Former NSW premier Gladys Berejiklian had “strong interest” in a $5.5m project being pushed by a local MP she was in a secret relationship with, a corruption inquiry been told.
Public servant Chris Hanger told the Independent Commission Against Corruption (ICAC) he became aware of a decision by a powerful cabinet committee to award the multimillion-dollar grant to the Australian Clay Target Association in December, 2016.
But the funding hinged on a successful business case being developed for the project, which was being championed by Wagga Wagga MP Daryl Maguire who at the time was in a secret relationship with Ms Berejiklian.
Mr Hanger said then premier Ms Berejiklian had shown interest in getting the project off the ground.
Camera IconGladys Berejiklian will front the ICAC inquiry next week. John Grainger Credit: News Corp Australia
“A range of conversations at that time indicated the Premier’s office were particularly interested in this particular project,” he told the inquiry on Thursday.
“I understood it to be the interest of the Premier herself.
“The way in which this was brought to my attention as a priority project to me indicated that this wasn’t just casual interest from an adviser in the Premier’s office.”
The grant to the Australian Clay Target Association in Mr Maguire’s electorate in 2016 is a key issue being probed by ICAC, which is investigating whether Ms Berejiklian’s relationship with the ex-Wagga Wagga MP caused a conflict of interest and encouraged corrupt conduct.
Ms Berejiklian is expected to give evidence before the inquiry on Thursday and Friday next week.
Mr Hanger told the hearing that the office of former deputy premier John Barilaro — whom he was liaising with about the gun club project — had indicated it was of particular interest to the Premier.
Camera IconDaryl Maguire is expected to appear before the ICAC inquiry on Wednesday. Credit: Supplied
Mr Hanger said Mr Barilaro’s adviser Peter Minucos was helping a consultant to turn the project’s initial business case into a successful one.
This was an “unusual” move, Mr Hanger said, as this would normally occur at a bureaucratic and not a political level.
“It’s peculiar for them to be involved in advice around that in the way Mr Minucos did,” Mr Hanger said.
“It was clear to us we needed to look at that business case again and that’s ultimately what happened.”
Mr Barilaro has been called to give evidence on Monday, while Mr Maguire is scheduled to appear on Wednesday.
The inquiry continues.Internet Explorer Channel Network