Citifleet case goes further

The Dunedin City Council's alleged Citifleet fraud may go ''considerably further back'' than first thought, and more cars - and more missing money - are likely to be involved, it has been confirmed.

The revelation came from council chief executive Dr Sue Bidrose and Mayor Dave Cull, who both told the Otago Daily Times the alleged fraud appeared to pre-date former Citifleet team leader Brent Bachop's time in charge.

Mr Bachop took over Citifleet from former manager Bob Heath in 2003, and a Deloitte investigation had found 152 cars had been sold - and more than $1.5 million in proceeds pocketed - since then.

Dr Bidrose said the investigation could only easily examine computerised financial records dating as far back as 2003, as earlier paper records were more difficult - and costly - to trawl through.

However, evidence had emerged suggesting the alleged fraud pre-dated 2003, and had been going on ''for a long time'', she said.

''Everything would suggest to me it's been going on since before 2003, which is when our financial systems enabled us to start looking at it.

''People have worked hard, or somebody's worked hard, to cover it up,'' she said.

Asked how far back it might go, she said: ''I don't know, but people are reporting odd behaviour prior to 2003. We simply can't quantify that.''

Despite that, the council had decided to restrict Deloitte's investigation to examining only the last decade, to limit the extra cost borne by ratepayers, she said.

Going back further would not provide ''a cost-effective return'' for the council, she believed.

''It would cost us another $200,000 ... trying to resurrect old financial data, and there's no way of recouping any of that now.

''That's money we've chosen not to spend.''

Mr Cull said he also understood the alleged fraud may have ''originated considerably further back than 2003''.

It was ''unfortunate'' the council would ''probably never be in a position to be able to afford to delve back that far'', he said.

Despite that, the revelation did not necessarily add to the sense of outrage, he said.

''It's all pretty outrageous,'' he said.

Mr Cull said he did not want to speculate on whether Mr Heath had also been involved in anything untoward, saying ''I wasn't here then''.

However, others spoken to by the ODT have described the former Citifleet manager as the ''Arthur Daley of the city council''.

It was one of his enduring nicknames during his time at the council, and referenced the shady character from the long-running British television show Minder.

Case goesfurtherthan 2003> From Page 1Mr Heath joined the council in 1979 as then-mayor Sir Clifford Skeggs' chauffeur, and rose through the ranks to became Citifleet manager in 1992.

He continued in that role until late 2003, when he resigned, and died early the following year, aged 59.

Mr Bachop - a 25-year council veteran - worked under Mr Heath before replacing him in 2003.

Former mayor Peter Chin, speaking last month, said he had not heard of any concerns about the buying or selling of council vehicles during his time on the council.

However, Mr Heath was ''certainly a law unto himself'', which had resulted in ''a whole lot of unravelling'' being needed to resolve free parking permit problems, Mr Chin recalled.

''There were all sorts of people who had exemptions to parking, for all sorts of various reasons, that Bob had dealt with. All those got pulled back in over a period of time as they came to light,'' Mr Chin said.

chris.morris@odt.co.nz

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