OZCHILD has revealed it will buy all the properties owned by Community Connections Victoria (CCV) and employ up to 25 staff in an effort to maintain vital services to clients.
Chief executive officer Tony Pitman yesterday described the closure of CCV as a "tragic loss" but said he was looking forward to introducing new programs to the area under the OzChild banner.
Mr Pitman is visiting the south-west this week, meeting staff, supporters and local councils to outline how the agency plans to deliver federally-funded services previously provided by CCV, as well as introduce other activities for disadvantaged children.
Independent due diligence by external consultants has shown OzChild's total net gain will be less than $100,000 after it buys the CCV properties, based on local valuation figures, and it has given a commitment to keep the money in the district.
Mr Pitman revealed that he had originally explored a merger of both agencies with Community Connections CEO Bruce du Vergier several years ago after recognising the long-term benefits of strengthening and building communities in an area from Sale to Portland.
"We met and we looked at the long-term futures of the agencies. We liked the fact that what we had, CCV didn't have and what they had, we didn't have."
He said the two boards met about 12 months ago to discuss the potential merger and provide better outcomes for children.
"It was a fantastic, beautiful, beautiful vision as you can imagine. Both boards were very, very happy and working very strongly towards it. Then it all hit the fan."
State departments stepped in last year to investigate CCV after serious concerns were raised by former staff. Investigators found a series of breaches in service agreements and issues about how funds were being managed and the agency was stripped of millions of dollars in funding.
It was then OzChild made a strategic decision to remain as a separate entity rather than merge with CCV and become embroiled in the problem.
OzChild stepped in to financially back CCV in what Mr Pitman described as a fully transparent deal with a novated transfer of services. The agency secured mortgages over CCV's properties and then began paying all the bills itself, including redundancies and remaining staff wages.
"We weren't just sitting here saying if the agency is going down the gurgler, we'll throw a million dollars at it. That would be pretty stupid.
"We're always very faithful to what we commit to. That plan was that we saw the vision. It was a pity that all this happened and that kicked the hell out of the vision and took out major things that we could have done here, so it's been a tragic loss."
Mr Pitman said Mr du Vergier would not be working in a management position with OzChild but there would still be an interim role for him as the agency rolled out its services to the region.
"There isn't an agreement (with Mr du Vergier). There's no contract. There is a lot of knowledge that he has that we need, so he'll certainly be in some role for a period of time to get that information. It won't be a management role. He doesn't want that and we don't want that obviously, mainly because of what the media has done with him."
He said the publicity had created a perception in the community that CCV management was to blame for all the problems.
"So there's no wisdom in putting the person in a management role if they've been criticised for management.
"However, his knowledge is immense and you go to a FaHCSIA (Federal Department of Families, Housing, Community Services and Indigenous Affairs) meeting or you go to those federal Pathways meetings with him and he's revered. It's been a huge tragedy."