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Tuesday, 20 August 1996
Page: 2705

(Question No. 48)


Senator Knowles asked the Minister for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Affairs, upon notice, on 8 May 1996:

(1) Has the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Commission (ATSIC) been able to recover, or has it taken steps towards the recovery of, assets from the Strelley or Nomads entities which were purchased with grant funds and which are now in a state if disrepair or abandon, or which cannot be located for the purposes of audit.

(2) Has ATSIC been able to recover, or steps taken towards recovering, grant surpluses identified in the report prepared by Duesburys Chartered Accountants: Inspection of funds granted by ATSIC to Strelley and Nomads.

(3) Did the former Minister for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Affairs (Mr Tickner) make a formal referral to the Australian National Audit Office (ANAO) further to a recommendation by the ATSIC Strelley (Nomads) Taskforce Review Team, that the ANAO be requested to enquire into the administration of ATSIC grants to the Strelley Communities from the Port Hedland Regional Office; if not, why.


Senator Herron —The Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Commission has provided me with the following information in response to the honourable senator's question:

(1) It was noted in the Duesburys financial investigation of the Strelley Nomads organisation that details of the location of assets had been provided by the Strelley Nomads Accountant.

However, on the basis of advice provided by Duesburys about the age and likelihood of the advanced state of disrepair of these assets, ATSIC's Legal Branch does not envisage seeking to recover the assets still held by the organisation. It is considered that there would be little value for money in taking such action.

(2) ATSIC's South Hedland Regional Manager wrote to the Strelley Housing Society Incorporated requesting repayment of the sum of $101,752, plus interest, that had pertained to a housing grant allocated to the organisation in 1991/92.

The Duesburys financial investigation was able to identify the amount of all additional surplus funds still held by the Strelley Nomads organisation.

However, there have been a number of legal issues which have required clarification. Once these issues have been clarified, ATSIC will write to Strelley Nomads to request the repayment of those surpluses identified by Duesburys.

(3) The former Minister for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Affairs did not make a formal referral to the Australian National Audit Office (ANAO) to enquire into the administration of ATSIC grants to Strelley communities from the South Hedland Regional Office.

ATSIC advises that while the Nomads Health Service Review Team had recommended a referral to the ANAO, the Strelley Nomads Task Force Review Team had resolved that an assessment would be undertaken by the ATSIC State Manager, South Hedland Regional Manager and the Office of Evaluation and Audit (OEA) of whether an ANAO audit would be necessary in addition to an OEA audit of the South Hedland Regional Office undertaken in July 1993.

On receipt of the OEA audit of the South Hedland Regional Office, the Task Force Review Team further commented that due to the need to undertake an investigation of the Strelley Nomads administration and the South Hedland Regional Office conjointly, it would be more appropriate to engage a chartered accountant from a leading Accounting Company to carry out the required investigations. It was advised that any Review by a chartered accountant would need to include an examination of the administrative arrangements between Strelley Nomads and ATSIC South Hedland.

Consequently, Duesburys Chartered Accountants was requested following its financial investigation of Strelley Nomads to further investigate administrative arrangements with the ATSIC South Hedland Regional Office that had not already been covered by the investigation. This was carried out and a separate report has been finalised.