Ethnic funding stoush

A $125,000 State Government grant awarded to the Gippsland Ethnic Communities’ Council has ignited controversy after claims the organisation failed to deliver its proposed project a year after receiving the funding.

Gippsland Multicultural Services director Lisa Sinha said the GECC’s failure to deliver anything for 12 months after receiving part of the grant must be explained to the community.

“For the GECC to deliver nothing in a year is unacceptable,” Ms Sinha said.

The grant was awarded by the Office of Multicultural Affairs and Citizenship and enables regional organisations serving culturally and linguistically diverse communities up to $150,000 for projects benefiting those groups.

She also questioned why the GECC hired a consultant, using part of the grant, to draw up a strategic plan that will guide the organisation towards implementing its projects.

“We are most surprised about this because the (grant) advertisement didn’t mention about the need for a consultant and we’re not aware of it being used anywhere in Victoria in that way,” Ms Sinha said.

GECC chair Dr Graham Dettrick said there was nothing odd about the organisation hiring a consultant because OMAC was part of the selection committee that screened applicants.

Dr Dettrick said one part of the consultant’s job was to study the feasibility of the GECC expanding its scope to other Gippsland shires, including Wellington, South Gippsland and Baw Baw.

“The progress of the consultation has not created any problems for OMAC that GECC is aware of because there’s been a person from (them) who was involved in the development of the consultancy,” he said.

“The feedback I’ve got is that this person is fully satisfied with the process that’s been going on.”

Dr Dettrick admitted while there were delays in the hiring process, OMAC had agreed to extend the consultant’s deadline to submit a final report of GECC’s strategic plan.

OMAC’s funding conditions states “if the project has not commenced within three months after the offer of the grant has been made, OMAC reserves the right to review the offer and, at its sole discretion, may withdraw the offer”.

The Express has learned the period covering the process of hiring GECC’s consultant up to its submission of the final report should have begun on 30 May and ended on 12 September last year.

The Express had contacted OMAC to comment on issues raised by the GMS, but had received no response by time of going to print.

“The issue of whom the GECC actually represents and whether it is an organisation that genuinely represents CALD communities in Gippsland, or simply four or so individuals, can be established very easily, not by what committees they attend, are members of or who they feel respects them, (but) simply by an answer to the question – how many groups and individuals from the CALD community are current financial members of the GECC?,” Ms Sinha said.

Mr Dettrick said any statements insinuating that GECC was misusing the funds was “factious and insulting”.

“There’s no basis for any such statement to be made,” he said.

“This statement is totally false because the whole show is being supervised and participated in by a member of the OMAC.”