The review did not examine what role, if any, Mr Morrison’s office played in determining which projects should receive funding from the program.
In a submission to a parliamentary inquiry into the funding grants, Mr Gaetjens wrote: “The evidence I have reviewed does not support the suggestion that political considerations were the primary determining factor in the minister’s decision to approve the grants.”
Auditor-General Grant Hehir found earlier this year that there was a “distributional bias” in the way grants were awarded, favouring Coalition and marginal electorates.
Labor has also used documents released by the Auditor General’s office to question the timing of the project.
On April 10 last year, a day before the last federal election was called, Senator McKenzie’s office sent the Prime Minister’s office a list of documents she “intended” to approve, according to documents given to Parliament by the Auditor-General’s office.
The next day, when the government went into caretaker mode, a list of projects to be funded, dated April 4, was sent to Sport Australia by Senator McKenzie’s office.
In caretaker mode the government must avoid making major policy decisions, significant appointments and entering into major contracts.
Labor Senator Penny Wong accused Senator McKenzie of having “backdated the brief”, which Senator Cormann, appearing on behalf of the government, strongly denied.
“I’ve had a conversation with Senator McKenzie who unequivocally confirmed to me that her brief approving projects in the third round of the sports grants program was signed by her on the 4th of April,” Senator Cormann said. “No ifs, no buts.”
And asked whether the April 4 brief was a provisional list of projects that were subject to change, Ms Foster said: “No Senator [Wong], it was a decision brief, so the Senator [McKenzie] approved a list of projects in that brief.”
Nick is a journalist for The Sydney Morning Herald.