) proposal “which she knew was advanced by Mr Maguire”.
The ICAC also rejected claims from Berejiklian that “the ministerial code did not apply to her”.
“The Commission rejects that submission and finds that Ms Berejiklian substantially breached the ministerial code by failing in her duty to act honestly and in the public interest in her conduct regarding the RCM proposal,” the ICAC said.
“The Commission further rejects Ms Berejiklian’s submission that her close personal relationship with Mr Maguire could not amount to a private interest under the ministerial code”.
The ICAC said the NSW Department of Public Prosecutions should consider prosecuting “Mr Maguire, G8wayInternational director Phillip Elliott and Maggie Wang, an associate of Mr Maguire, for various offences”.
Yet it said it was “not of the opinion” that the DPP should consider prosecuting Berejiklian.
“The Commission is not of the opinion that consideration should be given to obtaining the advice of the DPP with respect to the prosecution of Ms Berejiklian for any offence,” the ICAC said.
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