A bike track that goes round in circles probably isn’t what Bob Brown was thinking of when he levered $40 million out of the government’s stimulus program to be spent on bikeways as part of a “major new investment in public transport”.
Applicants for the funds were meant to demonstrate how the money would create alternative transport options. But the auditor general has found the Department of Employment never assessed applications against that criteria and didn’t always rank them according to employment criteria.
One grant of $179,682 allowed Queensland’s Sunshine Coast council to build an 850 metre long, five metre wide circular track for competition cyclists to do laps. Instead of being funded up to 50 per cent by the Commonwealth in accordance with the guidelines it was 100 per cent funded.
The auditor general finds the department “did not undertake any analysis” of each application’s ability to contribute to the program’s stated objectives and had “no processes in place” to compare claims of jobs created.
Instead it identified projects as either meeting all of the criteria or not and then handed all of them - both those that did meet all the criteria and those that did not - to the then minister Julia Gillard or her assistant minister asking the minister to circle ‘approved’ or ‘not approved,’ “regardless of whether the department had assessed the project as meeting all criteria”...
Although approved by Cabinet in October 2009, many of the projects continued well beyond the global financial crisis. More than 80 per cent missed their due completion dates. The final $2 million of payments was sent out in June 2011.
The auditor general found that while most applications for funds came from Labor electorates, approvals for funds did not disproportionately favour those electorates.
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