Council announces head of audit, risk

The Dunedin City Council has named the independent chairwoman of its new audit and risk subcommittee, tasked with ensuring risk is being managed appropriately within the organisation.

Dunedin Mayor Dave Cull said in a statement Susie Johnstone, of Balclutha, had been appointed.

The council adopted a new committee structure at its inaugural meeting last year, and last week approved the new audit and risk subcommittee's operational scope.

The subcommittee will be responsible for risk management, internal control, business continuity and will have oversight of governance policies in areas such as sensitive expenditure, fraud, conflict of interest and protected disclosures.

It will also oversee insurance, procurement, risk, and health and safety and include oversight of the annual report.

The subcommittee has an advisory role and its recommendations will be made directly to the council.

The subcommittee is made up of deputy mayor Cr Chris Staynes and Crs Richard Thomson and Hilary Calvert.

Mrs Johnstone is managing partner of accounting firm Shand Thomson, the Otago Polytechnic Council's deputy chairwoman and a director of REANNZ (Research and Education Advanced Network New Zealand Ltd).

She is also a Fellow of the New Zealand Institute of Chartered Accountants, and a member of its governance committee, and has also served on the boards of Tourism New Zealand, the Southland, Otago and Southern District Health Boards, the New Zealand Blood Service and the New Zealand Hockey Federation.

Mr Cull said the council was ''very fortunate'' to have recruited someone of Mrs Johnstone's calibre to the subcommittee.

''Her skills, attributes and knowledge will be of huge benefit to the subcommittee's work.''

Mrs Johnstone said in a statement she was looking forward to her new role, and supported the ''increasing focus'' on the governance aspects of audit and risk.

''These matters tend to fly below the radar until something doesn't go so well, so the council is to be commended for taking the initiative in this area.''

A second independent member is to be confirmed and advertising for the role was due to begin shortly.

The council's full committee structure and operational scope were also under review, but the new subcommittee's operational scope was required in the meantime so it could begin work, a report to councillors from corporate services group manager Sandy Graham said.

The council's code of conduct and the process for resolving breaches were also under review.

The council approved an interim measure allowing any other standing committee chairman to become a member of the committee when a complaint was against any current member, i.e. the mayor or deputy mayor, and to allow a single independent member to sit alone to determine a code of conduct matter provided all parties agreed.

The ability to hear conduct matters in public was also added to the scope of the committee.

The full changes to the committee structure and operational scope manual, as well as some alterations to the operational scope of chief executive and those retained by council following legislative changes, will be presented to the council this month.

Lack of representation?

JimmyJones: I suggest that if you want change then it must come from the elected Councillors who must be pressured by the ratepayers. They all have phones - call them and request them to state their views on any tabled topic to which they are privy and ask why they have such a view.. Also e-mail them and request the same information. Get your friends to do the same. Forget contacting the Mayor. He carries no weight. Diplomatically remind Councillors that they were elected to represent the views of electors. Put the pressure on them and keep it up until they act responsibly. Only the Council can force the CEO to better manage Council staff. And before the next election, insist that candidates state their views on the matters that really need attention. Do not accept the tired old phrases. Insist on specifics.

DCC Behaviour Modification

This new audit and risk subcommittee has been given all the jobs that the Finance Committee has been expected to do but has failed to do for several decades. The Finance Committee and the other committees of the DCC have become rubber-stampers. Their members generally do not read their reports to sufficient depth to make informed decisions, which means that Council decisions are easily manipulated by council staff. Council staff always think they know best. I hope that the new subcommittee can justify its existence by helping to ensure that the financial information presented to councilors and the public is fulsome and honest.

Stevesone57 tells us that: "If we as ratepayers don't question the numbers our elected officials can just tell us anything and get away with it". I think this statement needs to be repeated over and over until the questioning causes the DCC to become open and honest with the information that it makes public.

Of course many questions have been asked about the stadium finances, but very few useful answers emerge after passing through the intestines of the DCC's $5 million per year spin-doctoring department. The DCC's media partners seem to have no interest in analyzing and challenging anything spoken/written by the DCC. The process leaves the public and Councilors uninformed and misled.

While I hope that the Audit And Risk Subcommittee will initiate some improvements, other changes are needed with the rubber-stamper attitude of the news media. When the DCC misleads, refuses and spin-doctors information, then they need to be held to account. My guess is that their behaviour will not change until their actions are fully publicized.

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