Room for improvement in NSW grants scheme

A grants system responsible for distributing about $4 billion a year across NSW should be subject to a raft of changes, including a focus on public transparency.

A review led by the Department of Premier and Cabinet and released on Saturday makes 19 recommendations, including more open and honest communication around the distribution of grants following claims of pork-barrelling.

Last year, Premier Dominic Perrottet ordered a review of grants programs across the state after controversy surrounding his predecessor Gladys Berejiklian’s appearance at the Independent Commission Against Corruption.

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Among the review recommendations are that all new grants have published guidelines stating “the purpose of the grant, clear selection criteria, and details of the application and assessment process”.

Grant information should be made available on a publicly accessible website and in addition, all grants “must have a funding agreement” making grantees accountable for how they spend public funds.

Mr Perrottet said the government is “carefully considering” the proposed changes, which were established in partnership with NSW Productivity Commissioner Peter Achterstraat.

“Grants are a significant part of the way the government supports communities and individuals – from COVID responses, to sports fields, to flood recovery, to small business assistance – it is an important way we work to deliver outcomes for the people of NSW,” the premier said.

“But all grants are ultimately funded by public money, and so it’s critical we also make sure they are administered fairly, effectively and transparently.”

The 125-page report notes that its intention is to ensure value for money for taxpayers.

“The NSW government typically spends around $4 billion per annum on grants to invest in community programs, projects, and infrastructure; provide targeted business and industry support; and fund research and development activities.”

In recent years, additional grants worth several billion dollars have been made available to people and businesses impacted by COVID-19, natural disasters and drought.

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