NSW Parliament is forcing the Premier’s office to recover deleted documents detailing the allegedly partisan allocation of government grants, as the State Archives confirms it is also investigating the incident.
The grants have landed the Premier Gladys Berejiklian in hot water after it emerged more than 95 per cent of the $252 million handed out to NSW councils in the lead-up to the 2019 state election went to projects in coalition-held seats.
The scrutiny over the alleged pork-barrelling intensified after a senior government bureaucrat admitted in a parliamentary inquiry last month to shredding documents relating to their approval.
Sarah Lau, an adviser to the premier, told a NSW parliamentary committee she had shredded records showing Ms Berejiklian had “signed off” on $141.8 million of the council grants.
Ms Lau also deleted electronic copies, saying it was “normal record management practice”.
The Premier denies she approved the grants and says she had no role in the destruction of the documents.
Labor leader Jodi Mckay says the government rorted the Stronger Communities Fund for political gain and destroyed the paper trail.
Greens Upper House MLC David Shoebridge says the shredding was an “outrageous” attempt by the premier and her office to hide evidence they used hundreds of millions of government dollars to buy the last state election.
“A ‘document management process’ that involves the routine shredding of unique documents is highly suspect and a light needs to be shone on what is happening here,” he said in a statement on Wednesday.
The upper house on Tuesday night voted to force the Premier’s office to undertake a forensic document recovery to find briefing notes.
They must be produced to Parliament by midday on Monday.
It comes as the State Archives and Records Authority of NSW has confirmed it will investigate the destruction of the documents after it received a referral from NSW Labor.
“The complaint raised provides a sufficient basis and meets the threshold … for the NSW State Archives and Records Authority to commence a record keeping assessment,” a letter to Labor local government spokesman Greg Warren from the State Archives says.
NSW Labor has also referred the matter to the NSW police commissioner, and the information commissioner, who has also confirmed the matter is “under active consideration”.