Former Dunedin City Council chief executive Jim Harland
has hit back at criticism over the alleged $1.5 million
Citifleet fraud, while refusing to accept responsibility for
any failings on his watch.
Instead, he has fired a shot back at the council and Mayor
Dave Cull, saying the convention of elected members not
criticising council staff ''is being challenged''.
Mr Harland's comments came after council chief executive Dr
Sue Bidrose blamed council failings for the alleged fraud not
being detected, sayinginadequate internal controls had not
kept pace with best practice.
As a result, the alleged fraud had continued undetected for
more than a decade, while 152 cars were sold and the proceeds
pocketed, she said.
Mr Harland, the council's chief executive from 2000 to early
2011, rejected that when contacted by the Otago Daily Times
yesterday, insisting criticism of his time at council was
''There were processes in place.''
They included internal and external audits, a one-up signing
rule for the approval of expenditure, and a purchase and
disposal manual for council staff, he said.
The question was whether council staff were following the
rules, he said.
''Clearly, if five staff members are under a disciplinary
process, that would suggest that they weren't,'' he said.
The fallout from the alleged fraud has so far prompted two
senior council managers - Tony Avery and Kevin Thompson - to
resign, as up to five staff worked through ''employment
Mr Avery was not among staff involved in employment
processes, and had made his own decision to resign, saying
the ''buck stops with me''.
Mr Harland - now a New Zealand Transport Agency manager -
told the ODT yesterday he also accepted, as the council's
chief executive, he had been ultimately responsible for all
However, he would not comment on whether he shared any blame
for the failure to detect the alleged fraud until after
Deloitte's report was made public.
The report would show ''what more we could have done'', he
''No chief executive can be aware of all the detailed
transactions taking place in an organisation, but you still
always have that accountability.
''I haven't seen the report. I only know what processes we
had. If those processes had been followed, there wouldn't
have been a fraud,'' he insisted.
His comments came after Mr Cull last week also questioned the
council's decision to ignore Audit New Zealand, after it
twice - in 2007 and 2010 - suggested the council should
create an audit and risk subcommittee.
''It could very well have helped,'' Mr Cull said.
Local Government New Zealand president Lawrence Yule was also
concerned by the decision, and said, when it came to
detecting fraud, ''the buck stops ... really, with the chief
executive and their management''.
Mr Harland said audit committees ''weren't a normal feature
of local government at the time'', and it was felt the
council's then-finance and strategy committee already
adequately fulfilled the role. He could not say whether
ignoring Audit New Zealand's suggestion was a mistake until
he read the Deloitte report.
''Any audit and risk committee ... is only as good as the
questions that are asked.''
One change he would make, if given another chance, would be
to include details of revenue from council asset sales -
including vehicles - in regular reports to the executive
management team. That had not been done, but would have been
''quite straightforward'', he said.
He took exception to suggestions of a culture problem within
the council, saying it ''wasn't one of entitlement''.
''It was one of trying to be responsible,'' he said.
''Which is why it is really painful ... that the trust of the
community, who might not have seen those values, has now been
let down by one manager.
''He's let everybody down, but there's nothing we can do