TWU restructures after report identifies governance flaws

By: Jason Whittaker

The Transport Workers Union (TWU) is restructuring its Training Education and Industrial Rights Council after an external audit highlighted fundamental

The Transport Workers Union (TWU) is restructuring its Training Education and Industrial Rights Council after an external audit highlighted fundamental flaws in its governance and raised questions as to whether funds were inappropriately used.

The audit was instigated after claims made during the 2007 federal election the TWU was using it to rip off workers as well as to divert funds to Labor candidates in an effort to oust the Howard Government.

But while TWU Federal Secretary Tony Sheldon says the audit — carried out by leading service firm Deloitte — found no impropriety in the activities of the council, the report revealed discrepancies concerning its spending activities.

"We did identify a small number of items that, in our opinion, and from the evidence gathered, many not meet the stated objectives of the Fund," the report says.

It also found the TWU had no procedures in place to determine whether funds were spent for general purposes or for specific activities relating to the council.

"As a result, determining the rationale for decision making for such expenditure is difficult to obtain," the report says.

In an interview with ATN, Sheldon did not confirm whether or not funds were diverted to Labor candidates.

The union boss did say, however, funds were used to train TWU delegates and staff, run occupational health and safety and industrial rights seminars and conferences, as well as cover the cost of lobbying activities.

As well as uncovering flaws in expenditure, the report found no system of governance in place guiding the direction of the council. It recommended management procedures be put in place to improve governance procedures and ensure transparency of expenditure decisions.

Sheldon says the TWU welcomes the recommendations, which will be implemented immediately.

"We are restructuring the fund," he says. "This is an improvement on the governance structure."

Despite having to overhaul the framework of the council, Sheldon says the findings of the independent audit exonerate the union from any wrongdoing and indicate the TWU’s willingness to cooperate with inquiries into the allegations made against it.

Furthermore, an interim decision made by the Australian and Industrial Registrar has found the claims the TWU accepted millions of dollars from transport companies for the training fund while negotiating wage deals for employees of the companies on Channel 9’s Sunday program last year were incorrect, according to Sheldon.

Sunday’s claims sparked a political firestorm, with the former Federal Government launching inquiries into the matter, followed by one — which is still going — by the New South Wales Government.

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