ICAC hearing continues in Sydney
ICAC hearing continues in Sydney serggn

Land Council ‘living beyond its means’ before alleged fraud

A LOCAL Aboriginal Council in Casino whose former CEO and administration assistant are facing accusations of fraud was already in a "precarious" financial position when the alleged fraud took place.

Former Casino Boolangle Local Aboriginal Land Council chief executive Linda Stewart, and its former administrative assistant, Veronica Skinner, will appear before the NSW Independent Commission Against Corruption for the second day today over allegations they issued false invoices allowing them to cash Land Council cheques for their own benefit.

Already struggling

It is alleged the fraud took place between June 1 2010 and October 12 2011, and then subsequently by Ms Stewart alone between October 13 2011 and September 5 2012.

The alleged fraud totalled close to $80,000.

Yet during this time the Local Land Council was already financially strained.

In documents presented before ICAC yesterday, a summary of the Land Council's 2010-11 financial year shows it had run four consecutive years of losses above $60,000, including $77,202 in 2009-10 and $64,560 in 2010-11.

It owed the Australian Tax Office $7,862 and owed superannuation of $34,421.

Living beyond their means

"The LALC is living beyond its means," the document warned.

"These issues have been addressed in the response by the Casino Boolangle Local Aboriginal Land Council, however, they say the same thing year after year."

The Land Council was also due money from gas explorer Metgasco "some of which dates back to 2006", but had only recently invoiced for a portion of it, and more was owed.

Worsening financial position

Casino Boolangle was also warned by the NSW Land Council during the same period of "particular concern" with the council's worsening financial position.

An urgent letter from NSW ALC zone director Andrew Riley noted the Local Land Council had about just over $145,000 in liabilities, and only $83,000 in assets.

"These debts have been outstanding for a number of years, and unfortunately, they are growing," Mr Riley wrote.

He said that he was "not prepared to endorse the 2010-11 audit as being 'satisfactory' due to the precarious financial position of the LALC".

The ICAC public hearing into the alleged fraud by Ms Stewart and Ms Skinner continues today in Sydney.



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