ICAC says pork barreling could amount to criminal corruption – Michmutters

ICAC says pork barreling could amount to criminal corruption

The ICAC was originally investigating the Stronger Communities Fund but, following several government inquiries and a review of grants administration announced by Premier Dominic Perrottet, pivoted to a broader probe of whether pork barreling could be considered corrupt.

The grants review, prepared by Perrottet’s department and the Productivity Commission and made public in April, recommended a new set of guidelines that would apply to ministers, staff and public servants, and included some mandatory rules about transparency and accountability.

But the ICAC called this an “unacceptable” half-measure, “the legal effect of which is uncertain”. It would also limit the ICAC’s capacity to make findings of corrupt conduct about any breaches.

Instead, the commission recommended that all rules about grant programs should be statutory regulations. The ministerial code of conduct should also be amended to include a clause that explicitly forbids the minister from approving expenditure unless they are satisfied it is “efficient, effective, economical and ethical” – similar to a clause present in Commonwealth laws.

The report said the nature and seriousness of any alleged pork barreling would depend on the purpose of the program or statute under which the money was spent, and this would need to be determined on a case-by-case basis. The more specific and technical the assessment criteria of a grant program, the less room there is to play politics.


While ministers had broader scope to involve political factors when they exercised ministerial discretion, “such power cannot be exercised to achieve an objective that is extraneous to, or inconsistent with, the public purpose for which the executive power exists”, the ICAC said.

Shadow special minister of state John Graham welcomed the report and called on the Perrottet government to support Labor’s legislation on grants reform. “Ministers do not have unfettered power to give grants, but at times in NSW they behave as if they do,” he said.

A spokesman for the Premier said the would consider the ICAC’s report and had already accepted all the recommendations from the aforementioned government review of grants administration received in April.

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