RSPCA members bite back


THREE former RSPCA members believe the charity's board needs a complete overhaul to stay viable.

Suzanne Cass, Nigel Burch and Eric Gooi all said that the overhaul was the only way to save the charity.

Ms Cass further believed that the state government must find a better organisation to administer and enforce the Animal Welfare Act.

The charity has been dogged by accusations of systematic financial mismanagement, infighting, bullying and bad appointment decisions over several years.

The most recent drama involved the sacking of chief executive Ben Sturges last week - a dismissal he will contest before Fair Work Australia.

RSPCA Tasmanian president Paul Swiatkowski said that while the organisation was struggling financially, it was not because of mismanagement, but "bad luck" and less available public money for charities in general.

He said the withdrawal of sponsorship by millionaire businesswoman Jan Cameron - a contribution that came with conditions the board had to meet - had also hurt the RSPCA's finances.

"Certainly that has affected what we can and can't do to some degree - it's something that has maybe added to our problems in the short term," Mr Swiatkowski said.

He conceded accusations of mismanagement had damaged the charity's brand and feared it would continue to hurt public funding.

"Every organisation is competing for a diminishing charity dollar and public donations are always a challenge for us," Mr Swiatkowski said.

"The same struggles have been apparent in my mind for at least the last seven years. As an organisation, I personally believe that we've just had a lot of bad luck."

Primary Industries Minister Bryan Green said the state government continued to be concerned about the financial situation and was discussing the RSPCA's future with the state and national bodies.

Ms Cass said she had been expelled from the board after publicly criticising the charity's employment structure, which paid for managers in fund- raising, marketing and events, and a corporate services manager.

She said the board should be dismissed and an administrator appointed to sort out the charity's financial woes. She said interstate branches of the RSPCA spent a lot of money on managers and administration.

"RSPCA Tasmania was encouraged to follow that paradigm, but without the millions in bank accounts that interstate branches have," she said.

"As a result, no one will ever know how much of government funding and public donations and bequests have been diverted to these activities, extensive travel, as well as funding expensive legal challenges, rather than being spent on animals."

The charity's national arm would not comment on the Tasmanian situation.

Former state board member Mr Gooi said the charity's viability relied on a management overhaul to encourage new ideas and end conflicts brought on by personality clashes and management style.

Mr Burch said a lack of business acumen had damaged the charity.

"Fortunately, there are other animal welfare organisations in Tasmania doing a better job," he said.


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