An investigation into the Islamic Council of Victoria reveals it’s received $2.4m in state grants since 2010
A STATE government investigation has found that Victoria’s peak Muslim body should be more accountable for the taxpayer-funded grants it receives.
The probe into the Islamic Council of Victoria revealed that the organisation has received $2.4 million in state government funding since 2010-11.
In 2015-16, three-quarters of the ICV’s revenue came from the public purse.
The Andrews Government launched the inquiry after the Herald Sunrevealed last year that the ICV had controversially called for taxpayer-funded “safe spaces” in which Muslim youth could vent extreme speech.
The submission to a federal Parliamentary inquiry had demanded that existing counter-terrorism and anti-violent extremism funds be diverted to create the safe spaces.
Top consultancy firm PwC was commissioned to review the ICV’s funding on behalf of the Department of Premier and Cabinet.
The report, which has been released to the Herald Sun under Freedom of Information laws, found that the ICV had generally provided activities for which it had been funded, and there were no urgent issues that required action.
However, it did find that the Islamic body had probably used public funds to cross-subsidise some “unfunded activities” as was common across the not-for-profit sector.
It recommended that the ICV review its internal grant funding processes, and that a senior officer be required to formally confirm that government funding had been spent properly.
Among the ICV’s taxpayer-funded programs were a $570,000 “empower Muslim youth” grant over three years that included learning about indigenous culture and making a documentary.
A further $440,000 was given for “administration of ICV” from 2012-16.
The review found the justification for some grants unclear, such as $10,000 for a Muslim arts festival and $3500 for an “interfaith street break fast celebration”.
ICV spokesman Adel. Salman conceded that the organisation relied heavily on government grants for its operations, and it was happy to improve its financial practices.
“As long as we remain true to our objectives and our principles, I don’t see an issue with us actually receiving grants from different parties who want to work with us,” he said.
Mr Salman said the review had unearthed some minor issues, but “basically confirmed that the ICV is a reliable partner”.
“It was actually an opportunity for us to get an imprimatur from the government saying these guys are legit, they’ve got good practices, so we’ll use that when we apply for new grants,” he said.
State Multicultural Affairs Minister Robin Scott said the government expected that taxpayer money was used appropriately.
“We are working with the Islamic Council of Victoria to ensure they have transparent processes and accounting practices in place to satisfy contractual agreements,” he said.
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