DCC tightens up on private car use

The Dunedin City Council is tightening control of its vehicle fleet after finding dozens of staff have been taking cars home at night for no valid reason.

The finding came after a review launched earlier this year which found ''ad hoc'' processes governing the personal use of council cars by some staff.

Council organisational development and performance group manager Marian Rillstone said about 60 council staff had access to council cars to take home, but the review showed many no longer needed to.

As a result, the numbers taking cars home were expected to drop by about two-thirds.

The staff affected had not been acting improperly, and no ''outrageous'' examples of personal use of council cars had been found, she stressed.

Instead, the arrangements appeared to be a hangover from earlier times and roles.

Subsequent changes meant their personal use of council cars was no longer deemed appropriate, she said.

''People who had the cars certainly would've had discussions with their managers at the time ... it wasn't that they were doing it when they shouldn't have been.

''There might've been an historic reason why it was put in place, but that reason no longer exists,'' she said.

The personal use of council cars amounted to an extra benefit for some staff and the council lacked proper, transparent processes to govern it, she said.

''There was no specific paperwork around that, or particular transparent process to do with who did or didn't ... That's something we needed to tidy up as part of that process,'' she said.

As a result, a new process would be introduced, resulting in some council staff losing access to the personal use of council cars, she said.

Staff were being informed of the changes, with new rules to be introduced over the next month.

Staff who legitimately needed to take vehicles home at night would continue to do so where appropriate, while others would have personal use of council cars built into their remuneration packages, she said.

Others would also continue to take vehicles home where it made good business sense but was not strictly necessary.

That included, for example, building inspectors, who would be able to go straight to the first job of the day, she said.

The review of council car use was part of a wider push to improve internal processes across the council, launched under previous chief executive Paul Orders and continued under his successor Dr Sue Bidrose.

That had led to last year's discovery of the council's $1.5 million Citifleet fraud, involving the sale of 152 cars over a decade by former Citifleet team leader Brent Bachop.

Deloitte's subsequent report, detailing the extent of the fraud, also noted ''a large number of staff'' had access to council cars ''where the reason for this is not clear''.

Ms Rillstone said there had been mixed reactions from council staff to the change in personal use of cars, as some saw it as the loss of an entitlement they had previously been promised.

''For other people, it's a completely common-sense thing to do.''

chris.morris@odt.co.nz

 

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