Dunedin City Council infrastructure and networks general
manager Tony Avery yesterday. Photo by Gerard O'Brien.
An emotional Tony Avery wishes he could turn back the
clock and stop the alleged $1.5 million Citifleet fraud.
Instead, Mr Avery - one of the Dunedin City Council's top
managers - yesterday announced his resignation in response to
the developing scandal.
Mr Avery (51) told the Otago Daily Times he had done nothing
wrong, but had been caught out by gaps in council processes
and the actions of some of those around him.
''But at the end of the day, the buck stops with me. It's the
right thing to do,'' he said.
His shock decision, which would end a 14-year city council
career, won praise from council chief executive Sue Bidrose
She said Mr Avery's ''honourable'' decision, while difficult,
showed he was ''an exemplary public servant''.
The investigation into the alleged fraud had found no
evidence Mr Avery was aware of what was taking place, and he
was not among council staff involved in ''employment
processes'' as a result, she said.
''This is not a disciplinary process. Tony hasn't been
Instead, Mr Avery - as the general manager responsible - had
decided ''his integrity was everything'', Dr Bidrose said.
''I think this is the absolute highest standard of public
service integrity that is expected of public servants, and is
sometimes followed through on.
''It is the right thing to do, but it still doesn't make it
any easier,'' she said.
Mr Avery's decision came after the findings of Deloitte's
three-month fraud investigation were referred to police last
The probe was launched days after Citifleet team leader Brent
Bachop died suddenly on May 21, following an initial approach
about discrepancies within the vehicle fleet.
The investigation had so far uncovered evidence 152 council
cars had been sold, and more than $1.5 million in proceeds
pocketed, over more than a decade.
Mr Avery, as the council's infrastructure and networks
general manager, oversaw the activities of Mr Bachop and
Citifleet, as well as about 350 other staff across a variety
of council departments.
Mr Avery said he had regular contact with Mr Bachop, who
reported to him through other managers, over the years.
He never suspected anything untoward was happening within
Citifleet until details began to emerge this year.
Deloitte's findings, particularly the extent and duration of
the alleged fraud, had come as a ''shock'', he said.
''I'm staggered at some of it.''
Mr Avery said the broad scope of his role meant he ''was
often juggling multiple balls at once'', and he had relied on
the information, and sometimes the honesty, of those around
You would ''always ask yourself whether you could've asked
more questions'', Mr Avery said, but it was ''unfortunately
the reality'' that any large organisation ''sometimes doesn't
have people who are entirely honest''.
''In this case, I, and the city, have been let down ... it
just never raised its head,'' he said.
He was also sad the reputations of ''hard-working,
passionate, honest'' council staff had been ''sullied'' by
the alleged fraud.
''I'm not sure you could repeat what my views are about the
person alleged to have conducted this activity, but I can't
undo what's been done. I can't rewind the clock.''
Asked about Mr Bachop's behaviour, Mr Avery said he and other
staff had difficulty ''reconciling'' the allegations with the
colleague they knew.
''It's like there were two Brents. There was the person who
was the cheerful, happy, friendly, helpful guy, and then
there was the other Brent, who was allegedly ripping off the
council and the ratepayers over a number of years.
''Reconciling those two is difficult for all of us, really.''
Dr Bidrose said Mr Avery had been ''caught out by systems and
processes that should have been in place that weren't, or
that were inadequate for the job we were trying to do''.
That had been demonstrated by the arrival of council group
chief financial officer Grant McKenzie this year, who made
changes and detected the alleged fraud ''almost
immediately'', she said.
''That just says something about how out-of-date so many of
our processes have been.''
Mr Avery said he had stepped back from any involvement in
Deloitte's investigation, but had decided to resign after
reading its findings and ''lots of reflection''.
He had agreed to remain in the role while his replacement was
recruited, and a transition occurred, which Dr Bidrose said
was unlikely to be completed before March next year.
The decision ended a 14-year city council career for Mr
Avery, who was born in Dunedin and worked at the Otago
Regional Council for a decade before jumping ship to join the
DCC in 2000.
His time with the city council included stints as acting
chief executive when required, as well as fronting
contentious public issues including the loss-making sale of
Carisbrook and the resignation of aquatic services manager
Mr Avery said he preferred to ''front-foot'' issues, and was
proud of what he had achieved for the city, but family
remained his ''most important focus''.
He, his wife and three daughters - aged 20, 16 and 9 - would
take time to decide their next move, but he expected
''something will come along''.
''It's not a decision I've come to lightly.
''People will judge the actions for what they are.
''It's the right thing to do and I think people will see it