Almost half of the sports groups funded under the Coalition’s $100 million sports grants program were ineligible, a Senate inquiry has heard.
Almost half of the sports groups funded under the Coalition’s $100 million sports grants program were ineligible, a Senate inquiry has heard.

Half of sports grants ‘ineligible’

Almost half of the sports groups funded under the Coalition's $100 million sports grants program were ineligible, a Senate inquiry has heard.

The probe also heard there was no legal obligation to document the reasons particular projects were chosen.

Auditor-General Grant Hehir gave evidence on Thursday on the first day of public hearings of an inquiry into the so-called sports rorts affair, which led to the resignation of former sports minister Bridget McKenzie.

Brian Boyd, from the audit office, revealed 43 per cent of applications that received funding were ineligible.

He said those projects were initially assessed by Sport Australia as eligible, but circumstances changed by the time the funding was signed off on.

Prime Minister Scott Morrison has previously claimed there were no ineligible projects funded.

Mr Hehir told the inquiry it was clear the final decision on where the funds were directed was made by Senator McKenzie.

"We concluded the award of grant funding under the Community Sports Infrastructure Program was not informed by an appropriate assessment process and sound advice," Mr Hehir told the inquiry.

Andrew Probyn holds a copy of a colour-coded spreadsheet obtained by ABC used by Bridget McKenzie's office to determine sports grants.
Andrew Probyn holds a copy of a colour-coded spreadsheet obtained by ABC used by Bridget McKenzie's office to determine sports grants.

He said the parallel process run by Senator McKenzie's office alongside that of the government agency Sports Australia "was not informed by clear advice and were not consistent with the program guidelines".

"It is poor practice for entities to be instructed what their advice should recommend rather than providing their own recommendations that are developed through an evidence-based approach," he said.

"Potential applicants and other stakeholders have a right to expect program funding decisions will be made in a manner and on a basis consistent with published program guidelines."

The audit report found blatant political pork-barrelling in the program, with grants awarded by the Morrison government based on colour-coded electoral margins.

Mr Morrison had the head of his department - his former chief of staff - conduct a separate review that supposedly absolved the government of any wrongdoing.

Philip Gaetjens' report has not been released but according to Mr Morrison it found "no basis for the suggestion that political considerations were the primary determining factor".

The committee also wants to hear from Mr Gaetjens to explain how he reached his conclusion.

It investigate the roles of the offices of the prime minister and deputy prime minister, as well any external parties, in determining the distribution of grants.