AVN facing new probe into affairs
THE Australian Vaccination Network Inc is being investigated after claims it engaged in unauthorised fundraising.
The Bangalow-based anti-vaccination group has three weeks to prove why its charity fundraising authority should not be revoked after an audit by the NSW Office of Liquor, Gaming and Racing (OLGR) found alleged breaches of legislation.
Possible breaches of the Charitable Trusts Act 1993 also have been referred to the Department of Justice and the Attorney-General.
The OLGR recently visited the non-profit company's offices where its officers examined records and interviewed staff.
According to the OLGR, the audit revealed breaches of the Charitable Fundraising Act 1991, including alleged incidents of fund-raising without authority, unauthorised expenditure and failure to keep proper records of income and expenditure.
The AVN now has 28 days to prove otherwise, an OLGR spokesman said.
“We are asking them to address the breaches identified,” he said.
“They may want to put forward evidence defying these breaches or any sort of arguments for their future.”
Breaches of charitable fundraising legislation can lead to an organisation or company being prosecuted in court, although the OLGR spokesman said whether the AVN would be prosecuted or not ‘relies on what they receive from them and what their final determination is'.
The AVN was granted a fundraising authority from July 5, 2002, to July 4, 2007. The authority was renewed on June 2 last year following a two-year lapse.
The allegations of unauthorised fundraising fall between the two-year lapse period of July 4, 2007, and June 2, 2009, when the AVN did not have an updated fund-raising authority.
It is claimed that during that time the AVN asked for contributions to fund a pamphlet to be inserted in maternity gift bags called Bounty Bags. But the organiser of the gift bags knew nothing about the pamphlets.
Additionally, one of AVN's opponents, the Vaccination Awareness and Information Service, claimed the AVN received donations in 2006 to conduct a vaccination testing program that never occurred.
AVN released a statement yesterday saying it followed the audit process to the best of its capability and had co-operated with the OLGR ‘each step of the way'.
The statement also said AVN was ‘confident at the end of the auditing process they will be able to retain their charitable process' and at ‘no time throughout the due process have there been suggestions of fraud'.
AVN president Meryl Dorey declined to comment further.
Earlier this month the Health Care Complaints Commission issued a public warning against the AVN.
The commission found selective information on the AVN website may be dangerous and, by omitting a warning on their website of their nature, poses a public and safety risk.
The OLGR said it was taking this public warning ‘into consideration' as part of its audit as it related to allegations of ‘misleading the public'.