University moves to cut fraud risk

The University of Otago has made changes to reduce the risk of fraud at the institution in the aftermath of the theft of nearly $240,000 over a seven-year period by a former accounts manager.

Graeme Jeffrey Pettitt (61) was sentenced in the Dunedin District Court last month to two years and seven months' prison on eight convictions arising from his accessing the university's electronic accounting system and taking nearly $240,000 over a seven-year period.

Responding to an Official Information Act request from the Otago Daily Times, an Otago University spokeswoman said the investigation into Mr Pettitt's fraud had prompted changes to "internal controls" to reduce the risk of fraud being committed against the university in future.

The university was unwilling to detail the way which Mr Pettitt diverted payments for his personal benefit.

However, it noted the extended period over which the fraud took place, the small size of individual transactions and the spread of the effect across the whole organisation meant the fraud was harder to detect.

After the fraud was first discovered on June 18 and a brief internal investigation had been conducted, an external investigator was brought in to assemble evidence to a standard suitable for handing to the police, which was then done.

The spokeswoman said "a reasonably modest" amount of the money taken had been repaid to the university and arrangements for further recovery were in place.

"The possibility of further recoveries will continue to be considered, but if full recovery is unrealistic some writing off may eventually occur," she said.

The university declined to release a letter of apology Mr Pettitt wrote to the university because it was of a "personal" nature.

vaughan.elder@odt.co.nz