A WA Auditor General's report on sports spending has raised pork-barrelling allegations.

The recent state inquiry into sports and community project funding has cast a spotlight on the state government's distribution of nearly $300 million between 2020 and 2023. 

The report lays out significant concerns regarding the transparency and justification of the allocated funds.

The audit report details how out of the $298 million allocated, just $36 million underwent rigorous assessment to confirm its community benefit and cost-effectiveness. 

This discrepancy raises questions about the criteria and processes employed in the allocation of the remaining $261 million.

Auditor General Caroline Spencer's findings suggest a lack of transparency in the government's practices for selecting, assessing, and approving projects. 

This opacity hinders public and parliamentary trust in equitable and fair distribution. 

“The practices used by government to select, assess and approve these projects were not transparent and therefore the public and parliament cannot be assured public money has been fairly and equitably awarded to communities,” the auditors found. 

The report draws attention to $136 million of the questioned grants stemming from election commitments, while an additional $125 million was linked to a special COVID-19 economic recovery fund. 

These allocations bypassed the established guidelines of the Department of Local Government, Sport and Cultural Industries (DLGSC).

“The guidelines did not apply to this funding, and therefore, their principles to guide fairness and achieve value for money did not apply. It is not clear how the merit of some of these projects was assessed, and there is no public transparency on why some projects were funded and others were not,” Spencer noted. 

In response to these revelations, Liberal leader Libby Mettam has accused the state government of “pork-barrelling” and “abusing their power”, calling for the government to uphold its responsibility for transparency and governance.

The Department of Premier and Cabinet argues that election commitments, as expected by the community, are inherently distinct from other government funding initiatives. 

It said that the concerns raised would be considered in a broader review of grant guidelines.

To address these issues, the Auditor General has recommended that all election commitments undergo thorough assessments for merit and value for money, with the results made public. 

This includes disclosures of funding approved by ministers for projects within their own electorates, aiming to enhance transparency, accountability, and the value of government spending.

The report concludes with a call for a more robust and transparent framework governing the allocation and administration of funds for community sport and recreation projects.