Permanent Secretary within the Premier’s Office, Dr Carolyn O’Neal Morton said her office made superficial assessments in determining the needs of farmers as the government distributed COVID Assistance Grants.
The highly controversial rollout was met with much blowback from the public after it was disclosed that more than $6 million was spent to aid persons who were neither registered as farmers or fishermen, according to audit reports.
“Some people expressed a need but … in the absence of an assessment, which Agriculture was unable to do, we had to do some superficial assessments based on photographs and based on our prior knowledge,“ Dr O’Neal-Morton told the Commission of Inquiry (COI) last Friday.
Why give more for those that asked for less?
Meanwhile, Commissioner Sir Gary Hickinbottom pointed to the government’s use of ‘hypothetical income’ as a basis for calculating how much to award each recipient. He said this approach made no sense since many of the persons who were issued grants did not farm or fish for their main source of income.
He also told Dr O’Neal-Morton that he couldn’t understand why persons who requested a few hundred dollars were given thousands of dollars instead.
Sir Gary referred to the system that was used as full of flaws and without logic.
“For people who claimed less, I simply don’t see the logic of giving them more,” Sir Gary said.
He said this and cast doubt on whether these persons would repay the amounts that they did not use.
But Dr O’Neal-Morton insisted that those who were paid more than they needed would have to pay those monies back.
She said no one has paid back any monies so far.
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