Sport Australia reportedly raised concerns about the controversial sports grants program, warning the federal government that its independence was being compromised by Bridget McKenzie’s political interference.
The embattled former sports minister has been under pressure for weeks, after it was revealed she politicised the $100 million Community Sport Infrastructure Grant Program, which prioritised marginal and targeted seats in the lead up to the 2019 federal election.
ABC News reported on Tuesday that Sport Australia communicated with Senator McKenzie’s office in March last year, raising concerns of political interference in the sports grant process and that the agency’s independence was being compromised. This occurred just two months before the federal election.
It is understood Sport Australia ranked potential projects by merit under published guidelines, while the McKenzie’s office generated its own list of candidates for the sports grant scheme. A scathing report from the auditor-general described it as a “parallel assessment process”.
According to the auditor-general, many projects received funding despite being officially assessed as less worthy than competing projects, according to a merit-based system. Projects required an assessment score of 74% or higher to receive funding.
According to ABC News, a spreadsheet prepared by the Minister’s office in December 2018, was colour-coded by which party held the seat in which the sports club was located.
The three lowest scored projects that received funding were located in Coalition seats, while the two highest scored applications were overlooked.
I remain keen to assist any sporting clubs that made the merits list of Sports Australia but were denied funding after Minister Bridget McKenzie intervened.
Pro bono. https://t.co/qykbSY79Az
— Josh Bornstein (@JoshBBornstein) January 28, 2020
Revelations of the “parallel assessment process” will intensify ongoing calls for Scott Morrison to sack McKenzie.
Currently, Morrison is waiting on a review from the Department of Prime Minister and Cabinet into McKenzie’s handling of the process. Scott Morrison requested this review after the scandal worsened last week, when details emerged McKenzie was a member of a gun club that received funding.