The NSW government reports on the office’s intervention in bushfire grants to Icac

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The New South Wales government has handed an alarming general auditor report on the $ 100m black summer bushfire recovery grants to the state’s corruption watch, among the calls for John Barilaro to explain his office’s participation in the scheme.

A spokesman for the chief executive, Dominic Perrottet, said the report was forwarded to the Independent Commission Against Corruption (Icac) “for their information” after opposition leader Chris Minns issued an ultimatum to Barilaro to explain.

Minns said the former deputy prime minister had to reveal why his office created new rules for a black summer recovery grant scheme that left Labor voters completely missing out, as the report revealed.

“If we don’t get answers today, and I mean in the next 24 hours, I believe it will have to be submitted to ICAC to find out what happened here,” Minns said on 2GB radio on Friday.

Related: Labor seat NSW auditor-general finds bushfire grants denied because of limit set by John Barilaro’s office

“It’s a basic fact of Australian life that if you’re in a disaster zone, and you need help from your own government, it will come – no matter which party you voted for at the last election.”

The chief executive, Dominic Perrottet, has rejected the proposals contained in the pork barrel sample grants but insisted that changes had been made since he became leader to ensure that the funding went where it was needed.

“The principal has already taken action that addresses the findings of the auditor general’s report,” a government spokesman said on Friday afternoon.

“The report of the auditor general has been provided by the Department of the Prime Minister and the Cabinet to ICAC for their information.

“The Labor party should not do politics [the] Ick.”

The prime minister, Anthony Albanese, said all disaster relief must be distributed based on need and should not be politicized, pointing to the floods in northern rivers in early 2022 as another example of problematic grant allocations.

“We all have a responsibility to deliver when needed, not deliver politically.

The call from Minns came after the Sydney Morning Herald reported that Barilaro has put himself forward as the potential new head of ClubsNSW after Josh Landis was sacked earlier this week over offensive comments about ” Conservative Catholic belly” of premier Dominic Perrottet.

Barilaro will be in the news again on Monday as the parliamentary inquiry into his controversial appointment to a trading role in New York is expected to report. Barilaro, the former trade minister, insisted he had done nothing wrong but withdrew from the role citing undue media attention.

The auditor general, Margaret Crawford, found that the $541.8m bus fire recovery grant scheme lacked transparency and although Barilaro had no defined role in awarding the grants, her office introduced a $1m threshold for projects, denying funding for anything less. size.

The Department of Regional NSW provided a list of 35 projects to be funded by the then Deputy Premier’s office, for the first round in 2020, listing their constituents. The audit effectively found out of the portal that projects were introduced in areas held by the Labor party.

The report said it was not clear why the department enlisted the electors as they were not part of the selection process, and that the role of Barilaro’s office in implementing a threshold had “departed from the guidelines”.

The program was jointly funded by the state and federal governments and administered by the state to pay for projects in surge-ravaged communities to create jobs and protect against future disasters.

Former NSW Liberal minister Andrew Constance felt “incredulous” after reading the damning report and called on Barilaro to explain what happened in his office.

The former Bega MP said his community, which was badly affected by the bus fires, was still rebuilding after the fires.

“Accountability is extremely important for fire victims,” ​​he told 2GB.

“You have to remember that this is in the context of problems with charity money, we’ve had problems with business grants … and now this.”

Related: ClubsNSW boss sacked after accusing Dominic Perrottet of acting on his ‘Catholic belly’

Facing an election in less than two months, Perrottet denied suggestions the grants were examples of pork barrel but said he would consider making improvements to grant schemes.

“I know from my time as principal dealing with the flood response, we have ensured that every community across NSW got back on their feet as quickly as possible,” he said on Thursday.

“That’s what I focused on – and before during the bushfires – to allocate as many funds as possible to provide assistance.”

On Friday, he said changes had been made since he came to power “to ensure that that subjective nature did not come into play” and that money went where it was most needed.

Barilaro earlier rejected pork barrel claims during the 2021 parliamentary inquiry into the bushfire grant programme, saying the first round focused on destroyed buildings, 90% of which were in Coalition seats.

Barilaro has been contacted for comment.

– Australia Associated Press contributed to this report

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