(Issued by Department of the Environment and Energy)
A former Managing Director and consultant to the Australian Rainforest Foundation (ARF), Mr Roger Frederick Phillips, has been sentenced to 12 months imprisonment after he was found guilty of two charges of General Dishonesty—Cause a Risk of a Loss to the Commonwealth.
Judge Morzone QC imposed an immediate release order on the condition that Mr Phillips be of good behaviour for a period of 12 months and Mr Phillips entered into a $2000 surety.
The Judge stated that Mr Phillips offending was calculated and it involved a misuse of public funds. The offending was opportunistic and the amount involved was relatively significant.
He said that Mr Phillips abused the trust and authority of a Managing Director of a charitable organisation and that this type of offending is an abuse of the community’s trust through their hard work and taxes.
Investigations into the misuse of $44,551.26 in Australian Government funding, awarded to ARF under the Caring for Our Country—Targeted Area Grants round, were prompted when the Department of the Environment and Energy received allegations of fraud.
The funding, to be delivered over three milestone payments, was to help rehabilitate the land through weeding and revegetation works at an area around Leo Road, Maria Creek at Mission Beach. The delivery of the activities at the project site was also meant to provide opportunities for Indigenous training and employment, and community engagement activities.
Investigations by the Department of the Environment and Energy’s Office of Compliance found the former Managing Director of the Australian Rainforest Foundation, a not for profit organisation and registered charity, used grant money to pay his own company’s outstanding invoices and to help purchase a new car.
Misuse of Commonwealth money is a very serious offence and one that the Department of the Environment and Energy takes very seriously.
The Department conducts monitoring and auditing to ensure that Departmental grant funds are spent in accordance with funding agreements. The maximum penalty for each offence is five years imprisonment and/or a $51,000 fine.