The former Chief Commissioner of NSW ICAC, the Hon Peter Hall KC, has today called for action to strengthen the administration of Commonwealth grants.
Speaking as the Joint Committee of Public Accounts and Audit holds inquiry hearings into Commonwealth grants administration, Mr Hall has advocated that pork barrelling be included in the Ministerial Code of Conduct.
“We need to ensure that the exercise of public powers in the making of grants serve the public interest, and are not exercised in a biased or partial manner that favours the interests of a political party,” said Mr Hall, who is also a committee member of the Centre for Public Integrity.
“The existing legal mechanisms that are intended to protect the public interest have failed to prevent the occurrence of pork barrelling activity,” said Mr Hall.
“The lessons in Auditor-General reports and those of parliamentary inquiries have clearly not been learned or heeded as the same or similar conduct keeps being repeated despite their condemnations,”
“Integrity in grant administration could be strengthened by including pork barrelling in the Ministerial Code of Conduct, allowing the NACC to investigate breaches of the code,” said Mr Hall.
The Centre for Public Integrity will present Mr Hall’s views to the inquiry at Friday’s hearing, as well as recommending increased Parliamentary scrutiny of grants administration:
- Grant criteria to be made public, with criteria in primary legislation for grants over $100 million.
- Ministers to report to Parliament on a quarterly basis in respect of expenditure decisions which deviate from departmental advice
- Departments to periodically table documentation pertaining to the administration of grants programs worth over $100 million, including at tender, project selection and delivery
- A joint cross-party standing committee to oversee grant administration and report to Parliament