Queensland Liberal National Party MP for Redcliffe Scott Driscoll link to fund scandal and claims of secret control of taxpayer-funded community association
UNDER FIRE: MP Scott Driscoll faces several serious accusations.
A STATE Liberal National Party MP has been secretly controlling a taxpayer-funded community association that helps the homeless and other people in need, funneling tens of thousands of dollars in consultancy fees to his wife's company.
The Courier-Mail has established that Redcliffe MP Scott Driscoll has been directing the operations of the Regional Community Association of Moreton Bay, a provider of frontline social services to his electorate, from behind the scenes since becoming an MP.
Mr Driscoll cemented control - with the help of friendly RCAMB members - installing political mates on the board in 2012, getting his wife a job on the payroll and having dissenting staff removed and forcing a troublesome board member to resign.
Former RCAMB staffers have told The Courier-Mail that money was so tight last year they could not access funds to buy food for homeless clients of the RCAMB, which received about $1.6 million in public funding and donations in 2012.
It has been established that Mr Driscoll has had secret day-to-day control of the management of the RCAMB for at least the past 12 months, while Norsefire, a company owned by his wife Emma and where he was sole director until she took over on February 25, received almost $120,000 for consultancy work, only some of which was actually performed.
Emails, invoices and other documents show Norsefire charged $1000 a week until the middle of last year for "media communications strategy and management" and subsequently $2600 a week for "secretariat management fees".
From August 2012 there is no evidence of Norsefire having any employees to conduct any work on behalf of RCAMB.
Even prior to this, RCAMB staff say there was little evidence of any benefit from the "press liaison" work they understood Norsefire had been contracted to do.
Scott Driscoll's business world.
Mrs Driscoll, a florist, was from late last year on the payroll as "HR admin officer".
Mr Driscoll wrote her job description, which includes "formal qualification requirement: nil".
On February 28, a day after the Department of Communities asked RCAMB, formerly known as the RCA, for information about payments to consulting companies, Emma Driscoll sent an email to a colleague at the association asking for help to "delete what is in the drop box that was on my laptop which I have of course left at RCA".
"Is there a way we/you can do a complete sweep of that computer both files/trash/word docs etc ... so there is nothing left on there?" she asks.
Scroll down to read the emails.
All the members of the RCAMB board during 2012 except one worked on Mr Driscoll's election campaign, including his campaign director Ben Scott, his campaign treasurer Geoff Jamieson and former local Federal LNP chairman Brian Roselt. Its president until last month was Bruce Mills, another supporter.
The Courier-Mail understands Mr Mills held about half of the votes of the RCAMB's 20 members as proxies, which with the votes of Mr Jamieson, Mr Scott and Mr Roselt gave Mr Driscoll's political mates control of the board.
The other member of the board is understood to be a "client" of the RCAMB's mental health program.
When former RCAMB Treasurer Terry Rogers, himself a former state MP, questioned Norsefire's involvement in the association in March 2012, Mr Driscoll wrote to Mr Mills and Mr Scott saying: "The buck stops with an elected MP or Minister to make any required disclosures not Terry Rogers ...
"I personally suggest it's time his position on this board was considered for him and action taken pretty quickly right now".
Mr Rogers was forced to resign from the board shortly afterwards.
Mr Driscoll has disclosed his directorship of Norsefire but has publicly distanced himself, saying it is "100 per cent owned by my wife".
He has only ever described himself as "patron" of the RCAMB.
But emails show he micromanaged the body, giving instructions on everything from financial audits and how to respond to demands for information from bureaucrats to which airconditioning company should be used.
In January he even banned staff from participating in free health checks provided by Medicare Local.
"The fact paid RCA staff at large are being encouraged or allowed to avail themselves of funded services while the staff are meant to be working in essentially a government funded role could understandably create a catastrophic PR disaster," Mr Driscoll wrote to services manager Tracey Slater on January 17.
Emails also show Mr Driscoll presented Norsefire invoices to RCAMB and chased up payments.
Federal and State Governments are investigating the RCAMB over allegations of mismanagement and financial irregularities following complaints by staff.
Mr Driscoll did not respond to a request for comment. Mr Mills did not respond to questions. Mrs Driscoll could not be reached.
Mr Driscoll won the seat of Redcliffe at the LNP's landslide election victory last year.
Redcliffe had long been considered a Labor stronghold but the force of the LNP victory meant such seats were swept to the conservatives. Mr Driscoll has received strong support from Premier Campbell Newman in Parliament in recent weeks under scrutiny from the Labor Opposition.