DCC staff in fraud health check

Key Dunedin City Council staff are being interviewed as part of a review of the council's resilience to fraud.

Work on the fraud health check began in February and interviews with staff were continuing, council financial controller Maree Clarke said.

The health check was being conducted by WHK, and a report on the results would be presented to the council's executive management team later in the year, she said.

Depending on the findings, it could then be forwarded to councillors to consider "if there was something serious".

"But, at this stage, there is no indication that there is anything."

The work was among a series of audits launched, and in some cases completed, since the beginning of the year, Mrs Clarke said.

Other audits were scrutinising processes for cash handling, which had resulted in "one or two" suggestions but nothing of significance, she said.

"We were just making sure we were on solid ground. Any time there's cash involved we always make sure that we're very particular about how we do those sorts of things."

An audit analysing payroll data - checking for transactions that could indicate fraud - was also almost complete, and a draft report was being circulated among council departments for comment, she said.

Final results were expected within weeks.

"I don't envisage there will be [issues] because we have done this in the past", she said.

The fraud health check by WHK was a significant investigation, involving "quite a few hours" of work, including staff interviews and checks to ensure "the processes we have around some of our key strategic areas are tight", she said.

While nothing untoward had been found to date, recent events at the University of Otago showed the council could not be complacent, Mrs Clarke said.

She was referring to Graeme Pettitt, a former university accounts manager who was last month remanded in custody after admitting stealing almost $240,000 from the institution.

Mrs Clarke said the council's fraud health check had been conducted before, and a repeat had been talked about for some time.

It was not prompted by the case against Pettitt - or any other incident - but would look to identify any gaps in processes needing to be tightened.

"I guess when you see things that are happening at the university it reinforces the need to do those sort of reviews," she said.

"We don't have a sense that there's anything wrong, but you can become complacent about things and you think that your processes are all squeaky clean.

"I think it's healthy to review them from time to time."

The council ran a regular audit programme, but different areas were subjected to the spotlight each year.

"The content of the programme changes but we are doing things constantly really."

chris.morris@odt.co.nz

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