NSW Labor warns of state government’s RSL asset grab

The NSW government is threatening to interfere in an internal audit of spending by senior leadership figures of the state’s RSL clubs and could be gearing up to snatch clubs’ assets, warns the Opposition.

An independent forensic audit of spending by senior leadership figures on the State Council, which functions as a board for the state’s RSL clubs, has been called for by the Council’s Chief Executive Officer Glenn Kolomeitz amid concerns of possible fraud and poor financial transparency.

The audit, which is currently being scoped and will be voted on at a meeting later this month, is likely to focus on expense claims, credit card use and cash withdrawals by the Council’s 13 members and the veteran organisation’s executive officers at its sub-branches.

Mr Kolomeitz has said the investigation would help protect the integrity of the RSL and its leaders in NSW by finding out once and for all if negative speculation about its financial affairs has any foundation.

Veterans’ Affairs Minister David Elliott said last week that he was seeking legal advice to determine whether or not the state should get involved in the audit and this is what appears to have got the Opposition in a stew.

NSW Shadow Minister for Veterans’ Affairs Lynda Voltz said she was concerned that the state government was considering intervening in the audit and warned that it could be eyeing off RSL assets, particularly those held by the RSL’s 364 sub-branches, which are independent but report to the State Council.

The NSW RSL, unlike other state branches, is incorporated by an Act of Parliament, which means it must obey laws such as the Corporations Act and the Conveyancing Act.

“I‘m concerned that the NSW Government now is looking to intervene in an area with a large stock of assets, with little justification,” Ms Voltz said. “Sub-branches are very capable of managing their own assets.”

Ms Voltz said sub-branches had built up their assets in partnership with local communities and were “very protective” of them. Indeed, there have been accusations from some veterans in the past that sub-branches are sitting on millions of dollars of assets and failing to ensure these properly benefit the veterans or communities they serve.

She said it was “unfortunate” that the Minister had publicly commented while the NSW RSL was in the middle of elections, which often created tension between different candidate groups, and the sub-branches would resent this “unwarranted” intervention.

But Mr Elliott denied the allegations.

“I am aware of the allegations regarding the financial management of the NSW RSL and have sought legal advice to determine the state’s obligations pursuant to the Returned and Services League of Australia (New South Wales Branch) Incorporation Act 1935 and associated Acts,” Mr Elliott said.

“It is entirely false to suggest that it is a ‘grab’ for assets, which there is no legislative basis for such action anyway.”

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