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RSL seeks national bailout as State Govt on Anzac Day "standby"


The beleaguered state RSL is set to be handed bailout cash by the organisation’s national office – but not until it reviews the results of an independent audit into its finances, InDaily can reveal.

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Amid revelations of the RSL’s dire financial circumstances, the State Government today confirmed it was on “standby” to “step in and assist” with Anzac Day preparations.

Veterans SA funds the RSL to the tune of $100,000 each year to co-ordinate the annual commemoration, which is run by RSL volunteers.

A spokesman for Veterans’ Affairs Minister Martin Hamilton-Smith said “if they have difficulties with the state branch, we’ll step in and provide assistance”.

Asked to clarify the nature of the assistance, the spokesman said: “If any problems arise, we’ll find some solutions.”

“We’ve made it known that if there are any difficulties, Veterans SA will assist where it can,” he said.

The results of an audit into the entire SA branch of the veterans group will be handed down within days, but it can be revealed the review was ordered by the national body after a plea for financial help.

The RSL’s national CEO, Georgie Macris, was in Adelaide last Friday to work through the local branch’s books, but she has failed to respond to numerous requests for comment in the past week.

Macris took over the role in December after the sudden departure of predecessor Sam Jackman – who was previously the CEO of the South Australian RSL branch.

All of a sudden we’ve got World War Three going

State president Tim Hanna told InDaily “we were just working through a whole range of issues” with the national office.

Asked whether a substantial bailout had already been agreed, he confirmed: “I went to National and said ‘we’re struggling a bit, we need some help’, and their suggestion was we get an auditor in to look across the business.”

“The audit was to identify if we have gaps and opportunities for improvement, and from there that would tell us what other steps we need to take,” he said.

“They said subject to the recommendations of the report, if that determined certain things needed to happen, there may well be financial support forthcoming.”

He said a specific figure was “still to be determined [but] they’re prepared to provide some financial support subject to the requirements of the report”.

“A figure has been identified as a maximum figure, but it could be a whole lot less than that… it’s premature to talk about that at this point,” he said.

Hanna denied any state RSL finances had been frozen, saying: “Things are tight so we manage that accordingly, but we haven’t frozen anything.”

Former board member Ivan Venning, whose resignation InDaily revealed last week, said he believed the not-for-profit should prevail on its 138 sub-branches to fill the funding breach.

“They should contact all the branches and see if any have got any spare cash, because we’d love to have it,” he said, adding the RSL should “make sure it’s appreciated and recorded for history”.

“A dozen of them would be sitting on over $100,000 in assets they don’t use.”

Venning, a former president of the Crystal Brook sub-branch and still an active member, said donations to the RSL had “dried up” in recent times.

“Anything would be nice… it’s just a matter of getting us through this period,” he said.

There’s no smell of corruption or anything like that

The RSL has been mired in controversy for months, amid escalating concerns about its finances. Last year saw the resignation of former board member Bill Denny over plans to sell RSL Care at Myrtle Bank and state director Tony Flaherty stood down amid questions about his military service. In recent weeks, the state CEO and three more board members have stepped down.

“All of a sudden we’ve got a heap of things see didn’t see coming,” Venning said.

“We’ve got a standoff [over Flaherty’s role], and we don’t need that right now… all of a sudden we’ve got World War Three going.

“It’s gloom, gloom, gloom, and we can’t have that. We have to be positive working with our veterans… we have to just pinch ourselves and get up and get into it.

“We’re the largest body advocating for veterans in Australia – it’s bad to see this shit going on.”

But Venning was quick to distance the SA branch’s woes from high profile issues elsewhere, with revelations last year a former president of RSL NSW withdrew more than $200,000 in cash from a corporate credit card over six years in the role, while other senior figures received a total of $2.5 million in consultancy fees.

“There’s no smell of corruption or anything like that [in SA],” Venning insisted.

“Yes, it may be inept – but not corruption.”

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