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Former premier Mike Baird appears at ICAC

Former NSW Premier Mike Baird will front the state’s corruption watchdog after two public servants testified his office had concerns about a grant at the centre of a probe into his successor Gladys Berejiklian.

The Independent Commission Against Corruption is investigating whether Ms Berejiklian “exercised public functions” in a position of conflict given her secret five-year personal relationship with disgraced former MP Daryl Maguire.

ICAC is exploring whether she broke the law by not disclosing her relationship and whether she “was liable to allow or encourage” Mr Maguire’s conduct in securing millions of dollars worth of grant funding awarded to two projects in his electorate.

Mr Baird will appear on Wednesday at the inquiry into the potential breaches, which prompted Ms Berejiklian’s resignation earlier this month.

Two senior public servants who worked at the Office of Sport have testified this week that there was concern or questions raised in 2016 by Mr Baird’s office about one of the grants in question – a shooting facility in Wagga Wagga.

On Tuesday, the commission heard that a funding proposal which public servants dismissed as “low priority” was rushed to a cabinet committee meeting with the help of Ms Berejiklian.

Former bureaucrat Paul Doorn testified if he’d known the then treasurer was in a close personal relationship with the MP pushing for the project, it would have been a “red flag”.

Mr Doorn, a former executive director in the NSW government’s Office of Sport who now heads up NSW Rugby Union, said there was “a lot of push” from Mr Maguire to get funding for the shooting venue.

Some $5.5 million was set aside for the project after a meeting of cabinet’s Expenditure Review Committee, which Ms Berejiklian chaired, in December 2016.

But Mr Doorn had repeatedly classified the proposal as “low priority”, raising concerns about a lack of detail and the fact it would be in competition with an Olympic-standard clay shooting facility the government owned in Sydney.

“We didn’t think it stacked up,” he said on Tuesday.

Mr Doorn said there were “very clear rules” for disclosing conflicts of interests.

Mr Maguire started lobbying for the project as far back as 2012, before putting forward a more elaborate proposal in 2016.

In October 2016, then sport minister Stuart Ayres gave Mr Doorn’s office a single day to turn around a submission to the Expenditure Review Committee to get quick funding for the project.

Mr Doorn said in his five years in the public service, it was the only time received a deadline that pressing for such a document.

The proposal ended up before the committee in December 2016 thanks to Ms Berejiklian who controlled the group’s agenda, Mr Doorn said.

His evidence echoed that given the previous day by another senior public servant, NSW Office of Sport director Michael Toohey who said in 2016 he received an “extremely unusual” request to draft an urgent submission for the grant.

Mr Toohey said he also had no knowledge of the personal relationship between the then-treasurer and the member for Wagga Wagga until it was revealed in ICAC hearings.

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