Inquiry documents go missing

by Chris Griffith
Published 5 June 1993 in The Sun-Herald


my face


Documents crucial to a senate investigation into alleged improper practices in a Queensland union superannuation fund are missing, according to the documents' custodian, National Mutual.

The revelation, made to a Brisbane public hearing of the Senate Select Committee on Superannuation, followed National Mutual's claim that in1987 four contributors received superannuation benefits after payment request forms wrongly indicated the members were resigning their employment.

National Mutual said the four payment request forms had gone missing from the corporation's files.

An intensive search for the documents is underway.

The senate committee was conducting its second Brisbane hearing into the operation of the Queensland Professional Officers' Association superannuation fund.

Committee chairman, Labor Senator Nick Sherry, said yesterday he would subpoena the documents if necessary.

Senator Sherry said he has asked for searches to be conducted urgently in letters to the Queensland Archivist and the state Department of Employment, Vocational Education, Training, and Industrial Relations.

The members who withdrew funds were Mr Don Martindale, a former association General Secretary, Ms Roslyn Kinder, a former association Assistant General Secretary, Mr Kerry Daly, a former accountant of the Queensland Professional Credit Union, and Mr Gordon Rutherford, general manager of the Queensland Professional Credit Union.

Mr Martindale later became the Queensland Trades and Labor Council's Assistant General Secretary and is now the Health Department's Director of Industrial Relations. Ms Kinder is the Public Sector ManagementCommission's Director of Human Resource Management.

All four appeared before the senate inquiry. All have denied any wrongdoing and say the payouts were simply transfers into compliant personal superannuation funds and were consistent with superannuation portability provisions.

However superannuation and actuaries consultant Towers Perrin - brought in last year to review the fund - said the payouts were contrary to theTrust Deed which in 1987 authorised withdrawals on termination, retirement, death, or disablement- not transfers.

Towers Perrin said the transfers resulted in a fund shortfall and some contributors had withdrawn a larger employer contribution than had been provided for.

The consultants calculated the four contributors took a total of $120,546- $31,485 of their own monies and $89,061 in employer contributions.

National Mutual said: "Staff who were familiar with the files ... have confirmed that Benefit Payment Request forms were received for each member and that those forms indicated the members had `resigned' from employment".

However all four remained in employment.

The corporation said the missing documents were sent to the Cooke Inquiry in April 1991. "Although the files were returned to National Mutual on 28 May 1991, we have been unable to locate in those files documents relating to these particular payments", National Mutual said.

At the hearing Tasmanian Liberal Senator John Watson attacked National Mutual, saying it was "quite extraordinary" that National Mutual, for its own protection, failed to keep copies of the documents it handed to the Cooke Inquiry.

Deputy Opposition Leader Kev Lingard yesterday called on Premier Wayne Goss to ensure the documents "were not destroyed and made available as a matter of priority".

National Mutual representatives also told last week's senate hearing that staff had claimed one of the beneficiaries, Ms Kinder, authorised the payment benefit requests for the payouts.

Ms Kinder has not responded to The Sun-Herald's invitation to reply to National Mutual's claim, however a senate committee member, Democrat Leader Senator Cheryl Kernot, said she wanted the committee reconvened to allow Ms Kinder to respond.

Towers Perrin also said the fund's Trust Deed had been altered retrospectively in 1990 to validate the 1987 payout, a motive denied by National Mutual but supported in evidence by Mr Martindale.

Mr Martindale was both a beneficiary of the 1987 payout and a Trustee in 1990 responsible for the retrospective amendment.

Mr Martindale said that in 1990 after discovering the breech of theTrust Deed, National Mutual did not suggest the monies be returned, but recommended going "through the appropriate procedures to gain authorisation to amend the trust deed".

When asked if that meant retrospectively, Mr Martindale said: "Yes".

National Mutual's claim that the application forms indicated resignation is consistent with evidence last month by Mr Sean Curley, the former association's president and a current Trustee.

Mr Curley recalled a meeting with Towers Perrin where a consultant alleged Mr Rutherford had told him he signed documents stating he "had resigned from employment to get access to the superannuation funds".Last week Mr Rutherford said: "I have no recollection of that and I am sure that I did not".

Mr Rutherford indicated the notification to National Mutual was by word of mouth.

Mr Curley yesterday told The Sun-Herald the superannuation fund's shortfall was around $32,000. He said he would meet with the other Trustees to propose action in light of National Mutual's evidence.

A spokesperson for the Criminal Justice Commission, Ms Marion Smith, said the CJC could not investigate the fund because it had no jurisdiction to investigate misconduct in unions - a role recommended for the CJC by the Cooke Inquiry.

In 1991 the association was among organisations that encouraged the Goss Government to reject the recommendation.

In a letter to then Industrial Relations minister Nev Warburton, theassociation argued: "Should the Commissioner's recommendation beaccepted then every employer, whether a Union, a Company or a privateindividual, will be subject to review by the Criminal JusticeCommission."

"Such a course simply flies in the face of common sense, fairness,justice and practicality," the association said.