Learning from others’ mistakes Part 7 – RSL charities’ enforceable ACNC undertakings

This post updates the status of ACNC compliance action against RSL NSW and RSL LIfecare, previously highlighted in Part 3 of this series on Learning from Others’ Mistakes.

An ACNC Media Release issued on 15 May, advises as follows:

“The enforceable undertaking between the ACNC and RSL NSW is in response to serious issues the ACNC identified during its investigation into the charity’s governance, specifically:

  • The misuse of charity funds by now-former State President, Mr Don Rowe.
  • The now-former State Council’s failure to properly investigate the misuse of funds or to report the allegations to police.
  • The now-former State Council’s misleading statements regarding the circumstances of the former State President’s resignation.

RSL NSW is already working to address the ACNC’s concerns. As part of the enforceable undertaking, the charity has committed to 15 measures to demonstrate improved governance, transparency, and financial management.”

“The enforceable undertaking between the ACNC and RSL LifeCare is also in response to serious issues the ACNC identified during its investigation into the charity’s governance, specifically:

  • The charity’s directors approving and receiving remuneration and allowances, in breach of their obligations to the charity.
  • The charity’s funds being used to pay for directors, staff and others, to attend functions linked to the Liberal Party of Australia without consideration as to whether attendance was compatible with RSL LifeCare’s charitable purposes.
  • Non-compliance with the charity’s fundraising authority under the NSW state Fundraising Act.

RSL LifeCare has already taken significant steps to address its governance failures. As part of the enforceable undertaking, the charity has committed to four measures that demonstrate improved board governance. These include addressing issues relating to board remuneration and risk management, as well as adherence to its Political Advocacy Policy.”

The release also advises that the enforceable undertakings cover a three-year period. RSL NSW and RSL LifeCare must provide quarterly reports to the ACNC on their compliance with their respective agreements during the first 12 months, and then provide annual reports for the two years after that.

Call to action

If your Board or Audit and Risk Committee would like a briefing on the governance implications of these RSL developments (or a bundled briefing covering lessons from others’ mistakes), please contact me on 0419 347 599 or email me at garry.pearson@polgovpro.com.au to arrange this.

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