The very public ructions at the Health Services Union (HSU) have understandably caused a lot of disquiet among members in the broader union movement, including nurses.
I share this disquiet, as do other union leaders, at what we are hearing about practices at the HSU.
There have been very serious allegations about the misuse of union credit cards and funds.
I would like to explain the checks and balances that exist at the NSWNA to provide institutional safeguards against such behavior in your union.
Credit cards are available to a number of staff members. This is unavoidable in an organisation such as ours, where travel is a core characteristic of a union official’s role. They are essential to the efficient running of the union.
But the use of Association credit cards is strictly monitored and restricted and these checks and balances are embedded in Association policy. Cash withdrawals are not available. The use of the union credit card for personal expenses is forbidden.
Each week our finance department downloads all transactions from all credit cards and examines them for fraud or inappropriate use. The monthly statement of each card is vetted by the staff member’s manager and is subject to vigorous oversight by the finance department.
Similarly the NSWNA’s accounts are subject to strong oversight.
The Association’s accounts, including a monthly balance sheet, are presented to the NSWNA Council each month. Council is not just provided with an overview but also an analysis of performance – category by category – against budget for that month and for the year to date.
The balance sheet contains a full list of all payments made for that month with the name of the payee, the amount and a description of the transaction.
The council is made up of the General Secretary and the Assistant General Secretary who answer to 21 councillors – all of them working nurses – who provide external oversight and accountability to the running of the union.
The accounts are subject to a vigorous external annual audit. The auditors go through all the council minutes in detail. All big-ticket expenditures, like advertising campaigns, must be pre-approved by council. The auditors verify that these expenditures are then consistent with council approval.
The auditors not only look at the detail of expenditures they also stress test the financial methodologies that we use. They comprehensively question our finance department and relevant managers to test that our methodology, management and risk assessment are sound.
The fully audited accounts, including explanatory notes, are available on the members’ area of the NSWNA website. A summary of the accounts is also published in this issue of The Lamp (see page 35). The full accounts are also available to any member, on request.
This level of transparency exceeds all the legal obligations that exist under the NSW Industrial Relations Act.
The auditors also present the full accounts for the year to our Annual Conference. Any delegate at the conference is free to ask the auditors questions about the report.
The NSWNA is a relatively large organisation, with more than 130 staff members, and a large number of daily financial transactions, which is normal for an organisation of our size.
We have been diligent, over the years, in ensuring there are professional financial structures to manage and account for the Association’s financial resources.
There is no complacency about how our members’ fees are managed.
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