Funds flow to jobs growth scheme despite ‘questionable’ process
AN AUDIT of funding allocation for a federal program designed to drive economic growth and create jobs in 10 regions, saw the Wide Bay Burnett region top an unenviable list.
Decisions by the Ministerial Panel not to award funding to projects recommended by the Department of Infrastructure, Transport, Cities and Regional Development and Department of Industry, Innovation and Science “occurred most often for the Wide Bay Burnett and Bowen Basin regions”.
But of the $20 million allocated to the Wide Bay Burnett region, $19.73 was still distributed between 13 projects.
The audit by the Auditor-General Grant Hehir said the Ministerial Panel most often cited “incorrect scoring by assessors as the reason for not agreeing with departmental funding recommendations”.
The audit concluded glaring issues between the departments and the panel’s assessment processes, finding advice provided by the department was largely appropriate, however the assessment processes were not to the standard required by the grants administration framework and applications were not soundly assessed in accordance with the program guidelines.
And visiting Bundaberg yesterday, Queensland Attorney-General and Minister for Justice Yvette D’Ath questioned why none of the Wide Bay Burnett region’s eight applications which ranked and scored the highest, were awarded funding.
“In (the) Wide Bay area … all eight projects highly rated by the department were over ridden by the ministers, overridden by the Morrison Government ministers. Why?” she said.
“This is infrastructure money, this is jobs for this community, and they were all rejected.”
But federal MPs representing the Wide Bay-Burnett region slammed any suggestions the region “missed out” on funding from the scheme.
Federal Member for Hinkler Keith Pitt said the Coalition Government committed up to $20 million to the Wide Bay-Burnett and that was exactly what was being delivered, with a number of projects funded already complete.
“Only Labor – on both a state and federal level – would complain about $20 million being invested into a region that needs long-term, sustainable jobs now and into the future,” he said.
“Projects in Hinkler, which received $9.65 million in funding, include expansions at Macadamias Australia, Austchilli, Costas Avocados, Isis Central Sugar Mill and Consolidated Linen Service at Hervey Bay.
“Like many funding programs, RJIP was oversubscribed and the selection process was undertaken by the Department and overseen by a Ministerial Panel. Local MPs are not involved in this process.”
Federal Member for Flynn Ken O’Dowd said the Regional Jobs and Investment Packages program was injecting more than $220 million directly into the Australian economy and helping to stimulate economic growth in Australian regions.
“Through RJIP funding, some of the projects we have been able to secure funding for include construction of an intermodal freight terminal at Yamala, Wallaville Cane Railway Expansion Project and Biggenden Saleyards Redevelopment,” he said.
“Flynn has received over $14 million – now that is nothing to sneeze at.”