Malcolm Turnbull was at the meeting where $443.8m in funding was offered to a small not-for-profit foundation without a competitive tender process or any application for the money, an inquiry has heard.
Anna Marsden, the managing director of the Great Barrier Reef Foundation, told a Senate inquiry on Monday the organisation was offered the funding at a meeting in Sydney in April between Turnbull, environment and energy minister Josh Frydenberg, the foundation’s chair John Schubert and environment and energy department secretary Finn Pratt.
The inquiry is examining the process by which the foundation, which had just six full-time staff at the time, was awarded the funds and whether it has the capacity to deliver work required under the government’s reef 2050 plan.
“I’d like to state for the record that the foundation did not suggest or make any application for this funding. We were first informed of this opportunity to form a partnership with reef trust on the 9th of April this year,” Marsden told the hearing.
“And who was it that contacted you about that and who did they speak to?” said Greens senator Peter Whish-Wilson.
“That was a meeting between the prime minister, minister Frydenberg, the secretary of the department and our chair,” Marsden said.
On Tuesday, Marsden wrote a letter to the inquiry committee saying she made a mistake in her evidence and Pratt, the environment department secretary, had not been present at the meeting.
Marsden said the foundation was informed an allocation was being announced in the May federal budget and the government invited it to partner with the Reef Trust to “distribute these funds across five component areas of the reef 2050 plan”.