Editorial: Committed to ensuring your funds are spent properly

It was a sentence repeated by speaker after speaker at the recent ACTU Congress: there is no greater honour and no greater responsibility than to be elected to lead a union.

That is why all were revolted and dismayed by the revelations of the misuse of members’ funds and alleged corruption in the HSU East branch of the Health Services Union contained in a much publicised Fair Work Australia report.  They are feelings that I, as a leader of the QTU, share.

I will write more of the ACTU response below. First, I want to write about how the QTU ensures that members’ funds are properly spent. Unfortunately, it is inevitable that the failures and dishonesty of a few in one small area of the union movement leads to questions about all unions, their leaders and officials, especially when promoted by a sensationalist and antagonistic media.

The QTU has very strong, well established controls.

The internal financial controls of the Union are established by a Finance and Corporate Services Manager who reports directly to me. That manager is well qualified and is a certified practising accountant (CPA).

The Union has an Audit Committee that examines the accounts and seeks explanations of anything unexpected or potentially irregular.  That Committee comprises the Senior Officers of the QTU, a member of the QTU Executive and an independent member with accounting qualifications.  The independent member of the committee is currently a former auditor of the QTU who is very familiar with the Union’s operations and accounts.

The monthly accounts are also provided to the elected Executive and State Council.  Both bodies include a number of members who have financial responsibilities as school administrators or even as company directors.

The accounts of the QTU are audited annually by one of the big four accounting firms, Ernst and Young.  Over the many years that I have been a QTU Senior Officer, they have never expressed concern at the way in which funds were being spent.  Their “best practice” recommendations for improvement have always been implemented.

A number of Union officers have been issued credit cards for work purposes.  Their use is already governed by a policy which I am in the process of reviewing and will present to the Audit Committee and Executive.  It defines the legitimate uses of Union-issued credit cards.

Officers account for their credit card use monthly and their use of it in accordance with the policy is verified by a Senior Officer, and monitored in the Finance and Corporate Services area of the Union.  In the audit of the Union’s 2011 accounts, I specifically asked that credit card usage be audited.  No problems were detected in the sample chosen by the auditors.

I and the Union will take any steps necessary to ensure the proper use of members’ funds in promoting the interests of members.

The ACTU Congress unanimously condemned the actions, if finally proven, of officials of HSU East. It also, as a proactive step, established an independent committee to make recommendations to the ACTU and the union movement about appropriate, “best practice” governance for unions. The HSU has been suspended from the ACTU but their members, who are in no way responsible for this situation, retain access to all ACTU services and member benefits.

Unions are already more closely regulated than corporations through legislation, though you might not think so amid the faux concerns of various antagonistic media commentators.  But no set of regulations will ever be better than the commitment of leaders to ensure that union members’ funds are spent properly and to advance the interests of members.  That is the standard to which this Union and the union movement operate.

Graham Moloney
General Secretary

Queensland Teachers' Journal, Vol 117 No 4, 1 June 2012, p5