Safer Community Fund to come under eye of auditor

The Auditor General will investigate the Safer Community Fund to see if grants have been awarded in line with Commonwealth rules.

Kristina Keneally

The audit will assess whether the awarding of grants from the fund was “effective and consistent  with the Commonwealth Grant Rules and Guidelines” and whether funding decisions were appropriately informed and documented, the ANAO says.

The fund, which was established to fund crime prevention and security initiatives like CCTV and lighting, is administered under the Department of Home Affairs and has provided $180 million since 2016-17.

However, documents released under freedom of information earlier this year suggest Home Affairs Minister Peter Dutton intervened to reduce funding for some councils and orgranisations that had been recommended by his department, while handing out money for applications that weren’t as highly recommended, including two councils in a highly marginal seat.

The investigation has shades of the ANAO’s audit last year of the Community Sport Infrastructure Program which led to the resignation from Cabinet of the then sports minister Bridget McKenzie.

Opposition spokeswoman on government accountability Kristina Keneally, who referred the matter to the Auditor General, says Prime Minister Scott Morrison and Mr Dutton have refused to explain why more than 90 per cent of the Safer Communities Fund round three grants approved ahead of the 2019 Federal Election were in coalition or marginal seats.

“It seems that, in the lead up to the 2019 election, the Liberals were not trying to make communities safer, but rather the Liberals were using taxpayers’ money to make government and marginal Labor and independent seats safer for the Liberal Party,” she said.

In earlier statements to the media Mr Dutton has denied doing anything wrong.

Last month a parliamentary committee into the so-called sports rorts scandals found an “exercise in pork barrelling” by the government in relation to the Sports Infrastructure Grants.

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