A senior policy officer from Gladys Berejiklian’s office told the inquiry last month that she provided briefing notes to the Premier with a list of projects – one of them involving $90 million for Hornsby Shire Council – and then shredded the documents.
Labor has argued that the shredding of documents breached the State Records Act and referred Ms Berejiklian’s office to several agencies, including NSW Police which ruled out an investigation.
However, in a letter to Labor’s local government spokesman Greg Warren, the State Archives confirmed it would launch an inquiry into whether the Premier’s office had breached the Act.
“The complaint raised provides a sufficient basis and meets the threshold, outlined in our
procedures, for the NSW State Archives and Records Authority to commence a recordkeeping assessment,” the letter says.
“The assessment will address your allegation of breaches of s21 of the State Records Act 1998 in relation to the creation, capture, management and disposal of ‘working advice notes’ and emails.”
A spokesman for the Premier said the office was “providing all assistance required by the authority to help with its recordkeeping assessment.”
Leader of the government in the upper house Don Harwin was last month suspended from the chamber for failing to produce documents relating to the approval of the grants.
On Tuesday, the Opposition again attempted to embarrass the government by moving a censure motion against Mr Harwin.
The motion, which would hold Mr Harwin in contempt of parliament, was due to be debated late on Tuesday.
Leader of the Opposition in the upper house Adam Searle said the ongoing failure by the government to produce the documents was “breathtaking”.
“Again the government consciously made the decision to not be frank with this house and it’s just appalling, it’s woeful,” Mr Searle said.
Greens MP David Shoebridge made an amendment to the motion, which would compel the government to undertake an urgent data recovery process for the deleted files.
While the government has argued that it cannot produce documents to parliament that do not exist, the Opposition has maintained they cannot be produced because they were destroyed.
Mr Shoebridge accused the NSW government of using hundreds of millions in grants to “buy the last state election”.
“We want to know how they chose these projects to try and buy the last state election…how they are trying to settle down their disgruntled Coalition supporters including the council where the mayor is the president of the NSW Liberal Party and sitting smack bang in the middle of the Premier’s faction,” Mr Shoebridge said.
According to analysis by the Opposition, 95 per cent of the Stronger Communities fund went to councils in Coalition seats in the lead up to the 2019 state election.
Alexandra Smith is the State Political Editor of The Sydney Morning Herald.
Tom Rabe is Transport Reporter with The Sydney Morning Herald.