Kolomeitz fears RSL will 'fade into irrelevance' without new constitution

06-Dec-2018

The organisation held an extraordinary general meeting on Tuesday, where members voted on a new constitution to overhaul the league's governance issues.

The proposed constitution aimed to increase transparency and efficiency, make legal compliance easier, and introduce controls to restore fundraising activities.

It was voted down 68 per cent to 32 per cent.

Mr Kolomeitz, who helped lift the lid on the league's financial scandals in 2016, said the result was a "very disappointing outcome for the league in NSW and particularly in the Illawarra".

"Without this new constitution in place, sub-branches will not be able to fundraise to sustain their charitable work," he said.

"Local sub-branches just don't have the millions of dollars which the large sub-branches in Sydney, that actively opposed and lobbied against this constitution, have."

RSL NSW president James Brown said under the current constitution it is difficult to comply with the charitable fundraising law and it's unlikely the organisation would be able to fundraise until a new constitution is passed.

He's hopeful a revised constitution will pass at the next extraordinary congress meeting in May.

This means for a second year, it's unlikely the veteran's charity will be able to raise funds for itself on Anzac Day.

Last week, RSL NSW said in a statement 160 of the league's 352 sub-branches are at risk of closing because of their inability to resume fundraising.

Mr Kolomeitz said the old constitution was "complex and ambiguous" and such ambiguity enabled the "financial impropriety which was made public last year". 

"As an organisation we need to prove to the public and to the charities watchdog that our governance is sound, our processes are transparent, and our financial management is beyond reproach," he said.

"The new constitution, underpinned by the recently amended legislation, would have served those purposes and instilled confidence in the public on whose donations our charitable work depends. 

"I pray a revised constitution passes at Congress next year before the RSL in NSW ceases to be the leading veterans' charity in NSW and fades into irrelevance.

"The present and future generations of veterans and their families depend on that."

Mr Brown told AAP the organisation needed to think carefully about how to reconcile the governance arrangements members prefer with the governance required by the law and charities.

One of the main issues for members was that they didn't have enough time to process the new constitution and that it lacked specific details, he added.

The organisation has been going through significant reform since a public inquiry last year revealed former president Don Rowe used his RSL credit card between 2009 and 2014 to pay for his mortgage, family phone bills, flights and meals.

The fundraising ban was announced by Mr Brown after the revelations were made in the public inquiry.

Source: Illawarra Mercury