Troubled ACS is now a $50m revenue charity

James Riley
Editorial Director

The internally troubled Australian Computer Society has lodged its annual numbers with the charity’s regulator – a month late – clocking revenue of nearly $50 million for the 2020 financial year, a period disrupted by bitter internal brawling and the impact of the pandemic.

Revenue for the period grew by $4.61 million to $49.8 million, but the surplus for the period fell by more than $1 million. This is despite significantly reduced expenses for travel and accommodation, events and meetings, and marketing, PR and publications, which were curtailed by a combination of the internal turmoil of the reporting period and the pandemic.

Despite the ACS’s reduced activity, staff costs grew by 17 per cent during the period from $21.6 million to $25.2 million for the 2020 financial year. The cost of Key Management Personnel grew by more than 25 per cent from $2 million in 2019 to $2.6 million in 2020, although it is unclear where this additional expense was applied.

ACS headquarters – Big floorplate, big cost. Photo: Holli/

Employee expenses climbed to more than 50 per cent of revenue at the ACS. The number of full-time equivalent employees grew from 100 reported in 2019 to 128 in 2020.

The employee benefit expense per full-time employee in 2020 was about $196,000, a substantial premium compared to the comparable professional associations.

The ACS financial report to the Australian Charities and Not-for-profit Commission (ACNC) confirmed that an independent audit firm had performed a review of the processes around expense and contract management, as well as a forensic review into specific expenses. The society’s National Congress had voted to conduct the audit at a special meeting last October.

The management committee gave few details of the review beyond “there were no instances of fraud identified, however recommendations for improvement of policies & procedures were made and taken onboard by management.”

The management committee also reported that the ACS had received an Improvement Notice from SafeWork NSW, which is understood to be related to staff allegations of bullying in the workplace and said “this notice is being addressed by ACS Management.”

The ACS controversially acquired several other industry associations in September 2019, including the Association for data-driven Marketing and Advertising (ADMA), the Institute of Analytics Professionals of Australia (IAPA), Data Governance Australia, and Digital + Technology Collective (DT&C).

The acquisitions sparked protests among sections of the ACS membership that ultimately led to the two years of infighting at the association.

The consolidated acquisition costs of these industry associations – the net outflow of cash to acquire the businesses – at $2.6 million. These acquired businesses contributed a loss of $1,008,508 to the ACS numbers for the past financial year.

The ACS financials for the 2020 financial year will likely raise questions among those National Congress members who passed a vote of ‘no confidence’ in the ACS Management Committee in October last year.

In addition to the fast-growing employee benefits expenses, the sharply increased cost of the ACS’ office accommodation. The society has a long-term lease at International Towers at Barangaroo in Sydney, one of the most expensive commercial addresses in Australia.

The latest financials treat its office leases as a “right to use” asset of $34.7 million, placing a depreciation charge for this ‘asset’ $4.09 million (effectively the rental outgoing for the 2020 financial year).

Total undiscounted lease liabilities held by the ACS at the end of June 2020 was $36.5 million.

Do you know more? Contact James Riley via Email.

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