'Serious concerns' over bowling club's transactions

An $85,000 payment made by the Otago Bowling Club to a company of which its former president was a director, is among more than a dozen transactions under investigation by liquidators.

The club was put into liquidation in the High Court at Dunedin on Monday as part of an investigation into the distribution of proceeds from the sale of the club and ground last year. The Registrar of Incorporated Societies initiated the investigation after receiving a complaint about the sale of the club last June.

The first report by liquidator Trevor Laing and Associates - which was given to the Otago Daily Times - said the club and grounds were sold for $350,898.77 in March 2011.

The report said the Registrar of Incorporated Societies had ''serious concerns'' about payments made from the proceeds of the sale, including $85,000

to Southern Pearl Ltd, of which former club president Lester Nash was a director until it was struck off the New Zealand Companies Office Register last year.

The payment was made as a result of an ''undated and unsigned agreement'' giving the company a 10-year licence to take spring water from the club's grounds beginning in 2007. The licence was surrendered at the time of sale and a payment was made after a valuation of the remaining water rights.

The registrar also had concerns about individual payments of $16,552 to 10 club members and the payment of a ''similar amount'' to four club office bearers.

The report also said the registrar found there were ''serious shortcomings'' in the administration of the club.

''Matters of concern identified include a lack of properly kept records, such as minutes, leading to a conclusion that important transactions of the society [club] may not have been properly authorised,'' the report said.

Mr Laing said his first priority was to recover the money if the transactions were made improperly.

He had the power to interview under oath club officers and anyone connected with the club. He hoped for ''co-operation in the first instance'', but could refer matters to the police if he uncovered criminal activity.

Bowls New Zealand region six community development officer Pete Thomson said earlier this week he was ''very confident'' the liquidator would get to the bottom of what occurred. It was his understanding all proceeds from the sale were split among club members, which was against the club's constitution.

''It's pretty black and white what should have happened.

''The constitution said all money should have been distributed to a sporting body or back to the community,'' he said. A former member of the club declined to comment when contacted yesterday.

- vaughan.elder@odt.co.nz

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