A secret report in a $ 100 million sports funding program told former Prime Minister Scott Morrison that there were “significant shortcomings” in the program, including concerns about equity in how the money was spent.

The report by former public service chief Phil Gaetjens also found that former sports minister Bridget McKenzie had a “real conflict of interest” with her membership in a firearms club that received some of the taxpayer money. .

Bridget McKenzie stepped down as minister the day after Phil Gaetjens ended his report with the conclusion that the minister has broken the ministerial code of conduct.

Bridget McKenzie stepped down as minister the day after Phil Gaetjens ended his report with the conclusion that the minister has broken the ministerial code of conduct.Credit:James Brickwood

The results were revealed in full following the publication of the February 2020 report under freedom of information laws, long after the Coalition unveiled the funding blitz on sports facilities and venues ahead of the 2019 elections.

McKenzie stepped down as minister the day after Gaetjens ended the report with the conclusion that she broke the ministerial code of conduct by not disclosing her membership in the Wangaratta Clay Target Club, as revealed by this news outlet. At the time, Gaetjens provided private advice to Morrison, which was considered by the cabinet, but the report was not published.

In the report, Gaetjens, who was secretary of the Prime Minister’s Department and Cabinet after serving as Morrison’s chief of staff when he was treasurer and prime minister, defended the $ 100 million scheme but admitted to having fundamental flaws in the distribution of grants.

“I find that there have been significant shortcomings in the process undertaken by the minister and his office which have raised questions about the fairness and probity of that process,” he wrote on February 1, 2020.

The confidential report came two weeks after the auditor general issued a ferocious overhaul of the program, which was soon dubbed “sports dirt” because the audit found that the spending had favored fringe electorates that the Coalition wanted to win.

The furor over the scheme led to the disclosure of a color-coded spreadsheet prepared by the minister’s office to show the projects and their constituents, although the Gaetjens report acknowledged that the documents were not preserved and it was difficult to confirm the reasons for each. grant.

While Gaetjens acknowledged the shortcomings on probity and fairness, he told Morrison that the minister had the ultimate authority to make final decisions on each grant.

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