Findings disappoint most councillors

Dunedin city councillors have responded to the Deloitte report on the $1.59 million Citifleet fraud with disappointment and anger, but also with confidence new systems in place will make sure it does not happen again.

Cr John Bezett said he was surprised by the ease of the fraud, although ''obviously, we had a system that clearly was not working''.

However, there was no question the culture of the council had changed, he said.

As a long-time councillor, he had no reason to suspect the fraud was being perpetrated, or to doubt the integrity of staff.

''I certainly don't feel I should be taking responsibility.''

Cr David Benson-Pope said he was not surprised but ''extremely disappointed fraud like this has gone on for so long''.

Most of the present councillors were not there when the fraud occurred, but it was ''the overall responsibility of the elected members to be confident that management is on top of that stuff''.

Cr Andrew Whiley said the fraud meant every council and business in the country needed to look at the Deloitte report, see what the outcomes were, and act on them.

Any company might have ''soft compliance'' with the sort of processes that were ''worked'' by former Citifleet team leader Brent Bachop.

On councillors' responsibility, he said: ''Governance is governance'', and anybody on a board or council needed to make sure governance processes were met.

Cr Doug Hall said he had not yet read the report, but believed nobody ''in the old days'' was interested in doing anything about the problem.

''The people responsible shouldn't have a job. It's as simple as that. The buck stops at the top.''

Cr Aaron Hawkins said he was sad the efforts of staff and elected members recently to clean up the culture of the organisation had been ''set back so far by a fraud as sustained and outrageous as this''.

''We all have a right to be angry about those who perpetuated it, and those who enabled it.''

Cr Hawkins had full confidence the present council and management would not let it happen again.

Cr Jinty MacTavish said the lack of oversight in the past from management had been ''disappointing and fairly deeply upsetting''.

''We've been going through the process of overviewing and improving and changing fairly drastically a number of internal processes because they have been identified as lacking.''

The focus in the last couple of years was on council companies, and the question could be asked whether ''in hindsight, we should have started somewhere else''.

However, the progressive changes being made at the council were anything but ''glacial''.

Cr Richard Thomson said the focus needed to be on what holes there were in the system, and how to ensure they were plugged.

''I do believe the councillors and council management have that very clear focus and it was in fact some of those changes which flushed this out.''

He did not believe it was reasonable to expect an elected member to have identified the fraud but did think it was reasonable and appropriate that policies and practices were put in place and to ensure they were carried out.

Cr Neville Peat said all councillors were wondering ''just how this could have been accomplished for so long''.

The Michael Swann fraud at the Southern District Health Board should have had ''big organisations looking at their own'' in terms of fraud prevention.

There had been ''a clean sweep'' of senior leaders, especially in financial positions.

Cr Hilary Calvert said the situation could have been stopped years ago if a councillor's questions were answered, instead of being ''fobbed off''.

It was ''heartening'' that council systems were changing under new management, but councillors, especially the mayor and deputy mayor, still had a role to ask questions and look into things.

Cr Mike Lord said he was glad only one person had been incriminated in the report as the majority of the 600-odd staff were diligent and committed to their jobs.

It did not take long for chief executive Dr Sue Bidrose or chief financial officer Grant McKenzie to uncover the problems after they were appointed.

He had absolute confidence in their work and the culture of the organisation now.

Cr Kate Wilson said she had heard rumours and conjecture about similar issues in the past and had asked questions, as others had, but was told by council staff that things were ''right''.

Without hard data it was difficult to challenge those answers, she said.

Cr Andrew Noone said it was not a time for politicking, but to reinforce the changes that had been implemented.

There were now different procedures in place to make sure the fraud did not happen again.

Cr Chris Staynes could not be contacted for comment last night.

 

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