Anzac Organisation Says Loss of Charity Status a ‘Formality’
20 December 2016 at 4:27 pm
The Australian Charities and Not-for-profits Commission (ACNC) has revoked the charity status of the Camp Gallipoli Foundation following “compliance investigations into their activities and operations”, but the charity says it’s just a formality.
The Camp Gallipoli Foundation has denied any wrongdoing saying separate government and ACNC investigations into newspaper allegations of financial mismanagement had completely exonerated the organisation.
Camp Gallipoli Foundation CEO Chris Fox told Pro Bono Australia News the organisation had never used its charitable status or sought income tax benefits from it and the revocation was just a formality.
The Camp Gallipoli Foundation is a not-for-profit organisation that was established to commemorate the Anzac centenary by holding large scale camp outs in locations across Australia and New Zealand on the night before, and morning of, Anzac Day 2015.
“What the ACNC didn’t say was that we had no case to answer over the primary allegation (by Fairfax media) which was that we had inappropriately used a 2.5 million grant and also charged fees of $1.5 million to manage the event,” Fox said.
“Both organisations (ACNC and the Department of Veterans Affairs) said we had no case to answer and in fact it exonerated us of any wrongdoing.
“The ACNC’s position, to be clear, was that we got got charitable status through them after the event which was in September of 2015. We never used that charitable status and it’s at our total support that we (were revoked).
“The only reason we cooperated with the ACNC was to ensure that we were exonerated of all those claims.
“We never used our charitable status for collections of donations or used gift recipient status… or sort tax exemption.”
The ACNC revocation announcement came eight months after a federal government confirmed it was investigating the charity on the eve of the 2016 Anzac celebration after Fairfax media allegations.
The report said the charity was also being investigated because of fears that the charity raised “millions of dollars… from ticketed events” and “it did not pass on the money raised to veterans’ associations”.
Chris Fox told Pro Bono Australia News at the time that the media report was “scurrilous” and “totally false”.
“There is not one ounce of truth in it [the media allegations] and so we didn’t take once cent, not one cent,” Fox said.
In May the foundation’s executive posted a notice on Facebook that the organisation’s finances had been audited by PwC and verified that “the funds were used for the purposes that they were intended.”
Fox said the Department of Veterans Affairs delivered its report into its findings in Camp Gallipoli Foundation in September on AFL Grand Final eve.
The key findings of the government review were:
- invoices associated with the payments made to the Camp Gallipoli Foundation were processed by DVA with adherence to the agreed payment principles
- DVA received appropriate assurances from the Camp Gallipoli Foundation and its board that its capital city events were viable and that these events were in fact delivered
- while the Camp Gallipoli Foundation had intended to donate any profits from its events to the RSL and Legacy, this was never a condition of the disbursement of $2.5 million from the ACPF
- DVA risk management was well handled. The decision to develop payment principles in the absence of a detailed funding deed, the requirement for the recipient organisation to acknowledge those payment principles and having the recipient organisation provide written assurances of financial viability was evidence of good practice.
However an ACNC spokesperson said the regulator refuted the claim that it “completely exonerated” Camp Gallipoli Foundation Incorporated of “any wrongdoing”.
“The ACNC confirms that Camp Gallipoli Foundation Incorporated had its charity status revoked following a compliance investigation,” the spokesperson said.
“Its registration as a charity was revoked because Camp Gallipoli Foundation Incorporated was unable to demonstrate that it complied with the ACNC Governance Standards, specifically, that it was a not-for-profit entity, and that it had taken reasonable steps to ensure that its directors had met the relevant governance duties.
“Although the ACNC generally does not comment on individual compliance cases, it has chosen to do so in this case to ensure the accuracy of information available to the public.
“As set out in the ACNC’s media release (dated 19 December 2016), revocation of charity status through compliance action is reserved for the most serious of cases,” the spokesperson said.
“Whenever possible, we work with charities to help them get back on track by providing guidance, regulatory advice or entering into undertakings. However, where serious breaches have occurred and a charity is not willing or able to adequately address the ACNC’s concerns, we will revoke the charity’s status.
The spokesperson said if a registered charity decides that it no longer requires registration with the ACNC, it can apply for voluntary revocation of charity status.
“The ACNC will generally not accept an application for voluntary revocation while a compliance investigation is open. Camp Gallipoli Foundation was not revoked following an application for voluntary revocation.”
Earlier this month the ACNC also revoked the charity status of the Shaolin Temple Foundation (Australia) LTD.