Alliance Board In The Dark

https://www.flickr.com/photos/westmidlandspolice/7752955064/in/photolist-8kVo6z-8kYy9G-nTSxPa-cP6Vr3-8kYyw5-7mt9rC-8drGmJ-dSdMmi-dSjnem-nY5zzG-ch3Xih-x5Hkk4-wN6QdA-aFmDRk-aFmDRi-7QmxPC-6osH5m-7xLyDg-bfUNTr-8mxzUT-dwTc3g-8mxbmg-ayesAY-dZwt3b-aFmDR8-8JjUWX-8JjVCn-8JjTYe-8JjXcX-aFmFNP-aFmFNT-dkYFci-dJcpSC-dJcn5f-aFmDQV-fDBtyv-A8Bf3-4FCi3S-9cM4Lp-woD2Mx-7QmyLd-smQ81F-5KyRGt-6MkfCi-5vspic-8s1rfA-ePecD-uQ8YHu-dqxZsc-hu9Bja

A forensic investigator

The LGBTI Health Alliance is slowly beginning to respond to requests for more information. I received the following from the Executive Director’s email address:

“The Alliance Board and I are currently working to finalise a statement which addresses the concerns you have raised and this will be published to our website.  I will send a copy on to you also.

…we are holding a Board meeting on Tuesday night as part of our ongoing strategy around discussions of funding and future facing opportunities and I will raise your request for an interview with the Board at that time.

I will get back to you on Wednesday with the outcome of that discussion.”

That will make two weeks since I first started trying to get some answers. Today, this statement appeared on their website and in my inbox, which partially answers some of the concerns I have raised. I will analyse this later in a more detailed post. But it does not address the major problem of governance, with the board still having difficulty in finding out what is going on in their own organisation.

Many sources continue to insist that the full board were never shown the submission for core funding made to the Department of Health, nor ever approved it. Indeed, as I write, they had still not seen it. Perhaps it will be available to the above-mentioned board meeting for their perusal, and on their website, so that we can all judge for ourselves  I am told the Chair and ED did not seek board approval because they deemed the funding submission to be a purely “operational” matter, not requiring board input.

That submission was of such poor quality that it was twice rejected by the Department of Health. Information being prepared by Alliance staff, including the Executive Director (not external consultants, as I was originally told), to support the application was either “not ready by the deadline”, or “had to be omitted for reasons of space”. Allegedly the 6,000 word limit was “too short” to permit the inclusion of the amount of detail required.

A source claimed that the ED had never previously managed a submission for major federal government funding, something of which the majority of board members were unaware.

This apparent lack of transparency, consultation and accountability raises serious questions. Responding to my posts here and the podcasts of my interviews with Dean Beck “On The Line” at Joy 94.9 here, and here, former Alliance Director Greg Adkins, leader of the Anti-Violence Project of Victoria, wrote** (my emphases in bold):

“Doug & Dean talk about a key funding submission that they say wasn’t sighted or approved by the board. Well someone on the board, the chair or head of finance committee, must have seen it alongside whoever prepared it. The rest of the board & membership will have reason to be quite ropeable if such an important funding communication with government was not presented to the whole board before submission.

“Was the submission substandard? Was it held back from scrutiny by the whole board, as the JOY 94.9 discussion suggests? If so, then does the responsibility rest with those who authored the document? Member organisations (& directors) will be justified in asking how was it that directors were kept out of the loop if this is true.

“This wouldn’t be poor governance, this would be withholding of information from a board – if true, it’s more serious.”

However, keeping the board out of the loop appears to be normal business practice at the Alliance.

  • Calls for agenda items are not always issued before board meetings
  • If items are subsequently raised in meetings, discussion is refused because they’re not on the agenda, or there is insufficient time.
  • Documentation provided to board meetings is perfunctory: millions of dollars of public money are involved, yet board papers are seldom more than five pages long.
  • Board members are forbidden to discuss board matters among themselves outside board meetings.
  • Spaces previously used by board members for discussion amongst themselves, i.e., a program “Basecamp”, and then later, an email group, were shut down.
  • Board members are forbidden by management to contact any member of staff, except the Executive Director, and all emails to her must cc the Chair.

On Thursday last week I received a press release from the Alliance which still did not directly address my questions. As mentioned earlier, more information was posted on the Alliance website today, 8/2/2016: I have not yet had time to check the assertions therein, but rest assured I will.

It is hard to see how the Alliance can hope or expect to receive any further support either from the LGBTI community or the Commonwealth without major change. Serious questions must be asked at Tuesday night’s board meeting, and honest answers given. Proper governance must, for once, be asserted, and seen to occur.

There appears to be a strong case for the board to insist on the suspension or dismissal of the staff responsible for the current debacle, while a full, independent, external investigation of Alliance affairs is conducted. Members of the board who have failed to assert their proper authority over management also have some serious heart-searching to do.

It is not impossible for the organisation to recover from the current situation, but hard questions must be asked and answered, and painful steps taken. Evasion and obfuscation will not do.

It would be interesting to be a fly on the wall at the Tuesday (tomorrow 9/2/2016) nights board meeting, which will hopefully take all the time necessary to achieve a meaningful outcome. Perhaps, in the interests of democracy, good governance and transparency, the board should webcast the proceedings, so we can all see what a great job they are doing with the LGBTI community’s money?

UPDATE

22/02/2016 At the Board meeting one member, Nfanwy Welsh, resigned, and one other board member has more or less withdrawn from all active involvement, driven into depression by the pressure placed upon them. Two other directors are actively considering their ongoing involvement and consulting their legal advisers, but were prevailed upon to remain in post for now lest their resignation trigger the Alliance’s immediate collapse.

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**Screen shot of Facebook conversation with former Alliance director, and head of the Anti-Violence Project of Victoria, Greg Adkins

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About the author

Veteran gay writer and speaker, Doug was one of the founders of the UKs pioneering GLBTI newspaper Gay News (1972) , and of the second, Gay Week, and is a former Features Editor of Him International. He presented news and current affairs on JOY 94.9 FM Melbourne for more than ten years.

“Doug is revered, feared and reviled in equal quantities, at times dividing people with his journalistic wrath. Yet there is no doubt this grandpa-esque bear keeps everyone abreast of anything and everything LGBT across the globe.” (Daniel Witthaus, “Beyond Priscilla”, Clouds of Magellan, Melbourne, 2014)