A State Government regional funding scheme that has pumped about $120.7 million into major projects in Albany and across the Great Southern region has come under fire.
A report released on Monday by former Federal MP John Hyde and Mannkal Foundation senior fellow Andrew Pickford has called for the popular Royalties for Regions funding scheme to be scrapped.
It has outraged members of regional communities who have benefited from the cash injections and the WA Nationals who set up the scheme after the 2008 State election.
Organisations to benefit from Royalties funding in Albany include Hawthorn House, Albany Hospice, Albany Surf Life Saving Club, Anzac Peace Park, Whale World and the University of WA.
The Department of Regional Development and Lands is tasked with distributing the funds and director-general Paul Rosair said he was concerned with the report’s observations.
“The Royalties for Regions’ program has been subject to intense scrutiny by the State auditor general, numerous Pparliamentary inquiries, annual budget estimate hearings, multiple independent reviews, parliamentary questions and media over that time without any adverse findings,” Mr Rosair said.
“I have contacted the authors of the report requesting information on the research and analysis of their assessment and assertions.”
The report said the Royalties’ program had “formalised pork barrel politics on a massive, perhaps unprecedented scale.”
The report also stated the program should be abandoned, but as it was set to remain in some shape or form it needed to be more disciplined.
Nationals’ member for the South West Colin Holt is among those to hit back at the paper’s contents, saying the scheme made sure country people got their fair share of the State’s wealth.
“Royalties for Regions is one of the most scrutinised policies in government; there is definitely transparency,” he said.
“There is local decision-making, where regional development councils and local governments have a say on where the money is spent.”
Mr Holt said Royalties for Regions’ funding contributed $60.8 million to the Albany Health Campus construction – the “flagship” of Albany redevelopment.
“You can drive to any part of town and see where Royalties for Regions has had an impact,” he said.
Albany MP Peter Watson said Royalties for Regions was a great concept but agreed with the report that the scheme needed greater scrutiny.
“There is hardly any transparency; not all the money is getting to the places it needs to,” he said.
“We need a version of Royalties for Regions that is for all country people.”
The report also recommended that the Regional Development Council, which decides where the funding is spent, be incorporated into the State Treasury.