The Mercury

RSPCA funding furore

   ZARA DAWTREY   |   October 08, 2012 12.01am

TAXPAYER funds given to the RSPCA to ensure it remains viable are being eaten up in legal fees, says a former board member.

The saga surrounding allegations of misconduct against the organisation’s chief executive Ben Sturges is showing no sign of an outcome, three weeks after a wide-ranging internal investigation began.

Appointed to the top job 16 months ago, Mr Sturges was stood down after being told the RSPCA board was investigating a complaint against him.

The Mercury confirmed last week that in recent months the State Government has funnelled $400,000 into bailing out the struggling animal welfare organisation.

“This money is now being spent on legal and consultancy fees instead of animal welfare,” a former board member told the Mercury.

RSPCA Tasmania president Paul Swiatkowski said he was acutely aware of ill feeling surrounding the use of charity money to fund the investigation.

“All I can say is any money spent at this stage is money that absolutely must be spent to protect the current and future interests of the organisation,” he said.

While Mr Sturges says he is unwilling to comment while the investigation is ongoing, the Mercury understands his supporters and other RSPCA insiders are outraged at the turmoil resulting from the second investigation into a chief executive in three years.

Mr Sturges is understood to have been expecting news on the outcome of the investigation — being conducted by workplace relations consultancy James O’Neill and Associates — last Friday but Mr Swiatkowski yesterday confirmed the probe was ongoing.

“The Australian Services Union, on behalf of Mr Sturges, has asked for a response in terms of the investigation by October 9 and a response will be provided,” he said.

The initial deadline given by the ASU was last Thursday but the union extended the deadline at the RSPCA’s request.

It is also understood the RSPCA national body is now taking a major role in the branch’s day-to-day operation.

While the Mercury will not detail the allegations against Mr Sturges — Denison MP Graeme Sturges’s son — the former Australia Post business manager denies any wrongdoing.

Have Your Say

Latest Comments:

The Inspectorate and the shelters are separate entities and since RSPCA Tasmania resumed running the Inspectorate they have received some Governmental financial support for enforcing an Act of law and rightly so. This money doesn’t go to shelters … the Inpectorate money will now presumbly go the RSPCA national as they are now running the inspectorate arm. The shelters will benefit from this windfall as they have from large donations in the past.

Posted by: Sarah Altman of Dynnryne 08:54am Wednesday 10th

Alexadra/Mel, guilty not knowing history Tas. RSPCA but not guilty to knowing the frustration that you are going thru,overstaffed/over administrated/over paid. Always the problem, no accountability animals don’t matter!Demand a government Inquiry! A charity organisation empowered and priviliged to enforce the “animal welfare act,has to be accountable to all concerned. Go for it animal lovers!

Posted by: Barrie Tapp of Melbourne 10:32pm Tuesday 9th

The National body should take over the running of the Tasmanian RSPCA. The only way to keep this organisation on track.

Posted by: Paul Cain of Hobart 10:13pm Tuesday 9th

What does the RSPCA do for Tasmanian native wildlife…They only care about vermin cats and dogs and nothing for wildlife..I wouldnt give this organisation one cent..

Posted by: Richard Brown of Tasmania 06:35pm Tuesday 9th

@Vickie Jensen – RSPCA does not work without all the parts, to split the inspectors out as a separate part without the rest of the society is a very narrow minded view. The Inspectors would not be able to do a good job without the support of the other areas of RSPCA

Posted by: James Smith of Hobart 06:30pm Tuesday 9th

Why are “charities” given legal powers? Animal cruelty can be policed by Animal Control, a specially trained animal welfare division. This government outsources so many of its obligations to non-profits, many staffed by minimally trained volunteers, and over which the public has few controls and little oversight. I think the RSPCA does a fine job of re-homing animals, and our individual donations should go towards covering those expenses. But public monies should pay for public servants.

Posted by: Lori Puster of Bagdad 12:29pm Tuesday 9th

Mr Walsh & Ms Bennett, please don’t take whatever Ms Cass is saying as gospel. The inspectorate has had a huge increase in the successful prosecution of offenders including jail time. They are doing excellent work so don’t tar all with the same brush.

Posted by: Vicki Jensen of New Norfolk 11:11am Tuesday 9th

The RSPCA in Tasmania has been run like a Government department, which is not surprising given who has been in charge. Too much investment in bureaucracy at the expense of the core business – animal welfare. They need to get back to primarily being animal carers, not an administration.

Posted by: Jarne Wrudd of Hobart 11:00am Tuesday 9th

Barrie Tapp, the RSPCA in Tasmania has been an ineffective financial black hole for a considerable period of time. It has been rendered useless by politicised in-fighting and backstabbing. It couldn’t handle a genuine animal cruelty case if it jumped up and bit the RSPCA on the butt. The RSPCA is in absolute chaos and peoples’ generous donations are being diverted into expensive court cases involving petty accusations, rather than being used for animal welfare.

Posted by: Mel Walsh of Rosny 09:16am Tuesday 9th

Mr Tapp, perhaps you could explain your background with RSPCA Tasmania? It is sad indeed that the animal welfare regime is in crisis yet again and most conerning that funds given by the government are being spent, once again, on people/legal costs not animals. RSPCA Tasmania has forfeited the little credibility it had and it is long past time that its powers were removed. What do funds given by the gullible people get spent on? More of the same?

Posted by: Alexandra J Bennnett of Lindisfarne 08:36pm Monday 8th
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