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Grants call for greater transparency through a public database


The New Wales Grants Administration Review recommended the creation of a nationwide website that provides publicly available information on grants to improve accountability and transparency.

It also says that the state auditor general should be given greater powers to investigate non-state actors in relation to the spending of public funds.

Peter Akhterstraat

The reviewled by Performance Commissioner Peter Ahterstratt, was commissioned last November among the series requests in the management of state government grants.

Mr Achterstraat’s review, which contains 19 recommendations, was handed over to Prime Minister Dominique Perotte last month and unveiled last weekend.

The report says the New South Wales government typically spends about $ 4 billion annually on grants, but it has recently risen to $ 10 billion in response to COVID-19 and natural disasters.

However, “there is currently no publicly available national grant spending database in New Wales” was found, and “it is impossible to definitively determine even the lower limit of NSW grant spending from publicly available information”.

The report also notes that previous inquiries have identified gaps in monitoring whether funds are meeting their targets.

“The diverse nature and scale of grants from the New South Wales Government is creating challenges to ensure best practice in grant administration,” says Mr Achterstraat.

“Society’s expectations regarding timely and easy access to financial support must be balanced with demands for accountability, fairness and transparency. «

The entire state database

The report found that grant information varies widely across government programs and agencies, with large differences in how much and what data is published.

He recommends developing a nationwide database, possibly modeled on the Commonwealth GrantConnect website, which would include up-to-date information on future grants, grant awards, ministry decisions, and grant program evaluations.

The move to a central web portal with active disclosure requirements ensures that end-to-end grant data is publicly available, transparent and relevant to clients.

Revision of the Grants Administration in the NSW Report, April 2022

“The move to a central web portal with active disclosure requirements ensures that end-to-end grant data is publicly available, transparent, and customer-friendly,” the report said.

It states that the NSW Regional Department is developing an internal nationwide grant database that will eventually be integrated with the Grants Search and Funding Program, which should eventually become a “complete NSW government decision” for grant information.

“Until this database becomes available, this review recommends refining the grant and funding tool as soon as possible to provide information on all available, upcoming and awarded NSW government grants, and on the use of the ministry in the opinion and results of all evaluations. grant programs, ”the report said.

“All agencies that have not yet provided grant information to the grant and funding search engine should take steps to do so. Until agencies are able to publish their grant opportunities on this site, they should publish information on their agency’s website. ”

More powers to the Auditor General

The report recommends that more powers be given to the Auditor General to “monitor the dollar”, which will allow it to audit the expenditure of public funds, regardless of where and by whom these funds are spent.

Currently, the NSW Auditor General is unable to conduct an audit of public funds in the hands of non-governmental organizations such as the grantee.

“This review concluded that we need further insight into the importance of exercising authority, ‘stick to the dollar,'” Mr Ahterstradt said.

“These powers can improve the cross-cutting integrity of NSW government grant management.”

Pork barrel

The report, however, did not recommend recognizing pork farming as an offense, saying there were already measures in place for the illegal behavior that resulted from it.

Dominic Perrote

It also states that the ICAC Law does not need to include a definition of “pork in a barrel” under the definition of “corrupt behavior”.

“The ICAC Act already includes a broad definition of what constitutes ‘corrupt conduct’, and the ICAC will have jurisdiction under the ICAC Act to investigate corrupt conduct involving pork,” it said.

The report does not seek to deprive ministers and MPs of the opportunity to make grant proposals to their constituents, but says officials should document all MPs’ contributions throughout the process.

The review recommends the creation of a new, mandatory grant administration, and includes a draft version as part of the report.

Prime Minister Dominique Perotte welcomed the report and said the government would give a full response in the coming weeks.

“Grants are a significant part of how the government supports communities and individuals – from responding to COVID, sports fields, to flood recovery and helping small businesses – this is an important way we work to achieve results for NSW residents.” he said in a statement.

“But all grants are ultimately funded by public money, so it is very important that we also make sure that they are managed fairly, efficiently and transparently.”

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