An investigation into the Alice Springs based health organisation Central Australian Aboriginal Congress, which is understood to have an annual budget of around $40m, has found there may be a string of serious flaws in its financial accountability and governance.
The organisation's principal funding body, the Federal Department of Health and Ageing, called a meeting with Congress members last night to answer their "questions, queries and concerns".
An audit commissioned by the department suggests that "in excess of $2m" could potentially be recovered from Congress.
A letter from the department, obtained by the Alice Springs News Online, outlines apparent irregularities with the charging of a 20% administration fee for each project; transfers of funds between projects; the use of a corporate credit card by CEO Stephanie Bell (pictured); unauthorised overseas travel and the failure to return unspent project funds to the department. Italso raises questions about the dealings of Congress with the Central Land Council-controlled Centrecorp and the purpose of large funds invested in a Centrecorp related entity.
Recent changes to the Congress constitution are also of concern, "having a direct impact on the extent to which the organisation might be considered community controlled". ERWIN CHLANDA reports.
UPDATE 13:20 CST
John Elferink (MLA for Port Darwin, CL, at left) raised the Alice Springs News Online report in this morning's NT Estimate hearings.
The Territory pays about $6m a year to Congress, including $2m for the Safe and Sober campaign.
He asked Health Department officials about the acquittal process: "They defended their process but could not describe it," says Mr Elferink. "I would be disappointed if the acquittal process were just tick and flick."
His questions were taken on notice.
UPDATE 15:00 CST
Congress president Helen Kantawara replied to this report. See FULL STORY.