The Queensland sports minister, Mick de Brenni, intervened in the awarding of 33 community sports grants in a way that favoured Labor electorates, a state audit found.
The auditor general, Brendan Worrell, assessed 2,900 grants and found that de Brenni had personally changed about 1% of those.
The report, released on Tuesday, found overall state sports grants between 2017 and 2020 were “mostly consistently” and distributed evenly between Labor and Liberal National party seats.
But the nature of the minister’s interventions – in particular in relation to a $15m program to build female facilities at sporting grounds – has the state opposition and Brisbane’s only daily newspaper, the Courier-Mail, calling for de Brenni to be sacked on the eve of the election campaign.
The report found that the reasons for some funding decisions were not properly documented and made recommendations for greater financial accountability and ongoing compliance.
The report itself made no criticism of de Brenni, but it documented how he intervened to reject 14 applications recommended by bureaucrats, and awarded funding to 18 projects not on their list.
When the audit tallied the effect of these interventions, the share of grant funding for female facilities was changed from 44% to Labor electorates and 43% to LNP electorates to a 68% to 28% split. The remainder went to seats held by independents and minor parties.
Two of the recipients approved by de Brenni but not recommended by bureaucrats were in his electorate of Springwood, south of Brisbane.
Overall, Labor and LNP electorates each received 45% of total funding from state sports grants.
In a letter responding to the findings of the audit, de Brenni said he had intervened only in limited circumstances, where he believed the department had “got it wrong”.
“As acknowledged in the brief, it is my responsibility to ensure that the department’s operations are aligned with government policy,” he said.
“I exercised my ministerial discretion where the department’s recommendations did not adequately consider program guidelines or government priorities, and I was therefore not satisfied that the department’s investment logic was sound.
“In relation to the instances where I exercised my ministerial discretion, I note that the information brief finds that this was mainly for the female facilities program, awarded in early 2018, and in limited circumstances – being approximately 1% of the 2,900 recommendations for competitive grants provided by the department.
“I note the brief also acknowledges my delegated authority and responsibility to respond in this way. It is my view that the community’s expectation is that in circumstances where departmental advice is inadequate or incorrect, I take action to remediate, and on a limited number of occasions as identified in the brief this is what I have done.”
The state opposition has called for more details to be released, including a list of specific grants in which the minister intervened.
“The Palaszczuk government has ripped money off 14 community sport clubs to pork-barrel Labor seats,” the shadow sports minister, John-Paul Langbroek, said.
“Annastacia Palaszczuk needs to show some leadership and sack [de Brenni].”