The 2019 financials of embattled prescribed body corporate, Buurabalayji Thalanyji Aboriginal Corporation (BTAC), have been revealed, including the exorbitant salary of ex-CEO Matthew Slack.
In an uncommon move, auditors Elderton Audit Pty Ltd lodged the report without opinion, claiming they were unable to “obtain sufficient appropriate audit evidence” to provide an opinion on the report.
The 2018-19 financial report shows the corporation was being run into the ground, finishing the financial year with over $11 million in losses. Over $6 million of this was from parent company BTAC alone.
The corporation and its subsidiaries’ current liabilities totalled $11,938,221, meaning they owe nearly $12 million to various stakeholders in the next year.
The report also showed the expenses BTAC and its subsidiaries had incurred, with the auditors only able to find supporting evidence for some costs.
In one year, the corporation racked up a travel bill of near $2 million and a legal bill of $1.6 million.
Most travel expenses were unsupported, meaning the auditors could not find any appropriate supporting evidence of the travel during the audit. The unsupported travel expense totalled $1,692,983.
These numbers echo the sentiments of Nationals MP, Vincent Catania, who in February alleged in WA Parliament former CEO Slack had been spending lavishly and had engaged in “extreme squandering of Indigenous corporation money”.
The report also reveals Slack was on a hefty salary upwards of half a million dollars, sitting at $618,748. Special Administrator, Peter Saunders, noted in the report that travelling and entertainment expenses were also reimbursed to the former CEO on top of his salary.
Other operating costs outlined in the report were upwards of $6.5 million, with 60.1 per cent ($3.9 million) of that sum being unsupported.
Since BTAC was placed under special administration in January this year, the entire Board has been dismissed, former CEO Matthew Slack has been removed, and six out of eight of the corporation’s subsidiaries have been put into administration.
According to the report, the corporation will sell off several assets to ensure BTAC remains solvent—including two major pastoral stations, Maroonah and Mangaroon.
These revelations align with comments made by disgruntled members of the corporation, who have been urging the Office of the Registrar of Indigenous Corporations (ORIC) for years to intervene.
ORIC told NIT it is “a rare case that an auditor would issue a disclaimer of opinion”.
“Poor record keeping may be an indicator of weak financial controls increasing a corporation’s risk to misuse or poor use of finances,” said an ORIC spokesperson.
“The message to members receiving such a report is that the corporation’s record keeping practices are inadequate. Directors also need to be aware they may face penalties if they fail to ensure their corporation keeps appropriate financial records.”
The spokesperson said ORIC is assisting BTAC in addressing its financial position and record keeping.
“As for potential investigations or legal action, the Registrar will usually only make public comment when there is an outcome, for example, the commencement of legal proceedings.”
BTAC’s special administration is set to finish on October 16, 2020, after being extended in July.
By Hannah Cross