The Mercury; ZARA DAWTREY | June 15, 2013
RSPCA Tasmania requires “change at the top” if it is to overcome long-standing financial and managerial problems, the charity’s auditor has told a parliamentary inquiry.
The trouble-plagued animal welfare organisation sacked a second chief executive amid a flurry of unflattering publicity last year and was only saved from insolvency by an emergency $400,000 Government grant.
The public accounts committee inquiry into the organisation’s problems yesterday heard from auditor Bob Ruddick who said the current board and management did not “have the depth of experience” to effectively manage the charity.
After dwindling to just three members last year before chief executive Ben Sturges — the son of Labor MP Graeme Sturges — was sacked, the board has since grown to six member-elected representatives including acting president Paul Swiatkowski.
Committee member Liberal MP Peter Gutwein asked Mr Ruddick what had to happen “to fix” the situation.
Mr Ruddick said the State Government should recruit a “strong president”, indemnify that president, then allow that person to put forward a strong three-year program.
“They should have a chief executive who engages closely with the president, who can recapitalise the corporation and engage much better with the community,” he said.
The committee heard that, unlike interstate RSPCA branches, the Tasmanian charity did not a have a cash reserve to protect it from situations such as the withdrawal of Jan Cameron’s $750,000 sponsorship which saw the business model plunge into deficit in 2011-12.
“The people there have the best of intentions but they do not have the business acumen,” Mr Ruddick said.
Hobart industrial relations consultant James O’Neill was hired to investigate complaints against Mr Sturges last year ahead of his dismissal.
Committee member Labor MP Brenton Best has requested details of the cost of consultancy and legal fees paid by the RSPCA since 2009.
The inquiry continues next week.