QUEENSLAND’S suspended director of mental health has defended allegations he secretly stashed about $400,000 in ACT government coffers, saying he wanted to ensure the money supported COAG’s mental health agenda.
Aaron Groves, one of Australia’s leading mental health experts, and his direct subordinate, Sean Conway, have been stood down on full pay while the Crime and Misconduct Commission investigates claims of official misconduct.
The allegations relate to money left over from Queensland’s mental health programs in June last year that might otherwise have been transferred to other state programs. Instead, the money was allegedly parked with the national Mental Health Standing Committee secretariat in Canberra.
The Australian has been told that an internal audit by Queensland Health found the transfer contravened a cabinet directive blocking any further contributions to the Fourth National Mental Health Plan.
Dr Groves said he was confident the transfer was legitimate and was eager to prove it to CMC investigators. “The difficulty I have is that the allegations that were published in the paper this morning haven’t even been put to me,” he said after reading The Australian’s report yesterday.
“If the allegations are those that were published in your paper today … I will be able to provide all the emails and supporting documentation that relates to this particular allegation.
“There was clearly no attempt to get any personal gain, and there was no attempt to hide funds. More, there was a strong attempt to make sure Queensland was implementing the Fourth National Mental Health Plan.”
In a statement, the ACT Health Directorate said it believed the payment was a legitimate contribution to the national strategy from the Queensland government, and it was received “in good faith”.
Queensland Health declined to comment further yesterday.
As first appeared in The Australian