Former Charity Head Found Guilty of Misusing Grant Money
19 February 2018 at 3:36 pm
A former managing director of the Australian Rainforest Foundation (ARF) has been sentenced to 12 months imprisonment following an investigation into the misuse of almost $45,000 in Australian government funding.
Roger Frederick Phillips was found guilty of two charges of general dishonesty, cause a risk of a loss to the Commonwealth, after it was found he had used grant money to pay his own company’s outstanding invoices and to help purchase a new car.
Phillips will not serve any of the sentence behind bars after he was released on a $2,000 Commonwealth good behaviour bond.
Judge Morzone QC said Phillips had abused the trust and authority of a managing director of a charitable organisation and that this type of offending was an abuse of the community’s trust through their hard work and taxes.
It comes after investigations into the misuse of $44,551.26 in Australian government funding, awarded to ARF under the Caring for Our Country Targeted Area Grants round, were prompted after the Department of the Environment and Energy received allegations of fraud.
The funding, to be delivered over three milestone payments, was to help rehabilitate the land through weeding and revegetation works at an area at Mission Beach, as well as provide opportunities for Indigenous training and employment, and community engagement activities.
However investigations by the Department of the Environment and Energy’s office of compliance found Phillips used the grant money to pay his own company’s outstanding invoices and to help purchase a new car.
The department said misuse of Commonwealth money was “a very serious offence” and one the department took “very seriously”.
Kelvin Davies, CEO and executive director of Rainforest Trust Australia, formerly the Australian Rainforest Foundation, told Pro Bono News they were aware Phillips had pleaded guilty to the charges by the Commonwealth Department of Public Prosecutions.
“Mr Phillips ceased employment with the Australian Rainforest Foundation in September 2016,” Davies said.
“The Australian Rainforest Foundation recently changed its name to Rainforest Trust Australia.
“Rainforest Trust Australia is committed to continually improving its governance and financial management. We look forward to continuing our focus on working towards making a positive impact to conservation in Australia and around the world.”
Postscript November 2020: Kelvin Davies was employed as CEO and executive director of the Australian Rainforest Foundation after the criminal offences occurred for which Mr Phillips was convicted. There is no implication of Mr Davies’ involvement in any of these matters either through knowledge of or influence on the organisation at that time.