By ERWIN CHLANDA
Seven months after a suspected theft by a staff member of the Alice Springs Turf Club, which in 2015 received $1.1m in grants from the NT Government, a police investigation seems not to have made significant progress.
The club received $900,000 in operational grants last year.
With the club’s major event, the Alice Springs Cup, just a week away, the minister responsible for the ongoing funding, Natasha Fyles, and the president of the club, Craig Lambley, are both saying they cannot comment because police are still investigating.
And police are not saying anything further.
The reasons for the delay are not immediately obvious.
Police confirm there is only one suspect.
It is understood that although that person is interstate, their whereabouts is known as there is no search in progress. The time frame of the suspected offence is also known and so is its location, and no doubt the amount missing.
Police Assistant Commissioner Danny Bacon says fraud investigations are very complex and often require forensic accounting.
The department of Ms Fyles would not comment, but an official last week agreed to endeavour to obtain answers to these “general” questions (no answers received thus far):-
Who in a club is responsible for the proper use of government grants?
What are the steps and dates of the acquittal process?
What happens if a suspected fraudster cannot be found or is unable to refund the stolen money?
If the money wasn’t stolen from the government but from a club, which in turn got it from another non-government entity, and the money was clearly not spent pursuant to the conditions of the grant, what happens next?
Who re-imburses the taxpayer?
And, we may add, who’s going to give the public some answers?
We emailed these questions at noon on Thursday last week. We still do not have an answer.
PHOTO from the club’s website.
UPDATE 7am Wednesday
Barry Lowe, the assistant manager corporate communications for the Department of the Attorney-General and Justice, late yesterday provided the following answers to our questions.
He made it clear that “we couldn’t answer those that refer to police investigations or are otherwise outside our (NT Licensing’s) remit”.
QUESTION: Who in a club is responsible for the proper use of government grants ($900,000 in this case)?
ANSWER: The committee of the club is responsible for the management of grants.
QUESTION: What are the steps and dates of the acquittal process?
ANSWER: These will be detailed in a grant agreement (contract) and are specific and individual to each and every grant. This is also dependent on which agency provides a grant to whom and what conditions are attached.
UPDATE 11am Wednesday
Recently appointed CEO Jason Cornell is no longer with the club.
UPDATE 1:33pm Wednesday
Turf Club chairman Craig Lambley, who did not respond to a request of comment, emailed members this morning, saying in part that former CEO Des Friedrich “is returning to act in the CEO position for the remainder of the Alice Springs Cup Carnival.
The email was leaked to the Alice Springs News Online.
“There continues to be an ongoing police investigation into the financial management of the Alice Springs Turf Club during a period in 2016. As soon as it is possible I will inform members of the nature and outcome of this investigation.”
Mr Lambley makes no reference to any responsibility the club and its members may have with respect to the spending of grant money from the government (see earlier update).