Regulating the rorts: the legal governance of grants programs in Australia

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Abstract

Numerous recent scandals have surfaced relating to the Australian government allegedly engaging in ‘pork barrelling’, that is, the partisan channelling of grants funding to government electorates, instead of merit-based allocation. Yet the probity of the use of public money is crucial towards preserving public trust in Australian democratic institutions. This article will critically analyse the legal accountability mechanisms for grants funding through public finance legislation, ‘soft law’ such as grants guidelines and ministerial standards, and the availability of legal redress. It will also examine political accountability mechanisms, including the operation of parliamentary committees, the Auditor-General and the Ombudsman. The author argues that although political regulation provides transparency in the government’s use of public funds, it remains ineffective to combat the government’s deeply entrenched incentives to allocate grants in a partisan manner. As such, it is contended that stronger legal accountability in terms of enforceable rules and regulations is required to reform grants regulation towards improving the probity and accountability of the use of public funding.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)205-231
Number of pages27
JournalFederal Law Review
Volume51
Issue number2
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - Jun 2023

Keywords

  • rorts
  • pork barrelling
  • grants
  • grants administration
  • grants regulation
  • executive accountability
  • government accountability
  • public finance
  • auditor-general

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