An Auditor General's report into the Government's $220 million Regional Jobs and Investment Packages scheme has revealed Ministers overruled advice to approve two projects in the Gilmore electorate.
The Australian National Audit Office's report, published on Melbourne Cup Day, concluded the "merit assessment processes were not an appropriate standard" with many government department grant recommendations rejected.
In April, 2018, Eden-Monaro MP Mike Kelly asked the Australian National Audit Office to explore discrepancies between grants given in his electorate and Gilmore.
The Auditor General found two projects in the south coast region were approved for funding despite being at odds with departmental recommendations. Both were in the the Gilmore electorate, which was held by Ann Sudmalis on a slim margin after the 2016 election. However, the projects were not revealed by the Auditor General.
In February 2018 Ms Sudmalis and former Minister for Regional Development, Territories and Local Government John McVeigh announced the 23 successful Gilmore applicants. Eden-Monaro had seven successful applicants. They said the grants would bring 1000 jobs to Gilmore.
Eurobodalla Shire Council received $2.3 million for the construction of a shellfish hatchery in Moruya, $100,000 for a nature-based tourism feasibility study and $66,500 for health and human services jobs and training coordinator.
Shoalhaven City Council was given $180,900 to build a boat lift at Woollamia and almost $745,000 for a new floating pontoon system at Greenwell Point.
Bega Valley Shire Council received $74,750 for a training program designed to support tourism operators grow their businesses.
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Manildra Group got almost $3 million for its Bomaderry export distribution hub project involving advanced robotics to increase flour packing capacity, the Cottee Group received more than $2.8 million to install an automated dairy processing plant in Bomaderry as well as creating tourism opportunities and the Essence Group at South Nowra received $1 million to grow manufacturing facilities, including upgrading automated powder and capsule capabilities.
Cupitt's Winery received more than $1.5 million to expand the site to include luxury accommodation and more, CareSouth got $1.5 million to build a new head office and hub in South Nowra and Milton District Meats Pty Ltd received $1.1 million to build a new chiller and boning room.
A Moruya business, which went into voluntary administration six months after the package announcement, received $758,134.
Funds were also granted for high-tech industrial projects, aquaculture feasibility studies, a potential Murray Cod farm at Yatte Yattah, timber, steel, cabinet and ice-cream business manufacturing expansions, poultry farming, Eurobodalla Botanic Gardens redevelopment and electrical car charging facilities at Silos Estate.
The Auditor General found 75 per cent of applications related to projects in Gilmore and the funding reflected the distribution with 73 per cent of applications in Gilmore. The report also stated four Eden-Monaro projects that were recommended for funding were not approved by the panel while three Gilmore projects were recommended but not approved.
Overall the panel approved 68 applications totaling more than $77 million which the department had not recommended. The panel also rejected 64 of the 232 recommended applications.