DCC fraud failure

The ODT says the investigation into fraud at the DCC offers a salutary lesson:

Deloitte’s report into fraud at the Dunedin City Council has proved as damning as suspected.

Not only did it involve the pocketing of money from the sale of 152 vehicles, but it appears former team leader Brent Bachop was at the ”centre of” other potential issues.

The debacle is an indictment on the council and a serious warning to others.

Supposedly, the council had systems and checks, but they failed spectacularly.

It is almost beyond belief that suspect dealings worth at least $1.59 million, and possible considerably much more, took place.

What makes it worse is the way several ”red flags” were ignored or investigated insufficiently.

These included Mr Bachop’s excessive lifestyle as well as questions over the years, including from Cr Lee Vandervis.

While these flags were flying, down the road at the then Otago District Health Board, Michael Swann’s place in a $16.9 million fraud was being uncovered and receiving extensive publicity.

His case should have acted as a sharp warning to other large organisations.

Clearly, in the council’s case, it did not.

In a city renowned for its Presbyterian roots and canny business people it is hard to understand how two cases like this went undetected for so long.

The council, including Mr Bachop’s managers, generally has had good and competent staff.

But something went wrong.

Were they too slack, too trusting, too complacent?

All of the above?

A classic instance concerns the finding Mr Bachop spent $102,908 on a council card – which was also used for vehicle serving and maintenance – on miscellaneous items, including soft drinks, chips, milk, chocolate biscuits, bread and fuel for personal vehicles.

Mr Bachop’s manager regularly signed off those expenses. Giving the benefit of the doubt, it would appear the manager simply did not check the details.

Mr Bachop himself, and the council says no-one else in the council was found to be directly dishonest, was well liked and capable.

That just goes to show that other councils, institutions and organisations have to be on guard.

They not only need appropriate systems, but must follow them. . . .

Complaints about compliance costs – in both financial and time terms –  are rife in an age where it too often looks like exercises box ticking ant butt covering.

But no organisation can be too careful about checking expenses and expenditure, especially when the money at stake is the public’s.

This sorry sage reflects very poorly on the council and its systems and does as the ODT says, provide a salutary lesson not just for the council but everyone with the responsibility for anyone else’s money.

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