Then-Minister for Sport Bridget McKenzie had no legal authority to pick recipients of a $100 million community sports cash splash. Picture: AAP Image/Mick Tsikas
Then-Minister for Sport Bridget McKenzie had no legal authority to pick recipients of a $100 million community sports cash splash. Picture: AAP Image/Mick Tsikas

Merit ignored in biased $100m sports grant

DEPUTY leader of the National Party Bridget McKenzie has refused to apologise for her handling of the $100 million community sports grant program, following a damning report.

It comes after an Australian National Audit Office report of the pre-election Community Sports Infrastructure Grant revealed that funding was focused on marginal seats, according to the auditor-general.

Thereport also noted there did not appear to be any legal authority for then-sports minister Ms McKenzie to have picked recipients.

The senator said no rules were broken and all recipients were worthy.

"The ANAO report verified that no project that received funding was not eligible to receive it," she said to the ABC.

"It also confirms that no rules were broken in this program.

"The reality is that there are hundreds of applications still sitting there who are also deserving of funding, community clubs right across the country who also need that critical infrastructure."

The also report found the program was "deficient" and funding was not always awarded to the projects that deserved it the most.

"The award of grant funding was not informed by an appropriate assessment process and sound advice," the report said.

Senator Richard Colbeck in Canberra.
Senator Richard Colbeck in Canberra.

"The successful applications were not those that had been assessed as the most meritorious in terms of the published program guidelines."

Opposition Sports Minister Don Farrell said the findings amounted to pork-barrelling in key marginal seats ahead of the May 2019 election.

"This betrayal of the sporting community means it is now impossible for clubs to have any faith that this government will assess their grant applications on merit," he said.

The grant program was established in 2018 to improve the quality of sporting facilities around the country and to encourage community participation in sport and physical activities. 

Federal Sports Minister Richard Colbeck said the government acknowledged the recommendations made in the audit and would "take action" with Sport Australia to address concerns raised.

"I welcome Sport Australia's quick action to address the recommendations," he said.

"The government will continue to work with the board and senior management to implement the measures the agency is putting in place to strengthen future grant delivery."

tamsin.rose@news.com.au

@tamsinroses


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