Se­crecy blamed for demise

Central and North Rural Weekly - - RURAL WEEKLY - ALEXAN­DRA LASKIE alexan­dra.laskie@news.com.au

AN EN­TRENCHED cul­ture of se­crecy, com­pet­ing state­based agen­das and a board bogged down in bu­reau­cracy have been blamed for Eques­trian Aus­tralia’s rapid de­scent into the hands of ad­min­is­tra­tors.

Two for­mer Eques­trian Aus­tralia board mem­bers, Gil­lian Canapini and Ricky Macmil­lan, have penned an ex­plo­sive open let­ter al­leg­ing eques­trian sport’s na­tional gov­ern­ing body has been a “train wreck” that has not been re­spon­si­ble or ac­count­able to mem­bers, in­clud­ing by call­ing in ad­min­is­tra­tors Kor­da­men­tha be­fore con­sult­ing its mem­bers.

“In our view, EA’S board has not func­tioned openly or for the ben­e­fit of mem­bers as a whole … Its de­ci­sions are of­ten made with­out trans­parency. The lat­est chap­ter in a se­quence of ques­tion­able de­ci­sions cen­tres on who was re­spon­si­ble for the re­cent de­ci­sion to place EA in ad­min­is­tra­tion and why was there no con­sul­ta­tion with, or no­tice to mem­bers?”

Ms Macmil­lan, an Olympic dres­sage rider who was ap­pointed EA chair in Novem­ber last year with as­pi­ra­tions of democratis­ing the board, re­signed in April cit­ing that change had been “un­ob­tain­able” within the cur­rent struc­ture of the or­gan­i­sa­tion. Ms Canapini re­signed shortly after­wards “in ut­ter frus­tra­tion”.

“There were lay­ers upon lay­ers of lev­els of power, with no re­spon­si­bil­ity to mem­bers, poor di­a­logue be­tween di­rec­tors and com­pet­ing agen­das be­tween the states,” Ms Canapini said.

The for­mer lawyer said her re­peated re­quests for in­for­ma­tion on the use of govern­ment fund­ing while on the board were de­nied. “I still ques­tion why I wasn’t able to get the in­for­ma­tion,” she said.

EA’S op­er­at­ing model con­sists of 70 sub­com­mit­tees. In 2018, $13.5 mil­lion was spent on ad­min­is­tra­tion.

Last Tues­day, EA’S four re­main­ing board mem­bers – Peter Toft, John Glenn, He­len Hamil­ton-jones and Cathi Col­lier – engaged in­sol­vency firm Kor­da­men­tha as vol­un­tary ad­min­is­tra­tors. The move fol­lowed a let­ter from Sports Aus­tralia a week ear­lier no­ti­fy­ing EA that it would with­hold its core fund­ing un­til sound gover­nance could be demon­strated.

“In re­cent times, the lead­er­ship and gover­nance at EA has fallen well short of ac­cept­able stan­dards with the res­ig­na­tion of eight di­rec­tors, in­clud­ing three chairs, in the past 16 months,” a Sports Aus­tralia state­ment said.

“We will re­visit our po­si­tion on these mat­ters when EA demon­strates to our sat­is­fac­tion that it has de­vel­oped, and will im­ple­ment, a new gover­nance model that achieves our core re­quire­ments of be­ing struc­turally demo­cratic, rep­re­sen­ta­tive and sta­ble.”

EA’S board said Sports Aus­tralia’s with­drawal of about $450,000 in fund­ing, cou­pled with the im­pact of COVID-19, placed the or­gan­i­sa­tion at risk of in­sol­vency.

Yet just 12 months ago, EA had more than $1.72 mil­lion in cash re­serves and a sur­plus for the 2018-19 year of $141,000.

While govern­ment fund­ing con­trib­uted 53 per cent of its rev­enue base that year, its most re­cent an­nual re­port men­tions a “broad plan of ac­tion” should the govern­ment cut fund­ing. Re­quests to speak to ad­min­is­tra­tors for de­tails of this plan went unan­swered.

The first meet­ing of cred­i­tors, which in­clude Sports Aus­tralia and EA’S 20,000 mem­bers, will be held this Fri­day.

WHY WAS THERE NO CON­SUL­TA­TION WITH, OR NO­TICE TO MEM­BERS?

GIL­LIAN CANAPINI AND RICKY MACMIL­LAN

Pic­ture: Jenny Dug­gan

In­fight­ing has been blamed for the down­fall of eques­trian sport’s na­tional gov­ern­ing body.

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