By ERWIN CHLANDA
Congress CEO Stephanie Bell and Board President Helen Kantawara travelled to Hawaii last year together with Board member, Darryl Pearce (former CEO of the native title holder body, Lhere Artepe, since sacked) and a family member of Ms Bell’s, according to reliable community sources.
Ms Bell’s partner Brian Stirling, also a Board member and former chairman of Lhere Artepe, was booked to go on the trip but cancelled due to ill health. His fares could not be refunded.
If the trip was in some way connected with Congress business – the delivery of health services to Aborigines in The Centre – the sources say the organisation has never received a report about it.
The sources, impatient with the apparent lack of decisive action on the controversy embroiling the organisation, have told the Alice Springs News Online that this is the trip for which the travel expenses to the tune of $31,688 (for accommodation) have been queried by the Department of Health and Ageing.
In a letter from the department (leaked to the News) to Ms Kantawara, it was stated that the department was concerned about the amount involved and the source of the funds.
“We also understand that the purchase order for this travel, which involved the CEO, was approved by the CEO [Ms Bell],” says the letter.
Sources say that other overseas trips, always involving Ms Bell, have been undertaken without any reports back to Congress about what they yielded of benefit to the health service. The destinations have included London (two people traveling first class, according to one source), Canada and New Zealand (north and south islands).
The News contacted Congress’ communications officer this morning, to advise that we had specific further information from reliable sources which we would like to put to the CEO or the Board.
She said the CEO was “not in a position to make comments” and that the Board had decreed that at this point there would be no further comment.
The News advised that we were not seeking comment but answers to specific questions. She said no answers would be given (we understood this to mean for the time being).
PHOTO: A recent Board (from the Congress website) – at left Mr Stirling, at right Mr Pearce, center Ms Kantawara (red shirt, standing).