The Coalition was unable to answer a string of questions on Monday about anomalies and conflicts in its regional jobs grants, despite a scathing audit report last week.
One grant highlighted by Auditor Grant Hehir was $2.4 million awarded to a company part-owned by the wife of MP Warren Entsch's former campaign manager.
Labor Senator Nita Green told the Senate the campaign manager had also chaired the local committee setting criteria for the grant funding - although local media reported he had no hand in the grant decision. In the end, the grant was not taken up by the firm and Senator Green asked on Monday why it had not been re-allocated.
Nationals deputy leader Bridget McKenzie had no answer to the question. Nor could she answer questions about other grants, including $365,000 to a food van on Flinders Island in Tasmania.
"I do apologise I haven't got those details to hand," she said in response to Labor's questions.
The regional jobs program was designed for matched funding, but allowed proponents to apply for an exemption from matching the funding in "exceptional circumstances". Mr Hehir found that the exemptions were not properly considered. Four were granted.
Labor Senator Anne Urquhart said one had been for the food van, which had been awarded $365,000 "without a cent" from the proponent. The project was originally to have been a cafe and community centre, she said.
"What steps has the government taken to ensure $365,000 for a food van represents value for money?" she asked.
Senator McKenzie the program had leveraged local investment and created jobs across regional communities.
While the government says the program is creating "thousands" of jobs, the infrastructure department said by the end of October, 353 long-term jobs had been created, with another 506 jobs created "during the project".
Sixty-five of the 233 projects have been completed, although it is not clear how many have submitted their final reports.
Fourteen had either not taken up the money or had been "mutually terminated", the department said.
The auditor found that panels of Coalition ministers approved 68 grants that the department recommended against. Two of those were in the NSW South Coast seat of Gilmore. They have not been divulged.
The ministers rejected 64 grants that were recommended by the department, including seven in Gilmore and Eden-Monaro.
The ministerial panel for the NSW South Coast was chaired by Infrastructure Minister Darren Chester, and included Michaelia Cash, Michael McCormack and James McGrath.
The auditor found that conflicts of interest were not properly managed. While the local planning committee members were supposed to declare perceived and actual conflicts, there were errors and missing declarations. When they did declare conflicts they didn't get advice on how to manage them. Thirty personal conflicts were declared, along with 24 family conflicts.
Organisations applying for grants were also supposed to declare conflicts but no-one followed through. Public servants below senior executive service level were not required to sign declarations and nor were the contractors who assessed applications. Mr Hehir reported.