Anne Maddern
Anne Maddern

Meals On Wheels official cornered

WHILE Fraser Coast Meals on Wheels was headed into insolvency, board members approved the acquisition of three cars and the opening of a new bakery.

The organisation was wound up by an insolvency accountant three weeks ago, putting 30 staff out of work, after serious financial strife came to light in December last year.

On Wednesday, the Chronicle asked chairwoman Anne Maddern whether the not-for-profit service bought four cars in about May - five months after they became aware of large debts including the tax office and workers' superannuation - as claimed by former employees.

In a written statement signed by the nine-member board and provided to the Chronicle a day later, it was claimed the allegation was untrue and could be verified by board meeting minutes.

However, under further questioning by the Chronicle yesterday, Mrs Maddern admitted that one vehicle was bought outright and another two cars had been leased by the organisation - one new, the other second-hand.

"The allegation was that we had bought four vehicles, so it was untrue," Mrs Maddern said.

She said a second-hand car was bought in about January, and quickly developed problems.

The board received advice in April or May that it should trade in the "dud" car and another existing vehicle, for a lease on a new car and a second-hand vehicle.

Despite the group's tight purse-strings, Mrs Maddern said she did not know how much the two leases cost, and could not remember when the cars were bought or traded in.

The head of the Fraser Coast Meals on Wheels board, and LNP candidate for Maryborough, Mrs Maddern also claims she does not have any idea how much it cost to set up a bakery, opened by the organisation while under her watch.

"I don't know how much the bakery cost, not even a ballpark figure," she said.

"We were given advice it was a good financial idea."

She said the proposal to open the Granville bakery came from the acting CEO and book-keeper, and was approved by the board in the middle of the year.

The business opened in May but was closed when Fraser Coast Meals on Wheels folded in October. Mrs Maddern has previously admitted the organisation failed to pay superannuation despite knowing it was a legal requirement.

Meals on Wheels Hervey Bay has stepped in to ensure that none of the services' 280 clients will go hungry following the closure.

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