The Information Commissioner has referred Premier Gladys Berejiklian to ICAC over the shredding of documents relating to the Stronger Communities Fund.
Shadow Minister for Local Government Greg Warren said: “Whilst Labor welcomes this referral, the report highlights the flaws in the process of grant programs and the Government’s mismanagement of information for their own political gain.”
“It must be noted the Premier personally oversaw and influenced the distribution of taxpayers money for political benefit that was supposed to delivered to communities that desperately needed it,” Mr Warren said.
The Commissioner recommended Parliament consider the creation of a new offence for the ‘reckless’ destruction of Government information.
The Information Commissioner has also referred the matter to the State Archives and Records Authority to investigate possible offences under the State Records Act.
The damning report from the Information Commissioner comes after Mr Warren wrote to the Commissioner in October last year.
“Gladys Berejiklian used public money for blatantly political purposes and then her staff destroyed evidence to cover-up the Premier’s involvement in this dodgy scheme,” Mr Warren said.
“These were public funds to be spent on local communities – not funds to be used to buy votes for the NSW Liberals and Nationals.
“Councils and communities across this this state are required to jump through hoops and endless red tape in order to be eligible for such grant money. They do so in the belief that such grant applications will be judged fairly on their merit and not at the political discretion of a Premier hoping to secure electoral victory. This must stop now.”
Over 95 per cent of the $252 million fund was used for political purposes and awarded to projects in Coalition-held seats before the 2019 NSW State election.
A senior policy adviser to the NSW Premier gave evidence in October last year that she had shredded the only written records showing the Premier’s approval of $141.8 million of grants funding.
The adviser went on to delete all electronic copies describing the illegal destruction of documents as her ‘normal record management practice.’
A Labor motion to refer the Premier to ICAC passed the Upper House in November last year, but was blocked by the Liberals and Nationals in the Lower House.
“I thank the Information Commissioner for doing what’s right by the people of NSW, ensuring this appalling destruction of documents in the Premier’s office never happens again,” Mr Warren added.