Maguire 'had ear' of premier: bureaucrat

NSW bureaucrat Gary Barnes was told Daryl Maguire
NSW bureaucrat Gary Barnes was told Daryl Maguire "had the ear" of then premier Gladys Berejiklian.

A senior public servant who pushed through a grant now at the centre of a NSW corruption probe did so partly because the local MP - a "particularly pesky backbencher" and Gladys Berejiklian's secret boyfriend - "had the ear of the premier".

The NSW Independent Commission Against Corruption is probing whether Ms Berejiklian breached the public's trust when she failed to disclose her relationship with former Wagga Wagga MP Daryl Maguire as she dealt with projects he was pushing for his electorate.

Picking up where his evidence left off on Friday, Department of Regional NSW secretary Gary Barnes said he understood the grant to the sporting facility had "the imprimatur of the government".

Mr Barnes - who was a deputy secretary at the time - said it was for several reasons that he had inferred the support of the premier for a $5.5 million upgrade to the Wagga Wagga Clay Target Club.

Her office and the deputy premier's both regularly asked for updates - something that was "atypical".

The grant had been approved by the sub-cabinet expenditure committee - chaired by Ms Berejiklian when she was treasurer - which was unusual as it generally considered much bigger ticket items.

The decision meant the project avoided the usual competitive two-step process.

Mr Barnes said he had also been told Mr Maguire "had the ear of the premier".

"I seem to remember that someone in the deputy premier's office had told me that Daryl was well regarded by the premier as a person that understood the bush - (particularly) as a Liberal Party person," Mr Barnes said.

The project was something he prioritised, partly because he knew Mr Maguire was "hassling" people about it.

"I thought that it was just a particularly pesky backbencher that was continually following up and demanding information," he said.

Mr Maguire's closeness with the premier and the "political imprimatur" behind the project also weighed on his mind, Mr Barnes conceded.

He rejected suggestions from Ms Berejiklian's lawyers that she had a keen interest in all of his office's work, given the government's focus on the bush and the perception by some within the department of premier and cabinet that his team didn't work efficiently.

"The thing that stood out from my perspective is that for those other proposals, we rarely got asked to update ... at the same frequency as this one," he said.

The ICAC inquiry last week heard bureaucrats in the NSW Office of Sport were also at times under pressure to deal with parts of the process urgently.

Mr Barnes was also involved in another funding promise being probed by ICAC, $20.5 million pledged in 2018 for the Riverina Conservatorium of Music.

The money was to build a "very lavish" recital hall, something Mr Barnes said he deemed wasn't in the public interest. His entire team would have thought it was "problematic" he said.

The inquiry on Tuesday heard a staffer in Ms Berejiklian's own office - who went on to become her chief of staff until her resignation on October 1 - also didn't support the plan.

Mr Maguire "overreached" and made an "inaccurate" announcement of the funding in February 2018, something Mr Barnes said may have put pressure on the government to actually make the commitment.

They did so during the by-election campaign prompted by Mr Maguire's July 2018 resignation, forced by damaging evidence given at a separate ICAC inquiry.

Mr Barnes said had he known about the relationship between Mr Maguire and Ms Berejiklian, he would have "immediately" sought advice as to whether there were "issues" with the matters he was dealing with.

Mr Maguire and Ms Berejiklian will both have their turn in the witness box this week, with Mr Maguire to give evidence on Thursday and Ms Berejiklian to round out the public hearings on Friday and Monday.

Australian Associated Press