Dunedin council CEO won't resign

STAYING PUT: Dunedin City Council CEO Sue Bidrose says she's part of the solution.
STAYING PUT: Dunedin City Council CEO Sue Bidrose says she's part of the solution.

The chief executive of the Dunedin City Council which is in the midst of a major fraud investigation is resolute about staying at the helm. 

Dr Sue Bidrose said she would not follow two of her general managers out the door in the wake of the $1.5 million alleged fraud investigation.

Bidrose announced the alleged fraud within the council's Citifleet unit in June. Discrepancies were uncovered during a widespread review of accounting practices across departments.

The case is now in the hands of police.

Initial Deloitte investigations unravelled a vast network of vehicle transactions and a list of council vehicle movements through a network of buyers and subsequent owners over more than a decade.

Profits from the sale of 152 vehicles were allegedly siphoned off. 

Citifleet team leader Brent Bachop died suddenly at the end of May, with his death referred to the coroner. 

Last week, the council's general manager of infrastructure and networks, Tony Avery, quit his role while stressing he was not aware of or involved in the alleged fraud.

The resignation was followed this week by Kevin Thompson's departure. Thompson was the council's group manager of regulatory services.

Both Avery and Thompson had a responsibility for Citifleet within their respective roles.

But Bidrose, was appointed chief executive last November, will not be leaving.

Today, she said that within three months of taking up the role she began dealing with the inappropriate sale of surplus Citifleet vehicles to staff.

That was in February before the alleged fraud was detected as Bidrose went about having key accounting practices and other processes scrutinised.

She said Bachop had told her all car sales went through Turners Car Auctions.

"I didn't know staff could buy cars directly from council. When I found out I put a stop to it. It's not right.

"So, I'm comfortable I'm part of the change process - part of the solution," Bidrose said. 

"I was employed on the basis of being a good public servant and really pushing a good public service ethic here at the council.

"I worked hard with Paul [former chief executive Paul Orders] to make changes to the budgets and across the companies. Before he left, he told me the next lot of changes needed to be made within the organisation.

"I'm doing exactly what council wants me to do."

Bidrose said past Audit NZ reports were pretty clear the council had not acted on previous audit office suggestions.

Documents obtained by Fairfax show Audit NZ expressed concern about inadequate controls over several internal processes, including verifying signatures of those authorised to sign invoices and purchase orders, independent review of creditor files, and controls of sensitive areas including sale of council assets to staff.

Documented council management response to the recommendations indicate the advice was largely rejected or ignored.

Bidrose said although Audit NZ had not ever flagged a major problem, it identified weaknesses.

"We didn't always do what we should have to fix those. Well, now we are."