Deputy Administrator Pat Miller gave herself legal aid loan

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p2212-CAALAS-form-1OKBy ERWIN CHLANDA

 

Members of the same family, including former CEO and Deputy to the Territory Administrator Pat Miller, have approved “advance payments” to themselves and each other from funds of the Central Australian Aboriginal Legal Aid Service (CAALAS).

 

They are or were employees of CAALAS. With four cases the applicant and the authorising officer were one and the same person: in one case Mrs Miller and three, her son, Allan.

 

This is revealed in documents leaked to the Alice Springs News Online this morning.

 

But Mr Miller says the practice has been in place at CAALAS, for “20 years plus” and used by numerous staff members for all kinds of purposes: “You could call some these hardship payments.” However, not until he was Administration Manager last year were the advances formalised on application forms.

 

The leaked documents also reveal advice to the Attorney-General’s Department of  the Australian Government “that [refund] payments are being made each pay week [and] most of the advanced funds will have been repaid by the next pay run”.

 

Mr Miller says he repaid the advances he had received at the time he was made redundant in October last year, or before.

 

The department was advised of the practice by senior lawyer (now acting CEO) Mark O’Reilly. He described the situation in an email as “an issue of concern within the organisation”.

 

He said CAALAS chairman Robert Le Rossignol had asked him to “alert the department as a matter of urgency”. Mr O’Reilly said the transactions had been detected by an employee of CAALAS who had told him of his concerns about what “amounted to loans by CAALAS to staff members”. The email was sent on October 8, 2014.

 

Said Mr O’Reilly: “The Board were unaware of the advance payments.

 

“They are also keen to enquire if there is any particular response or further action required.”

 

Mr Miller says it wasn’t a function of the board to deal with issues like that, but there was a system of completing the forms, having them approved, and then transferring them to the finance department. Asked what happened then – were the transactions reflected in the financial records? – Mr Miller said this was not part of his job.

 

The News has offered the right of reply to Mrs Miller and Mr O’Reilly. Mrs Miller did not respond and has not to any of our many recent attempts to get in touch to her.  Mr O’Reilly declined to comment.

 

We have also sought comment from the Attorney-General’s Department which has recently conducted an inquiry into CAALAS. We have not received any response by time of publication.p2208-Pat-Miller-1

 

The department recently declined to release the report of its inquiry to the News, saying only that it is an “internal report [and will not be] released publicly”.

 

We understand that report also deals with unauthorised uses of a credit card, and that the department has now appointed a “funding controller”.

 

The advance payments of which we are aware were all made to members of the Miller family. The smallest amount was $1000, the highest $6,500.

 

One document shows that Mrs Miller (above, left)  signed for a $2000 advance to herself as the applicant as well as the person authorising it. It was to be repaid in two installments of $1000 over the following month.

 

All the advances were made in July and August last year. Each form included details of refund arrangements. All were to be paid by installment over a relatively short period.

 

 

 

 

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14 Comments (starting with the most recent)

NB: If you want to reply to a previous comment, start your comment with this notation: @n where n is the number of the comment you want to reply to.
  1. Jimmy Jam
    Posted March 6, 2015 at 4:02 pm

    Honest Arrente sounds like they are on the CAALAS Board and trying to peddle a message of support for the Board!?

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  2. Honest Arrente
    Posted February 19, 2015 at 7:55 am

    Some people just don’t get it, do they?
    This is an issue about GOVERNANCE. The former CEO’s and others’ behaviour is totally unprofessional and inexcusable.
    Add her title of Deputy Administrator to the mix and that dimension makes it even more UNPROFESSIONAL.
    The Board should immediately call in the auditors so it can be determined if any of the said loans remain outstanding, the BoD can establish clear operating directions, and we can all find out who the beneficiaries are / were, and recovery, and further disciplinary action, can be taken if necessary.

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  3. Stillabeliever
    Posted February 18, 2015 at 11:29 am

    It’s a great shame that this goes on despite internal cultures within organisations “accepting” this practice.
    While very likely monies have been repaid it just adds more fuel to the fire towards defaming and corrupting well meaning organisations who are there only to serve the people.
    Elected board members need to understand they are not there to have privileged access to benefits.
    In fact they should be completely exempt to avoid any finger pointing or tongues wagging.
    Not only does it hurt them, but the very people who need to have confidence in their own processes and governance.

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  4. Jimmy Jam
    Posted February 17, 2015 at 9:56 pm

    The CAALAS Board should be ashamed of themselves! Who released the document to the press? A member of the board would have done.
    The same old trouble-makers circulate the boards of other Aboriginal Corporations and cause trouble to set up their own empires.
    Advancing an amount against a future wage payment is not unusual. Something reeks here – and it is a few members of the CAALAS Board who are to blame.
    And get this, an AGM is coming up soon, and more of the same trouble-makers are trying to get on to bolster the bad-guy numbers! I speak from direct experience with some of the existing board members.

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  5. Honest Arrente
    Posted February 17, 2015 at 7:46 pm

    Thank you Erwin for publishing this story. I smelt a rat or two or more, some weeks ago when this story first surfaced on Facebook.
    Their interest-free loans have denied community members basic resourses to defend themselves in the justice system.
    This issue is about ‘GOOD GOVERNANCE’.
    These people have breached the responsibilities given to them through the Rules of Association / Incorporation, and their employment contracts.
    I fully support the BoD to terminate the employment contracts of these irresponsible individuals and replace them with people who are responsible and committed to community members who need most assistance to defend themselves in the courts.

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  6. Old Alice Boy
    Posted February 17, 2015 at 5:28 pm

    Loans approved by the applicant – what a way to go.

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  7. Ateam
    Posted February 16, 2015 at 6:33 pm

    Here we go again, this is what Maurie Ryan tried to do with the CLC and Centrecorp and all other Aboriginal Corporations – make them open and transparent.
    CAALAS should be ashamed of themselves from the director down. This is what goes on in every Aboriginal organisation in Alice Springs, if only Aboriginal people took notice of Mr Ryan you would have seen all the workings of these so call helpers of Aboriginal People.
    They say they are pulling Aboriginal people out of poverty. Yeh, right.
    All they are doing is pulling themselves out of poverty. Take a look at all the educated Aboriginal people in the CLC, Centrecorp, Congress, Tangentyere Council all these directors. Have a good long look, I can tell you they have not done a damn thing for Aboriginal people, just for themselves.
    I hope you all get what you deserve, sitting down poor with nothing, but this will never happen. Look what happened to Mr Ryan from the CLC, attacked by white lawyers and the administration, for what? Trying to change it for the good of the people. The world is full of dictators who think they can get away with whatever they want.

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  8. Interested Onlooker
    Posted February 16, 2015 at 6:01 pm

    @ Ray – are you serious? Blackmail or maybe a conspiracy? Someone has probably been wronged and now someone has been caught out doing the wrong thing publicly. The whole lot reeks of everyone for themselves. You know something about money being paid back? Drip,drip,drip. Move on and get working on doing the right thing and put your hand up for the board. 🙂

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  9. Will
    Posted February 16, 2015 at 1:20 pm

    Seriously … I doubt if there is an organisation in town that this hasn’t occurred in.
    Everyone has had advance pays, overpayments of TA, usage of vehicles by spouses, long lunch breaks, excessive smoke breaks, using the garage, private use of photocopier, printer, even using the PCs at work to log on here and read … where will it end.
    Only those who are faultless have the right to pass judgment upon others.

    View Comment
  10. Ray
    Posted February 16, 2015 at 12:28 pm

    It’s funny how this story has been leaked, when only certain people have access to theses documents in the organisation.
    And it certainly does not mention that the money was payed back the very next pay week (ADVANCE ON WAGES.) Well it just goes to show that the board and the PLO are still trying to cover up their own mistakes by using any kind of blackmail towards the old CEO.
    Dr Miller, who has been forced to accepted her retirement by this lot of bullies, is a legend in my books, and the no life board need to move on and let young blood take over. They should be the ones retiring.

    View Comment
  11. Observer
    Posted February 16, 2015 at 11:11 am

    Given that CAALAS is essentially an instrument of the Justice System and funded by the Federal Government, I struggle to see the reason for a board and the opportunity it creates for lack of transparency and suspect activity.
    Why is CAALAS not simply a Government service and operated as such?

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  12. The Plot Thickens
    Posted February 16, 2015 at 11:09 am

    @ Panagke: Been going on for years? Let the department look into all the loans and name them all.

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  13. Panagke
    Posted February 16, 2015 at 10:39 am

    So really, what else is new here? This has been going on for years but only if you’re related to the former CEO. Let’s see what happens now she’s gone. As for the Board not knowing about it, yeah, righto, pull the other one!

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  14. Elvis
    Posted February 14, 2015 at 9:48 pm

    If I want a cash loan I have to go to a bank and pay interest on the loan I have taken out.

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