A majority of federal grants in value over the past three years have been decided through a closed, non-competitive process, according to an auditor general report.
The Australian National Audit Office report also found that more than a quarter of regional development grants went to postal codes in major cities, although the government says that was not necessarily the money that was spent.
Information from the GrantConnect report released on Tuesday examined 108,206 federal grants awarded between 2018 and June of this year, with a total value of $ 60.2 billion.
He found a closed, non-competitive process used in 42% of requests by value, with the method primarily used in 2017-18 and increasing in 2018-19 before becoming less frequent in the past two years.
The method assesses grant applications against selection criteria rather than against submissions from other applicants.
The government’s rules and guidelines for grants state that “competitive merit-based processes should be used to award grants based on clearly defined criteria, unless otherwise agreed by a minister, responsible authority or delegate”.
“When it is planned to use a method other than a competitive merit-based selection process, managers should document why a different approach will be used,” the guidelines say.
The report found that 27% of total regional development grant spending went to Australian postcodes classified as ‘major cities’, while 60% went to inner and outer regional areas and 8% went to postcodes considered to be distant or very distant.
Minister of Finance Simon Birmingham said in a statement to Mandarin that the grants were essential “to support Australians and provide essential services to local communities”.
“Many grant applicants are organizations with a statewide or national presence and therefore can apply for grants using an address in the capital,” he said.
“It doesn’t necessarily reflect where the work and the benefit to the community will take place.“
Meanwhile, the greatest value in the rewards went to “aging” applications as well as “health, wellness and medical research”, followed closely by “Aboriginal” funding applications.
The Ministry of Health, the Ministry of Infrastructure, Transport, Regional Development and Communications and the Ministry of Education, Skills and Employment administered the largest value of the grants.
Grant recipients that were Australian listed companies received the highest value in terms of total grants, closely followed by “other incorporated entities”, Australian private companies and local governments.
The accounts office in June criticized the government for its administration of a $ 660 million national parking fund, saying the federal infrastructure ministry’s approach to selecting projects for funding “was not designed to be open or transparent”.
The bureau noted that 70% of the projects were announced during the interim 2019 federal election, with 27 parking sites selected the day before the government transitioned to interim mode.
In a 2020 report, the office discovered that the federal government used grants from a sports infrastructure program to target key electorates in the months leading up to the 2019 election.
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