The peak federal Government body responsible for Aboriginal affairs – the National Indigenous Australians Agency – is conducting investigations into 15 cases of potential fraud in grants they handed out.
The allegations of large-scale fraud worth $12 million involve grants handed out by the NIAA – which employs more than 1,400 staff across Australia and costs $2.1billion a year to run – and were revealed by the organisation during a Senate estimates hearing on Friday morning.
During the hearing, Coalition Senators Jacinta Nampijinpa Price and Kerrynne Liddle, who are both Indigenous, raised concerns about the misconduct.
When pressed by Ms Nampijinpa Price, Integrity Group Manager Sean Worth conceded the monetary figure attached to those 15 fraud investigations totals $12million.
‘There’s three matters before the courts that total just over $3.5million,’ he added.
A representative for the NIAA revealed the 15 cases ‘equates to one per cent of the total number of organisations funded’ by the organisation.
Coalition Senators Jacinta Nampijinpa Price and Kerrynne Liddle raised concerns about the misconduct allegations at a Senate estimates hearing on Friday morning
Minutes earlier, Mr Worth argued it is not yet possible to ‘quantify any potential losses due to fraud’ due to the nature of such investigations.
‘Some do ultimately result in a referral to police and the public prosecutors office… At that point in time the matters effectively go out of our hands and into the hands of prosecutors.’
Ms Broun said: ‘The NIAA is delivering an ambitious agenda to empower First Nations people and communities across Australia.
‘Our national presence, including here in Canberra, allows us to lead and influence across government.’
Assistant Indigenous Australians Minister Malarndirri McCarthy was expected to attend the hearing as a representative for Minister Linda Burney. Only Senators are required to attend, and Ms Burney is in the House.
However, on Friday, Finance Minister Katy Gallagher appeared in her place.
Assistant Indigenous Australians Minister Malarndirri McCarthy was expected to attend the hearing as a representative for Minister Linda Burney. Only Senators are required to attend. However, on Friday, Finance Minister Katy Gallagher appeared in her place
The NIAA falls under the responsibility of Indigenous Australians Minister Linda Burney
Senator Malcolm Roberts asked the NIAA to clarify how the $5.8million funding package it received from the government to set up a Makarrata Commission in the last Budget had been spent.
Dr Simon Gordon, Acting Group Manager of Empowerment and Recognition, said none of the money had gone toward the Commission itself.
Instead, $607,066 has been spent so far on ‘understanding treaty and truth telling processes in the states and internationally,’ he said.
‘This involves some desktop research, but also some bilateral and multilateral meetings with states and territories.’
In all, Dr Gordon could recall approximately 25 bilateral meetings held over the last year discussing treaty and truthtelling.
The agency is awaiting further instruction from Ms Burney about how to spend the remainder of the $5.2million.
This will take place after consultation with the First Nations community, some of whom were in mourning and took a vow of silence after the overwhelming No vote to the Voice to Parliament proposal.
The NIAA’s mission is ‘to ensure Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples have a say in the decisions that affect them’.
Senator Malcolm Roberts asked the NIAA to clarify how the $5.8million funding package it received from the government for a Makarrata Commission in the last Budget had been spent. The Makarrata Commission was supposed to work alongside a constitutionally enshrined Voice to Parliament, which was voted down