St John pair deny wrongdoing

COLLETTE DEVLIN
Last updated 05:00 20/09/2013
Dave Thomas
BARRY HARCOURT
READY TO TALK: St John South Island general manager Dave Thomas arrives at a meeting between the Fiordland area committee and St John in Te Anau.
Stew Burnby and Peter Dolamore
BARRY HARCOURT
SHOCKED: Fiordland area committee members Stew Burnby, rear, and Peter Dolamore, who have been suspended by St John, arrive at a meeting in Te Anau.

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St John has suspended two members of the Fiordland area committee while it investigates possible financial anomalies - but it says the investigation is not about fraudulent activity.

St John documents obtained by The Southland Times say the investigation started after an audit this year.

Area committee chairman Stew Burnby and secretary treasurer Peter Dolamore said they were shocked to hear they had been suspended because they believed they had done nothing wrong and were following the committee constitution.

The documents say the issues under investigation include possible financial anomalies regarding the receipting of money into BNZ and Westpac accounts and a failure to provide information reasonably requested by St John.

The investigation will also look into an apparent failure to follow St John policies and procedures regarding a supporter scheme and additional breaches of St John policy regarding expense reimbursement.

Mr Dolamore said the St John regulations state that committee members can exercise their personal judgment in the best interest of the community, consistent with the wider interest of St John.

He felt that is what they had done.

Donations given to St John volunteers at events such as the Kepler Challenge went into the Te Anau Ambulance Social Club, which was independent of St John, he said.

St John had now requested the club's bank account details and wanted the funds to instead go directly to St John.

Mr Dolamore said the Fiordland area committee was audited two years ago and no problems were highlighted.

"We have not changed the way that we do things here but now they have decided we are breaching their policies and procedures."

Mr Burnby said he was afraid the investigation would cast doubt on his credibility and reputation and he wanted the issue out in the open.

"The first thing that comes to mind when you say misappropriation of donations is stealing. We did not steal. It appears we made a mistake and used the wrong receipt book."

He had heard that some committee members now wanted to leave.

St John South Island general manager David Thomas and St John South Island Region Trust Board chairman Geoff Ridley attended a community meeting in Te Anau yesterday. Mr Thomas said the investigation had just started and was related to the provision of information required to be given to St John and its auditors by the Fiordland area committee.

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The full terms of the suspension and investigation were confidential, he said.

Mr Thomas said the suspensions of Mr Burnby and Mr Dolamore related to "the requirement to follow organisational policy and the requirement to provide information on a timely basis".

St John was increasing its requirements for its financial reporting for all parts of the organisation, he said.

The Fiordland area committee needed to comply with national St John policy directives, he said.

The investigation would not affect St John services in the Te Anau area.

- The Southland Times

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