13 July 2018
The Registered Organisations Commission (ROC) has commenced an investigation into the NSW Branch of the National Union of Workers (NUW) arising out of matters referred by the Royal Commission into Trade Union Governance and Corruption.
Section 312 of the Fair Work (Registered Organisations) Act 2009 (the RO Act) prevents civil proceedings being commenced against a person or organisation for conduct which is substantially the same as conduct dealt with in the criminal jurisdiction. The outcomes of NSW Police criminal proceedings against former Branch Secretary, Mr Derrick Belan, and former office manager, Ms Danielle O’Brien, have now cleared the way for the commencement of the ROC’s investigation.
The investigation will examine governance failures which allowed serious misappropriation of Branch funds between about 2009 to 2015, including whether the Branch Committee of Management (BCOM), with a focus on its senior members, properly discharged its collective responsibility to ensure proper accountability and governance with respect to Branch expenditure. One aspect of the investigation will examine whether there was a failure of the BCOM members to exercise their powers and discharge their duties with the degree of care and diligence that a reasonable person in their positions would exercise, which allowed officers and employees of the NUW NSW to engage in significant credit card misuse.
The diligent governance, management and control of the affairs of a branch of an organisation is fundamental to protecting the interests of members. These essential functions are generally vested in the BCOM. Officers elected to positions in the BCOM play a crucial role in maintaining the financial accountability of organisations to their members.
It has been a requirement of the RO Act since 1 July 2014 that each officer of an organisation whose duties relate to the financial management of the organisation or the branch undertake approved training that covers each of the officer’s financial duties. The BCOM has ultimate stewardship of the financial resources of an organisation for the benefit of members and is ultimately responsible for ensuring an appropriate culture of compliance and high standards of accountability to members.
Material referred by the Royal Commission was independently assessed, initially by the Fair Work Commission, and subsequently by the ROC upon its establishment on 1 May 2017.
The Registered Organisations Commissioner (or his delegate) may conduct investigations under Section 331 of the RO Act if satisfied that there are reasonable grounds for doing so.
The ROC may make inquiries and investigations into federally registered unions and employer associations (known as registered organisations) regarding their compliance with the RO Act and their rules regarding finances and financial administration.
The ROC is unable to comment further on this matter, as it remains an open investigation.