Third council resignation over Dunedin's Citifleet

WILMA MCCORKINDALE
Last updated 16:49 04/09/2014

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Dunedin City Council continues to bleed managers as council control processes come under the spotlight amid allegations of a $1.5m fraud.

Today its financial controller Maree Clarke was the third in the past week to quit.

Last week, the council's GM of infrastructure and networks Tony Avery quit his role as the fraud, within the council's Citifleet unit, was exposed.

Kevin Thompson, the council's group manager regulatory services, resigned on Monday.

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

Council chief executive Dr Sue Bidrose broke the news about the departure of long-serving Clarke this afternoon "with sadness".

A Deloitte report in to the fraud allegations said there was nothing to indicate any of the three managers were aware in any way of the alleged fraud, Bidrose said.

However, ultimately the responsibility for finance reporting and controls sat with the finance controller, she said. 

Clarke started at the council in 2003 and promoted to financial controller in 2008.

"Maree purchased a council vehicle through Citifleet, this was the normal practice in place within council at that time. The funds for this purchase were received by council."

Discrepancies within the unit were uncovered during a widespread review of accounting practices across departments and passed to Deloitte in June. Its 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.

Fairfax broke the news on June 3. The Citifleet unit was under review and that its then team leader Brent Bachop had died suddenly at the end of May. His death has been referred to the coroner.

Bidrose told Fairfax yesterday Bachop had told her all council vehicles were sold 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," she said.

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