ABE Appearance at NSW Public Accountability Committee Inquiry

ABE appeared at the Public Accountability Committee (PAC) Inquiry into the Integrity, Efficacy and Value for Money of NSW Government Grant Programs on Monday 26th April 2021. A copy of our opening statement is provided below, and a link to our full submission to the Inquiry can be found at the conclusion of the statement.

ABE Opening Statement for PAC Inquiry Hearing

Good Afternoon Public Accountability Committee Members,

A Better Eurobodalla (ABE) is a community forum dedicated to achieving open and inclusive government in the Eurobodalla region. ABE would like to express thanks to the Committee for the opportunity to appear today, and hope that our information and experiences can contribute to better governance for both the Eurobodalla Shire and the wider NSW community.

Based on ABE’s experience, significant deficiencies currently exist in both the allocation and administration of grant funding programs in NSW, as exemplified in the two Eurobodalla grant projects outlined in ABE’s submission. Both of these projects illustrate the need for decision-making to take into account opportunity costs, which are the community benefits foregone that could have been realised by options not chosen. For example, other better targeted or more effective BLER projects being starved of funding because scarce funds were allocated to a proposal which did not meet the BLER criteria.

ABE is broadly supportive of the recommendations made in the First Report of the Inquiry into Integrity, Efficacy and Value for Money of NSW Government Grant Programs, and has included some suggestions which could be made to improve the way in which regional resources are allocated and spent. We consider that the administration and auditing functions of the Office of Local Government is a key issue to be addressed and therefore endorse Inquiry Recommendations 10 and 15.

In essence, the key issues from ABE’s perspective are that we face an unholy trinity of :

  1. grants programs driven by political considerations, i.e. pork barrelling, which disburse funds to;
  2. a shire Council operating in a culture of secrecy which is out of touch with its community;
  3. while the Office of Local Government does not fulfil its statutory role of effective review and oversight thereby sheltering the Council from any reasonable scrutiny by the community.

All of these three aspects affect the integrity, efficacy and value for money of NSW government grant programs for the Eurobodalla community, so changes need to be made across all three aspects for any real improvement to occur.

We welcome the opportunity to expand upon or clarify issues raised in our submission, and hope that the Inquiry process can resolve some of the contradictory information provided to ABE by different NSW government entities.

Thank you.