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Daryl Maguire back in ICAC witness box

The man who prompted the downfall of former NSW premier Gladys Berejiklian is next in line for a grilling from the state’s anti-corruption watchdog, as it looks into whether their secret relationship was a breach of public trust.

Former Wagga Wagga MP Daryl Maguire was originally under the microscope when the Independent Commission Against Corruption launched public hearings into his business dealings last year.

But when Ms Berejiklian in the witness box sensationally revealed their clandestine relationship, which spanned several years, it sparked a separate investigation into her own conduct which resulted in her stepping down on October 1.

ICAC is investigating whether she breached the public’s trust when she failed to disclose her relationship with Mr Maguire as she dealt with projects he was pushing for his electorate.

The evidence so far has focused on two grants given to pet projects of Mr Maguire – a $5.5 million upgrade to the Wagga Wagga Clay Target Club and a $20.5 million plan to build a recital hall for the Riverina Conservatorium of Music.

The inquiry, which is drawing near to the end of its second week, has heard from a number of witnesses that Mr Maguire was a forceful advocate for the projects.

Former deputy premier John Barilaro called him a “pain in the arse”, while a senior bureaucrat from the Department of Regional NSW described him as “particularly pesky backbencher”.

Former premier Mike Baird said Mr Maguire was someone who “relentlessly pursued his own agenda”, and was at times aggressive and abusive towards staff, public servants and other MPs.

Mr Maguire is accused of abusing his public office and improperly gaining a benefit for himself while serving as the Wagga Wagga MP between 2012 and 2018.

The inquiry has also heard the disgraced former MP was known to have “had the ear of the premier”, and that elements of the grant process for both projects were unusual or rushed.

Neither faced a competitive tender process and were both at times opposed by senior public servants.

But Ms Berejiklian, who will give evidence on Friday and Monday, denies any wrongdoing.

During cross examination of the witnesses at the inquiry, her lawyers have suggested the grants reflected her concern about the party’s standing in the bush after two by-election losses.

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