- State Trustees boss sacked over alleged misuse of taxpayer money
- By Benjamin Preiss & Adam Carey
- Contributed by: Sancho ( 2 articles in 2018 )
Craig Dent has denied any wrongdoing and says he will challenge his dismissal.
The head of the government agency responsible for managing the financial affairs of vulnerable Victorians has been sacked for allegedly misusing public funds.
An investigation has substantiated multiple conflict of interest allegations against State Trustees chief executive Craig Dent.
The board of State Trustees will now refer the allegations against Mr Dent to the Independent Broad-Based Anti-Corruption Commission, the state’s corruption watchdog.
McDonald Murholme principal lawyer Andrew Jewell said his client denied the allegations and would challenge his dismissal.
"My client denies any wrongdoing and will challenge the actions of the State Trustees Board including the dismissal by way of legal proceedings," Mr Jewell told The Age.
Mr Dent was on a package of around $430,000 a year including bonuses and superannuation.
The board of the government body voted unanimously to sack Mr Dent after calling in forensic accounting firm RSM Australia to investigate allegations of misusing taxpayer money.
The investigation found there had been seven instances where the allegations were substantiated. Mr Dent was stood down in February this year pending the investigation.
The State Trustees is responsible for handling financial and legal matters for people who cannot do so themselves due to mental illness, disability or other reasons.
The allegations against Mr Dent include that he misused State Trustees funds to arrange the writing and publishing of the book The Creation of Trust and that he improperly claimed credit for writing it.
The investigation found Mr Dent improperly claimed copyright for the book and authorised the spending of State Trustees funds for an event to launch the book at Parliament House.
Mr Dent was also found to have misused State Trustees money for the private use of two Holden Calais cars and deliberately mislead the board’s chair.
However, State Trustees insisted the alleged offences did not involve clients’ funds or wills and no clients had been impacted.
State Trustees board chairwoman Jennifer Acton said the investigation had made conclusive findings that required Mr Dent’s employment to be terminated.
“The board regarded his conduct as constituting serious misconduct,” Professor Acton said.
“We will be referring the matter to IBAC for investigation and then it will be a matter for IBAC.”
Victorian Ombudsman Deborah Glass is also investigating the State Trustees and whether it is acting in the best interests of vulnerable clients.
Earlier this month Ms Glass confirmed there had been a 37 per cent increase in complaints to her office about the State Trustees in the 12 months to June last year and had since remained at a high level.
“People have complained that State Trustees did not consult them about decisions or take their wishes into account,” she said. “There have been complaints that State Trustees did not pay bills or other expenses in a timely way. Others have said communication with State Trustees is difficult.”
Ms Glass cited figures from the State Trustees’ annual report, which showed that it administered the financial and legal affairs of about 11,000 people and managed assets totalling more than $1 billion.
Professor Acton said the Ombudsman’s investigation was a completely separate matter.
Fixing dysfunction with State Trustees CEO Craig Dent