The Department of Communications and the Arts has demanded for sweeping reforms within .au domain administrator auDA, saying its current management framework is “no longer fit-for-purpose”.
A review of Australia’s management of the .au domain, published today, makes 29 recommendations of changes at not-for-profit auDA, all of which have been accepted by the government.
A key recommendation calls for a complete overhaul of auDA’s membership model which is “impeding auDA’s decision making and is contributing to ongoing organisational instability”.
Directors can be elected to the organisations board “with little regard to the skills required to effectively govern” the review states, and they are “not required to meet probity, security or conflict of interest checks”.
The Department’s report also recommends the number of ‘demand’ and ‘supply’ class directors on the auDA board be reduced, to make way for far more independent directors. Interviews with auDA members past and present revealed issues around ‘board stacking’ – the manipulation of the process to appoint directors “to act in the interest of a particular membership faction”.
“Ultimately, current governance and management framework arrangements are not satisfactory given the importance of the .au namespace to the Australian community,” the report says.
Other recommendations include increasing and diversifying the organisation’s membership which currently “does not reflect the actual industry or community stakeholders”.
The government has given auDA six months to make significant progress in implementing the changes, which are set out in a modernised terms of endorsement.
“These terms of endorsement outline the Government’s expectations and provide auDA with the mandate to make the necessary reforms to its governance arrangements,” Minister for Communications and the Arts Mitch Fifield said in a statement.
“The Government expects to see significant progress within the next three to six months from auDA in implementing these changes,” he added.
In a letter to auDA chair Chris Leptos, Fifield gives him 30 days to provide an implementation plan to achieve full compliance with the terms of endorsement by 2020. auDA is on notice to make the necessary reforms, with the government retaining the option to seek an alternative provider.
“This option may identify a viable alternative provider for the administration of the .au namespace mitigating the risk that constitutional reform of auDA cannot be achieved,” the report says.
The report comes at a difficult time for the organisation. Earlier this week an internal review into misuse of expense accounts and lavish spending was leaked to Fairfax media, with auDA’s former head of public affairs admitting he had taken his family to Disneyland on the not-for-profit’s dollar.
Earlier this month the auDA board wrote to members to say it has contacted Victoria Police regarding "a number of practices of several former auDA directors".
Meanwhile a group of three disgruntled members called for a mutiny, petitioning members to vote for a special general meeting for the opportunity to oust four members of auDA's leadership.
The rebel group says it has a number of grievances with the way the organisation is run, covering governance, transparency and the handling of a major proposed shake-up which would allow direct registration of .au domains (without the need of .com before it).