Accountant owned up to ripping off rates money

SEAMUS BOYER
Last updated 05:00 20/02/2013

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A councilL accountant accused of smuggling thousands of dollars of ratepayers' money out of the country was bound to be found out, his former boss says.

Revenue accountant John Wynne left the Masterton District Council for Australia in August last year after allegedly making off with more than $10,000 in cash.

The council says he "pocketed" rates and services payments from members of the public between October 2011 and May 2012, then manipulated receipts in order to make the numbers appear balanced.

Council finance manager David Paris said the method "wasn't sophisticated" and Mr Wynne owned up when approached as part of the council investigation.

"When he was confronted with it . . . he and his wife readily confessed and paid the money back. He put his hand up and said, ‘Yes, I did do it'."

Routine audits were always going to pick up the missing money, Mr Paris said.

"He had a method in making sure that [it] wasn't picked up in a daily balance report, but it was picked up in a year-end report.

"We [have since] looked for anything that could possibly have been similar transactions . . . and there's no evidence that there was anything further back than October 2011."

The council had now given the information to police, and had also changed its internal security systems, Mr Paris said.

"Because he was a middle management person, he had some level of password control in our systems and abused that.

"As far as being a trusted employee he abused that trust . . . and that's pretty disappointing."

Mr Wynne worked for the council for six years before leaving for Alice Springs last August.

He now works as the manager of the visitor centre for the Alice Springs School of the Air, a primary-aged correspondence school that broadcasts lessons to remote Outback students. He is also on the executive committee of Tourism Central Australia.

Yesterday, he refused to comment to The Dominion Post, but previously said he was "devastated" by the events.

"I wasn't well at the time, but it's just something that happened," he said earlier this month.

Mr Paris said he was not aware of any illness.

"He did have a manner that came across as very confident, but at times he was very lacking in confidence . . . if he wasn't well, perhaps it came across as that [lack of confidence]."

Senior Sergeant Warwick Burr, of Wairarapa, said documents had been received from the council but "at this stage no inquiries have been carried out".

Depending on any charges, Mr Wynne could face up to seven years in prison if found guilty of theft or dishonestly using documents for pecuniary advantage.

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- The Dominion Post

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