ACT clubs committed to transparency on community contributions
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ACT clubs committed to transparency on community contributions

Canberra clubs are committed to "integrity and transparency" when it comes to reporting community contributions, but it's up to government to set up more oversight of the process, says the head of ClubsACT.

Chief executive Gwyn Rees was responding to a report from ACT auditor-general Maxine Cooper, that found the government was not ensuring that compulsory “community contributions” from clubs were actually being used to benefit the community.

"Additional oversight of spending is up to the government and the regulator to decide - clubs are audited and this has always been the case," Mr Rees said.

Dr Cooper said clubs were not providing enough information to assess how some of the money was being spent and whether it was eligible under law to be considered a"community contribution".

She said many expenditure reports made it difficult "to understand the exact nature of the expenditure and the community contribution claimed".

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Canberra's clubs, which control the city's 4723 poker machines, must by law give at least 8 per cent of profits from gambling to community groups (profits after tax and 24 per cent running costs).

In 2016-17, clubs made $168 million from poker machines and gave $11.9 million in community contributions.

Dr Cooper chose 10 clubs at random for an in-depth check of their claims over three years, finding that of the $5.7 million claimed, $1.2 million went to a recipient and purpose that was not clear.

Mr Rees said the scheme was already recognising more contributions than the legislated 8 per cent.

"If we picked away any area of concerns I am confident that ClubsACT members would continue to deliver well above that amount," he said.

"The recent PWC analysis demonstrated the contributions scheme realised a value of up to $33 million despite only $11 million being reported. What this means is that, if the scheme didn’t exist, this is what would need to be replaced through alternative programs or funding."

ACT gaming minister Gordan Ramsay said he welcomed Dr Cooper's comments.

"The report will be used as part of the review we previously committed to with a view to maximise the direct benefit to the community from the scheme," he said.

"The review will include extensive engagement with industry and the community on the current scheme as well as any proposed changes and improvements."

Chair of club advocacy group Canberra Community Clubs Athol Chalmers agreed that better guidelines were needed for clubs when reporting claims.

“I certainly don’t see it as a criticism of clubs, but that they could operate a bit better,” he said.

“I do think it’s a good thing that from time to time, governments do look at these things and make sure it’s achieving what it’s meant to achieve.”

He also agreed the objectives around community contributions might need “tightening”.

“The only thing I’d say would be that I think it’s good public policy to do that from time to time, just to check that the policy is achieving what you want it to achieve, and [Dr Cooper] seems to be saying, you need to tighten up the objectives, get better clarity around what you can and can’t claim, and that way you’ll get the outcomes that you want.”

Sally Pryor is a reporter at The Canberra Times.

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