An urgent Auditor-General’s inquiry is needed into a $473,000 payment made at ‘world record’ speed by Premier Rann (to a church in his own electorate) from a ‘political slush fund.’
Liberal Member of the Legislative Council Rob Lucas said today that previously confidential documents now released under a Freedom of Information (FoI) application, seeking copies of all documents (including emails and notes of telephone conversations), show:
1. On 26 June 2006 the Greek Orthodox Church in Mr Rann’s electorate wrote a letter to Mr Rann asking for a grant towards a building and car park project costing $430,000;
2. On the same day (26 June 2006) Mr Rann approved the grant and sent a memo to the Acting Treasurer Paul Holloway;
3. On the same day (26 June 2006) the Acting Treasurer Mr Holloway approved the transfer of additional appropriation of $430,000.
In an extraordinary revelation, the documents show no evidence of any public servant or Ministerial Officer in Mr Rann’s Department undertaking any investigation of the project and whether or not any grant should be provided by taxpayers.
Hundreds of community organisations that spend countless hours every year answering questions to justify claims for government funding for as little as $3,000 will be outraged when they become aware of Mr Rann paying $473,000 (including GST) to a church without any independent assessment of the merits of the claims.
This grant was paid to the church out of the Premier’s Special Appeal (minor grants and community grants) Fund which, according to a senior manager in the Premier’s Department usually only pays grants “up to about $3,000.”
“Having been a Minister for eight years, I can say it is virtually unprecedented that a grant as big as this would be agreed to on the same day without any evidence of investigation by a public servant or a committee or panel,” Mr Lucas said.
“The Legislative Council Budget and Finance Committee has been pursuing further information on this grant and ‘slush funds,’ but answers which were due to be provided by the Premier’s Department at the end of September have still not been provided.
“It is now time for Mr Rann to come clean and explain publicly how he came to agree to such a large grant on the very day the claim was received.
“If Mr Rann continues to refuse to provide answers, then the Auditor General should investigate the processes used by Mr Rann to make such a large grant out of his ‘slush fund.’
“The Auditor General should also recommend what changes should be made to ensure that proper processes are followed and the taxpayers’ interests are protected.
“It is important to note that this statement makes no direct criticism of the church involved, but rather directs all of its criticism at Mr Rann and the adequacy of the processes used in making the grant.”