RSPCA fight for survival

The Mercury, ZARA DAWTREY   |   November 07, 2012

Sacked RSPCA chief executive Ben Sturges.

RSPCA Tasmania has sacked its second chief executive in three years as the charity fights for survival.

Ben Sturges, who took the helm of the troubled charity just 17 months ago, was told by letter on Monday his contract had been terminated.

Mr Sturges’ work car was repossessed from his Hobart home by a bailiff yesterday morning.

His work laptop had already been confiscated in the course of a six-week investigation undertaken by independent Hobart-based HR consultant James O’Neill.

The former chief executive yesterday condemned the board’s actions and vowed to do “whatever it takes” to fight for reinstatement.

“Now the $580,000 in Government grants [chief vet] Gabby Lawson and I secured this year is effectively going towards funding a witch-hunt instead of being used to benefit the animals,” Mr Sturges said.

Primary Industries Minister Bryan Green said the State Government was “keen for the RSPCA to resolve its operational difficulties”.

Mr Sturges remains adamant he has done nothing wrong.

He will lodge his case with Fair Work Australia this week.

Mr Sturges’ predecessor, Greg Tredinnick, was sacked after a board-ordered investigation and took the charity to the Industrial Commission in 2009 where he obtained a small payout. But the internal drama revealed in court proceedings significantly damaged the RSPCA’s reputation and as a result, hit bequests and donations.

The charity has a turnover of close to $4 million a year and insiders say there are very real and widespread fears this latest scandal could damage the brand beyond repair.

President Paul Swiatkowski said RSPCA Tasmania’s financial position is “as stable as it’s ever been”.

While limited in what he could say given the looming industrial action, Dr Swiatkowski told the Mercury the board stood by the investigation into Mr Sturges’ alleged misconduct.

“The RSPCA board is satisfied the investigation was independent and was subject to procedural fairness,” he said.

‘We’re looking to move forward and maintain a viable organisation.”

Original here…



Filed under RSPCA Tasmania, Tasmania

2 responses to “RSPCA fight for survival

  1. companionanimalnews

    Our letter to Minister Bryan Green ( who proudly proclaims hunting as one of his hobbies…) :

    “Hon Bryan Green, Minister Environment, Resources and Development

    Dear Mr Green

    I write concerning the RSPCA Tasmania

    The RSPCA in Tasmania is once again in a state of chaos through its internal politics, poor governance and maladministration. It is reportedly in a financial position where it has required ‘bail-out’ funds from the State government, funds it has allegedly spent on an expensive HR investigations and legal costs.

    These funds in fact were provided by the government and the community for the specific purpose of the care and protection of animals, not for what is corporate damage control.

    This organization clearly cannot govern itself. It appointed a CEO who did not meet a single one of the selection criteria, seemingly for reasons of nepotism, and the result is that he and others have been stood down for reasons of ‘wide ranging allegations of misconduct’.

    We understand that the RSPCA’s veterinarian, who was its representative on the AWAC (Animal Welfare Advisory Committee, has also been stood down which constitutes a serious imbalance on the AWAC in respect of the interests of the animals.

    In the 7 years that we have been following the affairs of the RSPCA in every State, we have come to the conclusion that the RSPCA is ineffective in managing both a cruelty portfolio AND an animal sheltering mandate. This is because the funding for pursuing cruelty cases is inordinately expensive ( and often results in week outcomes from magistrates who prefer to “slap wrists”) and this sucks out monies that should go to the animals in shelters. In addition the RSPCA has become a commercial enterprise, more concerned with raising funds to prop up its structure and beurocracy, rather than focusing on animals that need to be rehomed. The Rehoming figures of the RSPCA in general are very poor indeed compared to established world’s best practices.

    In our view the RSPCA should not be permitted both portfolios; above all we do not support the strategy of providing a charity with a policing function especially when that organization is not governed by an oversight committee and is not accountable to anyone.

    We recommend that the State government removes the cruelty prosecution mandate from the RSPCA and deals with this through a properly resourced and trained police unit, whose prime role is animal cruelty prevention and prosecutions.

    If you cannot or will not do this, then take away the shelter mandate and give it to people who can manage that more effectively – the Dogs Homes of Tasmania.

    Spending more taxpayer money on propping up the RSPCA is just throwing good money after bad.

    Thank you

    Paul Archer

  2. companionanimalnews

    Stop Tasmanian Cruelty comment:
    “STOPTAC comment

    It is unlikely that RSPCA Tasmania can ever function effectively. StopTAC has requested the Department of Fair Trading to conduct an investigation into the matters of the organisation being run by just three board members when its Constitution (the 2006 version which we understand it operates under) provides for 11 board members, one being from the organisation with carriage of the Animal Welfare Act 1993 (amended). There has been no such person on the board for some considerable time.

    Run by this ‘gang of three’, we have also sought confirmation from Fair Trading that the organisation has removed Ben Sturges as its public officer as required by the governing Act. Even after being stood down six weeks ago (on full pay) Mr Sturges still appears on the organisation’s website as its CEO. Moreover, the Annual General Meeting is required to have been held within 4 months of the preceding financial year, and its AGM was allegedly aborted in September with apparently no alternative date set. We question whether the organisation is operating within the governing Act, and its own Constitution.

    Mr Sturges was heard to state on ABC Radio on November 7 that the Board ‘did not understand its role’, yet this is the board which appointed him, when he met none of the selection criteria developed for the position. He also stated that he had ‘concerns’ about its governance ‘for some time’. If that was indeed the case, why did he not act in terms of compliance, and for how long did he know and not act?

    Ben Sturges is the son of politician Graeme Sturges, who lost his seat at the last State election, and was returned to Parliament on a recount after the resignation of David Bartlett. Mr Sturges senior was removed from the RSPCA board at the 2010 AGM, when those attending were horrified by his bullying of anyone who asked questions, and he was also a close friend of Vice President Angela Ayling, so it appears that he retained sufficient influence for his son to be appointed as CEO after he had left Australia Post for unknown reasons about three months before this appointment..

    Mr (Ben) Sturges also alluded to ‘cash flow problems’, and we have obtained a copy of the last Annual Report and Financial Statements, which we have referred to a respected accountancy firm for an opinion in respect of the viability of the organisation, and some of the expenditure (such as wages costs and travel, for example) which appear to have been excessive and self-indulgent. Mr Sturges himself has reportedly remained on full pay and retained the use of an RSPCA vehicle until just this week – the six weeks of the investigation. The figures, at June 30 2012, do paint an alarming picture, and we can only assume that will have been seriously exacerbated since that time, as substantial amounts have allegedly been paid to a HR consultancy firm to investigate the conduct of Mr Sturges. These costs are expected to escalate as Mr Sturges takes legal action in one or more jurisdiction/s, and lawyers and barristers become involved yet again.

    StopTAC has also written to the Minister, Bryan Green, expressing concerns that taxpayers’ funds and potentially public donations and bequests are diverted for these purposes

    Unfortunately, the RSPCA in Tasmania lost sight of the animals some time ago. They are the inconvenient vehicle it has used to bring in funds to support its administrative bureaucracy. Sadder still, this is the organisation entrusted with the administration and enforcement of the Animal Welfare Act 1993 (amended) since clearly it cannot run itself, and this has been so for a long time.

    The animal welfare portfolio must be removed from DPIPWE, with its unassailable conflict of interest and its Minister who hunts and shoots animals for ‘sport’ and given to the Department of Justice. The Inspectorate, with all the resources and funding that go with it, must be handed to a dedicated unit of Tasmania Police.

    The only solution for this moribund organisation is for this board to be formally dismissed, with all that attaches to that, and a competent administrator appointed.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s