Montessori Australia is starting a new chapter after its predecessor companies went into voluntary administration this July. It offered educational, community, training and resource services.
However, the investigation into the “historical affairs of the companies is ongoing”, according to the firm appointed to liquidate Montessori Australia Foundation Limited and Maryden Pty Ltd which traded as the Australian Centre for Montessori Studies (ACMS).
One of the administrators appointed - John McInerney, from auditing firm Grant Thornton - said the findings would be summarised in a statutory report expected to be sent to creditors in December.
The auditor’s preliminary investigations show the businesses had allegedly been trading while insolvent to the tune of $400,000 and $320,000 for the two companies respectively.
ACMS was incorporated 21 years ago, while the foundation was formed in May 2003 as a non-profit organisation. They operated in Sydney and the ACT.
The auditor’s preliminary report says that from April 2016 to January last year, both companies “struggled to pay their tax debts”.
They tried to turn around the business from January this year, but by July had approached the voluntary administrators to come on board.
The companies were in the black most recently in 2017 (with only $14,136 in the bank) and the last time the foundation’s accounts were reconciled was November last year.
The auditor’s preliminary report said staffing expenses jumped $72,712 in 2017 to $610,987 in 2018. This was due to overdue superannuation and taxes in the previous years due to “historical inadequacies in MAF's governance and financial management”.
In August, Hani Ghali, CEO of A2 Montessori in Queensland, fought off six other bidders to buy the assets of the two companies, the name Montessori Australia Foundation and other registered business names. His was the highest offer.
The auditors’ report said Ghali “expressed a strong desire to preserve the not-for-profit Montessori Australia Foundation for the benefit of the Montessorian community”.
While Ghali declined to be interviewed, his office sent EducationHQ two recent memos he’s also sent to school boards, principals, centre owners and directors, teachers, administrative staff and parents.
As the current principal partner for Montessori Australia, he issues weekly updates.
“We are currently working with a legal team to create a modern, unified and inclusive organisational structure that will allow your voice to be heard and provide the services you are looking for, without financially crippling and unsustainable overheads and membership fees, common in traditional organisation structures,” he writes.
“We ask that you remain patient for just a short time longer while we work with key knowledgeable individuals and our legal team so we can present this to you for your consideration and hopefully your support.”
He also noted the Montessori Australia website went back online in mid-September. Ghali said he’s “devising a plan” to honour unfulfilled orders made with the predecessor organisations.
This will involve “channelling the operational profit margin made on any new sales of products from both the MAF Montessori shop and the A2Z Montessori shop”.
“We want to ensure stability and collaboration in our Montessori community. There is a vast array of talent, knowledge and experience amongst us that can come together to contribute to the ongoing key projects such as upgrading our Montessori National Curriculum, the Montessori Quality Assurance Program and improving access to and availability of Montessori teacher training.”
All Montessori schools and centres are independently owned and operated in Australia.