Pork barreling is when a politician or party allocates public funds, mainly taxpayer money, and resources to certain projects in order to win votes.
The NSW Independent Commission Against Corruption (ICAC) found ministers can be deemed corrupt if they influence a public servant’s decision-making powers, or pressure another public servant to carry out actions in breach of public trust.
It also found ministers could be considered corrupt if they allocate grants based on merit, or deliberately exercise power to approve grants for partisan reasons such as for family members, the party or particular interests in the electorate.
“The report notes that those who exercise public or official powers in a manner inconsistent with the public purpose for which the powers were conferred betray public trust and so misconduct themselves,” the report said.
The watchdog said it wishes to make clear that ministers “do not have an unfettered discretion to distribute public funds.”
“The exercise of ministerial discretion is subject to the rule of law, which ensures that it must accord with public trust and accountability principles.”
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The report made several recommendations including ministers should consider whether approving funding is “efficient, effective, economical and ethical” and to follow existing frameworks.
The investigation was sparked by controversy surrounding a $250 million Berejiklian government Stronger Communities Fund grants scheme which was considered a blatant example of politicians using taxpayer money to buy votes.