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July 14th, 2018 by admin

RSL leadership in turmoil after being rocked by damaging spending stories

The RSL has been rocked by a series of questions over spending and accountability. Photo: Anna WarrRSL expenses: full coverage
Nanjing Night Net

The national president of the RSL is facing calls to step aside in the wake of revelations he received a share of nearly $1 million in payments despite being a volunteer.

The Tasmanian branch of the RSL – which is headed by deputy national president Robert Dick – held an extraordinary meeting on Wednesday and agreed that president Rod White should “take a leave of absence until an investigation has taken place and a final report is issued”.

The branch decided that if Mr White refuses to stand aside immediately, a national board meeting should be held “as soon as possible” to consider the next step.

Fairfax Media reported on Wednesday that while Mr White was a state councillor with the NSW branch, he received a share in $980,675 from the veterans group’s aged care organisation, RSL LifeCare, of which he was a director.

Three other NSW councillors also received a share of the payments between 2013 and 2015, financial reports lodged with the Australian Charities and Not-for-profits Commission reveal.

The State President of the RSL in Western Australia, Peter Aspinall, backed a probe, saying that to protect the integrity of the RSL, it was “appropriate that a national investigation should be conducted into these fees by a group independent of the RSL – possibly by the RSL’s National Tribunal”.

But he said calls for Mr White to stand aside were “premature”.

The NSW branch is seeking legal advice on whether the payments listed as “consulting fees” breach the RSL’s constitution. Mr White and the other councillors were appointed to the RSL LifeCare board by the state council on which they sat.

The meeting of the Tasmanian branch resolved that an independent investigator should “determine if any federal or state laws were contravened and/or if the RSL NSW constitution or any other regulations may have been violated”.

It also called for the resulting report to be made public.

Mr White declined to comment when contacted by Fairfax Media.

On Tuesday he said he provided “advice and services” to RSL LifeCare based on my professional career in the corporate sector and my extensive career in the veteran community”.

“Perceived conflict of interest is what some people may see it as, but an understanding of the elements of the arrangement clarify that there is no conflict of interest,” he said. “I was put on that board by the governing body of the league, and then as an individual person, I am entitled to enter into a commercial agreement.”

David McLachlan, the president of the RSL in Victoria, said he was waiting for guidance from Mr Dick but added “there will be no doubt some board discussion this week”.

The NSW branch has already made clear it intends to pursue the issue, with chief executive Glenn Kolomeitz saying on Tuesday that he was seeking fresh, independent legal advice on the payments.

The national board is made up of state and territory branch presidents. The Queensland branch declined to comment. South Australian president Tim Hanna was overseas and ACT president Peter Eveille said he was waiting for more information.

The RSL NSW constitution states that councillors – who are volunteers – must not “take a position of profit within RSL NSW”.

RSL LifeCare’s own financial reports state that its “controlling entity” is RSL NSW.

Mr White, Mr Rowe, Mr Humphreys and Mr Crosthwaite received the consulting fees not as directors but for additional services, according RSL LifeCare.

But all nine or 10 directors – the number varied between 2013 and 2015 – received such payments, according to the financial reports.

The latest revelations follow an announcement last week by RSL NSW that it was preparing for a forensic audit of its senior leadership’s spending amid fraud concerns, and an admission by the Queensland branch that it had offered to pay more than $320,000 in back taxes.

RSL LifeCare provided Fairfax Media with a statement in response to written questions on Wednesday, saying that its directors spent “many, many unpaid hours assisting in the direction and broad oversight of the company”.

But as needed they were “called upon as paid consultants” for services such as “the detailed review and analysis of RSL LifeCare’s programs” and “the compilation of the organisation’s financial results”.

The statement did not address questions as to how much individual directors had been paid, how consulting fees were calculated and whether the four NSW councillors would have been hired for their specialist services even if they had not been appointed by the council to the RSL LifeCare board.

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This story Administrator ready to work first appeared on Nanjing Night Net.