Nigel Scullion approved hundreds of millions of dollars in grants against department advice | Australia news


Former Indigenous affairs minister Nigel Scullion approved more than $560m worth of funding in his last few weeks in the role, leading up to the election in 2019.

A Senate committee has heard Scullion also gave several hundred million to 12 projects that his department, the National Indigenous Australians Agency (NIAA) did not recommend be funded.

A number of the grants were “minister-initiated”, the committee has been told.

Of the $1.279bn in the Indigenous affairs budget for this financial year, $567m was handed out by Scullion in the six weeks from 1 March to 11 April.

One of them, a $500,000 grant to the Alice Springs based Red Tails AFL club to help young Indigenous men in the region, was developed by the department because the minister told them it was who he wanted to support”.

Other grants handed out in that six-week period included $15.8m to Wesfarmers for an “employment parity initiative”, almost $17m to the Cape York Institute for five youth programs, and $10m to the Brisbane Broncos for a girls’ academy and a mentoring programs.

NIAAA secretary Ray Griggs said he could not say exactly how many grants were applications by agencies, and how many were approaches by the minister but “I suspect it is an admixture”.

Scullion maintained control over the entire budget, but NIAAA had delegation to approve grants of less than $5,000 for Naidoc activities, Griggs said.

We were not involved in the process in the minister’s office,” he said and under questioning by Labor senator Tim Ayres could not say whether the minister engaged with the prime minister’s office in making the funding decisions.

Only seven funding decisions, worth about $32.2m, have been made by the current minister Ken Wyatt, and they have all accorded with the advice he had received from NIAAA, Griggs said.

The committee resumes this afternoon.



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