Newcastle Olympic Football Club director Kosta Patsan has slammed the Morrison government’s community sport grants scheme as being contaminated with “nonsensical graft and corruption”.
“I’ll say it openly and honestly,” Mr Patsan said, while appearing on Thursday before a Senate inquiry in Canberra into the so-called sports rorts scandal.
If the government wasn’t going to follow its own rules on funding, “you end up being a banana republic”.
The Senate inquiry is examining the federal government’s controversial $100 million Community Sport Infrastructure Grant Program.
ALP Senator Tim Ayres told the inquiry that “a large number of applications” were funded, despite being received “months after the cut-off date”.
Newcastle Olympic’s application met the cut-off date and the program’s criteria. It applied for $500,000 under the program, but missed out.
“We don’t mind if we missed out for very good reasons. What we cannot countenance is … graft and corruption,” Mr Patsan said.
“We are a worthy recipient. We do a lot of good for the community. We got diddled because we’re in a Labor seat and a safe one.” Asked what this had done to his trust in government, he said: “Torn it to shreds”.
“Where there’s money allocated, give it to the most worthy recipients. There was a clear process to do that and that was trashed.”
The inquiry heard that some clubs received funding under the program that didn’t meet the criteria.
Applications were supposed to meet a score of at least 74 points. Newcastle Olympic scored 76 points.
“The lowest score funded was 39,” Senator Ayres said.
Mt Patsan said Parliament was a “citadel of waste and poor expectations”.
“I say this as a taxpayer. I expect you to spend my money better,” he said.
“More importantly, we expect you to spend it fairly.”
Mr Patsan said the club received a further “kick in the guts” when it realised the government had used images from its application to promote the grants program.
Senator Rice asked Mr Patsan whether he knew the former sport minister Bridget McKenzie had discretion in which grants would be funded.
Mr Patsan said: “If the minister has the discretion to do whatever she likes, you may as well just turn us into another banana republic”.
The club’s $1.3 million plan includes a grandstand and dressing sheds at Darling Street Oval. It had raised $270,000 from volunteers. Newcastle City Council was to match the federal grant.
The club said it had been selected as a venue to host training during the 2023 Women’s World Cup.