ORFU report to stay confidential

Beverley Wakem.
Beverley Wakem.
A confidential report following the financial collapse of the Otago Rugby Football Union is likely to remain confidential.

The Dunedin City Council agreed to write off a debt of more than $400,000 and Dunedin Venues Management Ltd a debt of $80,000 to help the union avoid liquidation in March last year.

The New Zealand Rugby Union, which lent the cash-strapped union $500,000, commissioned a report by Cascade Consulting to look at the union's involvement with pokie grants.

The report was later supplied to the Department of Internal Affairs, which declined to release the documents on the grounds it ''would be likely to prejudice the supply of similar information''.

The Otago Daily Times lodged a complaint with the office of the Ombudsman on July 25, 2012, asking for the release of the information.

Chief Ombudsman Dame Beverley Wakem, in a provisional opinion released this week, said the department was entitled to withhold the information.

The department argued that, as a regulator, it relied on members of the public coming forward with information about non-compliance in the gambling sector.

Such information was often supplied in confidence, and the department considered the public would be less likely to supply it if they knew it could later become publicly available.

''The department does not consider the withholding of the report on ORFU provided by NZRU would diminish public confidence in the department as a responsible regulator of the gambling sector and does not consider that these reasons for withholding the information are outweighed by other considerations which render it desirable, in the public interest, to make the information available,'' the department noted.

The NZRU last year declined to release the report, but did issue a statement.

''In the course of finalising the recovery package for the ORFU, the NZRU became aware of potential issues relating to funds obtained by the union from gaming trusts.

''The NZRU carried out its own investigation and were satisfied that the funds it planned to invest in the ORFU as part of the recovery package were not at any material risk from any potential action by authorities.''

Internal Affairs was not investigating the union, and an audit of the union's biggest pokie funder, The Trusts Charitable Foundation (TTCF) had been posted online.

Last year, the ODT reported the union had been involved in buying three Auckland-based bars and had entered a relationship with TTCF, after Internal Affairs declined its request to set up a pokie trust.

hamish.mcneilly@odt.co.nz

 

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