ANAO gives Coalition's National Stronger Regions Fund tick of approval

Media Release

FN097/2016

19 December 2016

  • ANAO finds NSRF Round 2 was well run and “consistent with the program's objective”
  • “The funding decisions and their bases were transparent… regions with low socio-economic circumstances and high unemployment received priority.”
  • Report found there was no political bias

The Australian National Audit Office (ANAO) report into round two of the National Stronger Regions Fund (NSRF) has given the Fund two thumbs up.

The ANAO described the programme as effective, said project applications had merit, found eligibility requirements were consistently applied and importantly, there was no political bias.

Minister for Regional Development Fiona Nash welcomed the ANAO report and said the Coalition Government's program had robust guidelines and the highest standards of probity.

“Today's ANAO report gives the Coalition Government a big tick of approval in program design, implementation and delivery,” Minister Nash said.

“The ANAO has confirmed every single project funded under the NSRF met the program guidelines and deserved to be funded.

“The now ceased NSRF has delivered vital community infrastructure to regional and disadvantaged communities across Australia.

“Over three rounds, the NSRF is investing $632 million into 229 projects such as sporting facilities, community hubs, health and education centres, airport upgrades and a range of other vital social and economic projects in disadvantaged areas.”

“A previous ANAO report was critical of Labor Minister Catherine King and her administration of the Regional Development Australia Fund.”

ANAO report into Labor's RDAF program:

  • “…the records of the reasons for funding decisions taken contrary to panel advice generally provided little insight as to their basis and made no reference to the published selection criteria. This situation was particularly significant given that such decisions were largely at the expense of projects located in electorates held by the Coalition.” (Page 18, 19)
  • “None of the recorded bases for the 74 decisions (made by the Minister) at odds with the panel's advice directly referenced the selection criteria.” (Page 27)
  • “Nearly half of the funding awarded (48 per cent) went to applications that been categorised as other than ‘Recommended for Funding’. In total, 74 decisions were taken by the Minister over rounds three and four that diverged from the advice of the panel. (132)
  • It is difficult to see such a result as being consistent with the transparent, competitive merit‐based selection process outlined in the published program guidelines. (133)

“The Coalition has now established the Building Better Regions Fund (BBRF) to replace the NSRF. The BBRF will invest in projects exclusively outside the major capital cities, and for the first time, will also fund local community events and capacity building projects,” Minister Nash said.

The guidelines for BBRF Round 1 were released in November and can be found at www.business.gov.au/bbrf

Quotes from the ANAO report into NSRF Round 2:

Page 7: Design and implementation was “largely effective”; “attracted sufficient applications of merit and the eligibility requirements were appropriately and consistently applied”.

Page 18: “The funding decisions and their bases were transparent in the departmental records.”

Page 20: “Consistent with government policy, regions with low socio-economic circumstances and high unemployment received priority.”

Page 21: “The merit criteria were largely consistent with the program's objective.”

Page 38: “The ANAO's analysis of the award of funding in round two did not identify any evident systematic political bias.”