Trust audit may involve ORFU

The relationship between the financially troubled Otago Rugby Football Union and Auckland bars may be revealed as part of an "in-depth audit".

The Department of Internal Affairs has confirmed it is in the "process of completing an in-depth audit" of The Trusts Charitable Foundation (TTCF).

The trust was responsible for more than half of the $5.1 million in pokie grants given to the ORFU between 2005 and 2010.

Last month, the Otago Daily Times reported the cash-strapped union was involved in the purchase of three Auckland bars, known collectively as the Jokers group, which had poker machines aligned to TTCF.

The bars were bought by a third party company with strong links to the ORFU, resulting in a large increase in grants going from TTCF to the union.

An attempt by the union to set up its own poker machine trust was stymied by Internal Affairs in late 2004, which cited concerns over the ORFU's involvement with the bars.

A former union employee, who did not want to be identified, said any Internal Affairs audit could potentially uncover "irregularities" involving poker machine grants.

Internal Affairs was not investigating the union as part of the TTCF audit, but would "follow-up with the society any areas of concern that may be found", a spokesman said.

"If anyone has information of behaviour that may contravene the Gambling Act we would be interested in hearing from them," he said.

Answers concerning the union's close relationship with TTCF were provided to the ODT in September 2009 by former business manager Neville Frost.

Asked about the large number of grants from TTCF, he said "the union has built up a relationship with a number of trusts. TTCF is one of these".

"Generally, trusts provide funding if they are confident that the funds are appropriately spent on worthwhile projects."

He said poker machine grants were "critical" in providing resources to the province's 8000 amateur players.

"All of the funding goes towards providing resources for amateur rugby throughout Otago."

A $200,000 fall in budgeted poker machine grants was earlier this year identified as a major funding shortfall for the union, which at the time faced liquidation.



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