The Coalition has left the benches of government, but its misdeeds and corruption are still exposed, writes Jommy t-shirt.
The Australian National Audit Office (ANAO) released another manifesto of bad administration from the former Morrison government last week. In his quiet way, the Auditor General applied the blowtorch and excoriated the $1.4 billion Building Better Regions Fund (BBRF).
By removing the listener’s language and replacing it with the bettor’s language, the BBRF turned out to be a pile of steaming cow dung.
ANAO detailed exactly what Michael West Media (MWM) discovered months earlier – the program was an election scam for the Coalition, primarily for the National Party.
MWM detailed the gerrymandering of 2019 and 2022 pre-election grants for the third and fifth rounds of the scheme, when the most worthy projects were scrapped by dodgy ministers and their staff and instead awarded grants to failed applications.
We have pointed out how the bureaucratic solution was engineered by docile civil servants to conceal ministerial interference in the program. It was dubbed “continuous improvement” and coincided with the two pre-election rounds.
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Unsurprisingly, none of the key nationals (Michael McCormack, Barnaby Joyce and David Littleproud) involved in administering the scheme have shown any contrition for their actions. Their mantra is “we followed and worked within the guidelines”. Of course, no mention that the guidelines were rigged in such a way as to allow this scam to take place.
Former Liberal Party ministerial panelists Simon Birmingham, Dan Tehan and Sussan Ley also remained schtum.
If the previous government was defending anything, surely it must have set up corrupt subsidy programs.
What do unlucky bettors say?
A number of unsuccessful Round 5 applicants have been contacted MWM after we made a presentation on the corrupt fund last year. All candidates who contacted us did so on condition of anonymity and were afraid to speak out publicly in case it jeopardized future attempts to apply under the program or other government programs.
Searing anger and immense frustration were felt among the unsuccessful candidates. Scathing comments about the process were made, including how the previous government had them on a barrel.
An unsuccessful Round 5 grant applicant, who scored high and on merit and rank should have received funding, indicated that he did not wish to share the department’s comments, preferring “not to risk undermining That relation [with the government] by sharing details of feedback beyond our project partners.
A common theme was the unfairness of the process, the lack of transparency and the harsh criticism of ministers at the time who abused the system through their interventions.
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As the candidates have no idea of the score obtained by their application, they did not know their comparative place in the merit list.
It was an effective way to stifle criticism of former ministers and the program – especially since the decisions of former ministers cannot be challenged.
Round 5 grants were announced in October last year and letters were sent to unsuccessful applicants shortly thereafter.
The form letter that unsuccessful applicants receive described the program as competitive and merit-based.
Unfortunately, your application was not successful because it did not score high enough against all of the assessment criteria compared to other applications in this cycle.
It is important to note that the tips do not provide the candidate with their score or ranking. To do so would have exposed the glaring inequities of the program and the level of ministerial manipulation.
Another applicant (who scored high) as of right should have received a grant and requested formal feedback from the department. They were told that their application had been recommended by evaluation staff to the departmental committee for funding. They were not informed of the score or ranking of their submission.
The candidate was informed of minor improvements that could be made to the submission and was invited to reapply. This dangled a carrot of hope in front of the candidate if he applied in future cycles, and of course thwarted public criticism of the candidate.
In the case of this candidate, we know that 57 applications were subsidized by the ministerial jury which obtained fewer points, and in some cases much less.
Another candidate, again with a high-scoring application, diplomatically expressed his disappointment at not having passed and repeated that he was encouraged to resubmit for the next round.
In the case of this candidate, we know that more than 100 applications were subsidized by the ministerial jury which obtained the lowest points. So much for competition and merit.
Another candidate was flabbergasted to discover that Senator Bridget McKenzie was part of the fifth-round ministerial panel that awarded grants, especially after her role in interfering with the distribution of community sports grants (aka #sportsrorts) has been revealed. “Being exposed as thieves of public money hasn’t changed their behavior.”
Another applicant had applied in an earlier round but had missed out on a grant and had been told at the time that they were close to getting funding. This contestant re-applied for round five considering all departmental advice only to find that they, too, failed again.
According to the conclusions of the ANAO report:
As the program progressed through the first five rounds, there was a growing disconnect between assessment results against published merit criteria and applications approved for funding…
Many questions have been posed to various Ministers on the series of articles that we have circulated on the BBRF. In particular, we researched the specific reasons why the top-ranked and top-rated projects were denied a grant by the Ministerial Panel.
Not a single minister responded.
The ministry previously told us the program is competitive and merit-based and has strong guidelines “to ensure the most worthy projects receive funding.”
The auditors disagree.
Jommy Tee is a long-serving public servant, having worked in policymaking for over 25 years as well as an independent researcher interested in politics, current affairs and Nordic blackness.