Victorian Ombudsman Deborah Glass will wait for an independent report from the state government into Steelvision’s funding before she decides whether the matter should be investigated by the watchdog.
In a letter to member for Morwell Russell Northe last week, Ms Glass said she had requested a copy of the report “which will help to inform our further assessment of this matter and whether my office has a role”.
It follows an earlier letter from Mr Northe to the ombudsman in February calling for an investigation into “this debacle” after The Express revealed $400,000 in taxpayer money awarded to Steelvision was used to pay company debts.
“What’s become very clear is that the government has obviously quite discreetly instigated a review of Steelvision and how it came to be that state government funding was provided to the company,” Mr Northe told The Express.
“In my view, and that is shared by many businesses, the results of that review should be made public and in addition, the exact terms of reference and the identity of the company undertaking the independent review should be publicised.”
In her letter, Ms Glass said the review would look at the practises used to assess, approve and monitor the grant to Steelvision under the Latrobe Valley Economic Facilitation Fund.
Part of the review will also look at the Department of Economic Development, Jobs, Transport and Resources existing grant program framework.
“For the sake of all local businesses and employees impacted, we would like to see the full report once it’s complete,” Mr Northe said.
“And hopefully the report will make some recommendations that better support our local businesses and provide more practical options in assisting them.”
Last month Steelvision entered liquidation, two months after the company was placed into voluntary administration after an administrator’s report revealed Steelvision’s debt exceeded $21 million.
In a statement Regional Development Minster Jaclyn Symes said “As is standard practice, my department is undertaking a comprehensive review of the Steelvision grant process” and noted Regional Development Victoria was working with affected businesses.
The report is due later this month.