Wednesday 22 September 2010

What happened to the money, Mr Coutts?

President of Cairns Community Radio, Rodney Coutts, has gone into lock down, refusing for anyone to see how he squandered around $160,000 in less than 12 months.

He has refused to answer calls from any media. When Cairns Post journalist Brad Ryan called Mr Coutts, he refused to answer any questions about the station's financial accounts, which at June last year, had $312,000 in the bank.

According to the Association's accounts obtained by CairnsBlog following the Annual General Meeting last Monday, $160,215 was spent in the last year, compared with a tiny proportion the previous year. $110,000 is totally unaccounted for and appears as "Other Activities." The accounts show a loss of $95,404, in contrast to the previous year that recoded a $64,800 profit.

A telephone call this afternoon to the community radio station got no where. Mr Coutts refused to take any calls on the matter.

"Just one moment, I'll get him," the female volunteer said. After a three minute wait, she returned. "I'm sorry, the President is on the air at the moment, and then we have a meeting, so he won't be available."

However, a quick check showed Mr Coutts wasn't on the air at all at the time.

The Post journalist also got the cold shoulder. "He simply refused to talk about it at all." Brad Ryan said. "I asked him about the finances and he gave a 'No Comment'."

The financial black hole adds up to around $3,000 a week that has vanished, with no explanation to the membership or the wider community. It wouldn't matter so much if you could see some return, however over $30,000 has been spent on a car with all expenses for Rod Coutts and close to 50 legal letters to ward off new membership approaches, from the station's solicitors, Tom Stevens.

The substantial reserves were saved up over the preceding five years to pay for large technical upgrades and a complete rebuild of the transmitter site on Mt Yarrabah, expected to cost around $300,000.

"This money has been frittered away, and that's where Coutts has got his fair share, and probably others have got their fair share," Ross Parisi of the Friends of 4CCR says. "This has becoming a milking machine."

"I asked for Leichhardt MP Warren Entsch and Cairns MP Desley Boyle to become involved," Parisi says. "I mean, what have we got for that money in the last year? If it was spent on capital investments, it would be listed under depreciation. It's not listed under that. There's been small amount being incrementally spent, it might be two or three or four thousand a week, it's being siphoned. Where's that money gone for fuck's sake?"

"How can the Federal Government just sit by? Who does the audits for these organisations?"
Ross Parisi asks. "When this money is given out as grants from the Community Broadcasting Foundation, does anyone audit this? Or was it spent on lollies and cigarettes and whatever?"

"There seems an incredible lack of accountability as to where this money has gone. there should be some Federal inquiry," Ross Paris says. "We have to get to the bottom of this."


ex member said...

I see in todays Cairns Post that a woman working at the hospital misappropriated $100,000 -she is now facing the magistrate -does this sound a wee bit familiar with the local community radio being ripped off for a similar amount in half the time?(Ms Pharoah took two and a half years!) Mr Coutts needs to explain his loss over just one year. What does the Auditor say?

:Kevin-John: Morgan. said...

Why have the Federal Police not been involved here?
A FEDERAL crime has been committed!
Mr Coutts should put up or shut up and leave, hopefully in a the back of a Federal Police wagon.
Why has this farce gone on for so long?
The station should be temporarily taken off air, investigated by a competent group of scrutineers, and all those responsible for missing funds, overzealousness, and just plain fascism, should be jailed.

Tom said...

ACMA should immediately pull the plug on this station. It's time to start again with a properly constituted and accountable committee. I'm amazed it hasn't happened sooner.

Michael Hyams said...

We all know what ACMA should do, and I have to agree with the three previous contributors. If you feel so strongly, and I am delighted to see that you do, join :Friends of 4CCR" It will consume a neagre amount of your time and money and every new member that we can get will help the demise of thecurrent Management. Join the Radion Station as`well to give yourself a voice. Good advice is fine, as far as it goes. As Ross Parisi has so often said Politics is a game played by numbers. By the time the next confrontation between Coutts and his opponents (If he hasnt bankrupted the station by then) we need all the numbers we can get. Dont just let off steam on the Blog Do something constructive.Join the battle.

Ross parisi said...

Mr Coutts and the Management Committee need to understand and accept that the Friends will not be retreating until administrative and financial integrity is restored to Cairns FM 89.1.

The 2009/10 Statement of Accounts indicates that a negative turnaround of $160,000 was recorded in 2009/10 as well as other alarming entries.

The Friends believe that the following elements need to be addressed as they form an integral part in restoring public confidence to a public entity that is Cairns FM 89.1.

In the interest of proper public standards and decency, Mr Coutts and the Management Committee, should stand down and an Interim Administrator be appointed while the investigations are conducted.

1. I call on the Federal Member for Leichhardt, Mr.W. Entsch MHR, to make representation to the Gillard Government on the following outstanding matters:

(a) that a Federal Government sponsored forensic audit be conducted as a matter of urgency into the financial affairs of Cairns FM 89.1;
(b) that ACMA be requested to have a formal investigation into the application of the Code of Practice, membership and appeal procedures of Cairns FM89.1;
(c) that the programmming structure be investigated to assess whether it is conforming with the license requirements;
(d) that the ageing and rusted broadcasting infrastructure located on Mount Yarrabah and the holding tenure be investigated to assess whether they are secure.

2. I call on the State Member for Cairns, Hon D. Boyle MLA, to request the State Office of Fair Trading to conduct an investigation into:

(a) the procedures and outcome of the 13th September Annual General Meeting;
(b) the potential of professional conflict of Mr Ricketts’ technical maintenance contract and his ongoing position on the Management Committee;
(c) the apparent lack of separation of power between the President, Secretary and Treasurer.

In conclusion the 5 year forward estimates of Cairns FM 89.1 ethnic grant assistance is in excess of $ 600,000. It is imperative that transparency and accountability be beyond suspicion and conjecture.

Never tell lies said...

After the billions of $$$ being ripped off in the wake of the BER and Pink Batts fiasco's, why do you expect the Gillard Socialists would worry about the few dollars related to this saga ?

Miss Honest said...

Ex Member and Never tell lies,

The common thread in these two stories (hospital fraud and Communtiy radio) is that some individuals in authority have no sense of right or wrong, propriety, ethics or any responsiblity towards accountability or adhering to a standard of conduct.

Our accounting systems lack the finesse to flag these weekly, or monthly or yearly unaccounted overspends until it is too late. They get caught eventually, but recuping the money is often not possible.

To think that $100,000 in this instance has been wasted when it was earmarked and could have been spent on patient care, is indeed a serious moral and criminal matter.

Obviously more robust financial systems and personal accountability in these senior roles needs to happen, but the big question is will it?

I see wastage of public monies everyday by QLD govt. staff doing unnecessary travel when a teleconfernece would suffice, and then claiming at least $100 per day in Travel Allowances (that is the current negotiated allowances).

Some QLD staffers are lucky to be working at their desks one week out of four! Some serious auditing needs to go on in this area for starters!

hot exmember said...

Aha! Listened to 89.1fm this morning and at last all has been revealed -Coutts latest sponsor is the local crematorium!! The money is all being burned! -next year they can burn the corpse of the bankrupt station!! What an obliging sponsor -most businesses wouldn't be caught dead sponsoring this station.

Vess B said...

@Never tell lies said... - learn about possessive apostrophes versus plurals and then learn to read facts before you spew crap with your uninformed comments. No relevance to the topic at all. Must be school holidays huh?

Lillian at Yorkeys said...

Miss Honest - ACMA have been aware of these abuses for a couple of years now, but have only kept a watching brief on the situation, & only given them warnings, many warnings, which should by now have resulted in action. But no. Hopefully in the near future, after this new AGM "financial statement they may. But to what end - will they kick arse? Probably not.
But I think this is a wider problem - I call it Death By Bureaucracy.

KFC said...

One big difference between the two Miss Honest. One is a government department that is ultimately accountable to the government, the CMC and finally the voter. 4CCR on the other hand is a volunteer organisation which, under Federal legislation is 'owned' by the community, but obviously these days it has some kind of indemnity from closer scrutiny from government departments like ACMA/Taxation department and of course we can't vote them out of their jobs because we can no longer be members of the station.

These current individuals who have stolen the twenty - five years plus hard work of many volunteers that have kept 4CCR on air now apparently see this organisation as their own private business.

Perhaps I should send Mr Coutts a bill for my fourteen years of voluntary work - in many capacities- with 4CCR maintaining what he now apparently sees as his own private company.

Judging by their novel foray into actually getting sponsors rather than feeding of the government funding teat it would seem they still have plenty of money to burn.

exmember said...

Thanks KFC -your contribution to this saga is very interesting -it clearly discloses the Catch 22 we, as exmembers face -we cannot vote the current committee out as we have to be a member and we can't be a member because the Coutts wagon won't accept us. Ross P's posting tells it as it is at present. ACMA are sitting on their hands about this but if you look at the ACMA website under Community Radio Investigations you will see that many other stations have had quite serious restrictions placed on them for doing much less harm than the current management under Mr Coutts.I am glad to see that the Cairns Post has at last shown a bit more interest but I still find it amazing that the Bridge Club got a front page! Public funds were not at stake here.