DCC whistleblowing —what is open government ?

### ODT Online Tue, 17 Mar 2015
Council sets up whistleblower committee
By Eileen Goodwin
An internal audit policy adopted by the Dunedin City Council shifts responsibility to governance level, an “important change”, councillor Richard Thomson told a council meeting yesterday. […] Cr Lee Vandervis asked how easy it would be for the general public to tip off the council’s whistleblower, given he was “beginning to tire of the role, given recent events”.
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DCC logo (fraud) 2

It is completely ludicrous that our little Cr Thomson is today making public comment on DCC’s new Whistleblower Policy – given Cr Thomson as chair of DCC Finance Committee has had every opportunity to treat his colleague, Cr Vandervis, the Council’s most notoriously effective Whistleblower, with all fairness and due respect but has actively failed on that count, time and time again.

What is it with Cr Thomson, our import from Southern District Health Board and former Otago District Health Board. Doesn’t the Councillor see it as his mission to relieve Dunedin Ratepayers from the living hell of the nearly unsurpassable multimillion-dollar mountain of corruption and fraudulent activity perpetuated at the Council and through its CCOs. Whitewash is not removal, Councillor.

A quietly spoken SDHB informant tells me Susie Johnstone, a chartered accountant, was wheeled in by the Health Board after the Swann fraud, for mop up. Well, Detectives, who wheeled her in and what was the nature of the mop up?

Separately, following Cr Thomson’s uptake into local body politics, Ms Johnstone was recommended for the position of independent chair of the DCC Audit and Risk Subcommittee.

The ARS committee is now to deal with Whistleblowing (no surprises there). As we have already published in previous months, via intimations of the Draft Whistleblower Policy: the DCC contact for Whistleblowers has been a Balclutha woman, whether actively.

Connections regularly multiply. The timing of Council’s announcement of its new Whistleblower Policy is sheer craziness in light of yesterday’s illegitimate farce of a conduct hearing, held at the expense of the DCC Chief Whistleblower. A woman from Balclutha was a witness at the hearing….

Rule of Thumb for DCC Whistleblowers: use outside means.

Good to see Eileen Goodwin reporting on Council business.

### ODT Online Tue, 17 Mar 2015
Vandervis accused of ‘bullying’ behaviour
By Vaughan Elder
Dunedin City councillor Lee Vandervis’ aggression towards colleagues was slammed as unacceptable at a code of conduct hearing yesterday. The committee heard evidence relating to three complaints, two of which related to him behaving in an “aggressive” manner. […] The panel’s independent chairman, Prof Stuart Anderson, of the University of Otago’s faculty of law, noted the committee needed to look at Cr Vandervis’ intent and not whether he was correct.
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### ODT Online Tue, 17 Mar 2015
Councillor apologises for ‘loudness’
By Vaughan Elder
[…] In an effort to not upset people, [Cr Lee Vandervis] would no longer go to the audit and risk subcommittee – where he was accused of being aggressive towards the independent chairwoman – and make his complaints to chief executive Dr Sue Bidrose by email rather than in person. These two steps would “more” importantly stop him from being the subject of further “political back-stabbing”, he said.
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Related Posts and Recent Comments:
13.3.15 Cr Lee Vandervis: LGOIMA request – Citifleet … Deloitte Report
23.2.15 Lee Vandervis on DCC Code of Conduct process #emails #naturaljustice
18.12.14 DCC: Deloitte report released on Citifleet #whitewash

● For more, enter the terms *vandervis* and *citifleet* in the search box at right.

Documents:
Dunedin City Council – Standing Orders (PDF, 1019.0 KB)
The Standing Orders set out rules for the conduct meetings of the Dunedin City Council and includes the Code of Conduct for Elected Members, as adopted at the inaugural Council meeting Oct 2010.

DCC Committee Structures and Delegations Manual (PDF, 328.7 KB)
This document details the constitution of the Council, Committees and Subcommittees, and the delegations to the Chief Executive.

Deloitte Report – redacted copy (PDF, 3.8 MB)
Project Lewis – Investigation Report

Posted by Elizabeth Kerr

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20 Comments

Filed under Business, Citifleet, DCC, Democracy, Economics, Media, Name, New Zealand, People, Police, Politics, Project management, Property, Site, What stadium

20 responses to “DCC whistleblowing —what is open government ?

  1. Tom

    You would get a better result blowing a whistle at a hockey match, than whistle blowing at governance level.

  2. Elizabeth
    Don’t you find this statement rather rich? Is he able so see irony? Is he able to see – anything?
    Following his latest performance at the hearing yesterday he makes this amazing statement. He seems to be oblivious of his own performance failing to see the moat in his eye while searching for specs in others.

    “Cr Thomson said he had been “kind of staggered” when he became a councillor to find internal audits overseen at management level. In an organisation that large it was “extremely odd”.

    When you see this?

    Minister considers future of health board chairman after $17 million fraud
    By Mark Peart – National Business Review (29.1.09)
    Health Minister Tony Ryall has confirmed he is considering sacking Otago District Health Board chairman Richard Thomson over the board’s handling of a $17m fraud devised by former IT boss Michael Swann.
    In a three-line statement, Mr Ryall said he was writing to the board as he was “considering removing the current chair.”
    “I expect accountability in the public health system and we are now following due process,” the minister said, adding there would be no further comment.

    This is pretty damning stuff from a minister of the Crown no less.

    Whatever gave Richard Thomson the idea that he could ever improve accountability or reduce risk of any sort in any establishment. Extremely odd he squawks. It is extremely odd that he is allowed even anywhere near an audit.

    {Link added. -Eds}

  3. Jeremy

    The timing of this Whistleblower policy in the midst of this Vandervis Complaints farce is indeed odd. I wonder if it is an attempt to dig themselves out of a political mess that has backfired and made the complainants look silly in its pettiness. For some of them, whatever mana they have in the community, has been damaged by this tawdry affair. Trotting out a much needed Whistleblower policy…now..looks very much like an image rebuilding exercise.
    The whole thing could have been avoided if the council employees had not allowed themselves to be dragged into political brawling by politicians. We had this happening under the Harland Admin and many people expected something better under the Orders and Bidrose Admins.

    • Well Jeremy, Cr Thomson has certainly not covered himself in glory in anything he has said or done connected with this affair and he does seem to dig himself deeper with every utterance he makes. However, I do think he has covered himself in something – I couldn’t possibly say it but am sure you will be able to guess.

  4. Peter

    Any whistleblower policy is only as good as the people in there who are prepared to follow up and actually do something with the information received. There must be a preparedness to stare down those powerful people on the outside who will do their utmost to protect themselves, their families and their friends from potential criminal prosecution.
    As it is, I know from personal experience seeing the extraordinary runarounds Bev has had in order to to obtain official information from the CST. Sometimes she has had to wait up to eighteen months on many occasions to get the information she is entitled to as a private citizen.
    It is often an exercise in being seemingly pedantic, but absolutely necessary, in order to cross every t, dot every i. In writing.
    Politicians and bureaucrats will only act when they have no other option. Unless they are willing to sacrifice their careers and reputations for those who hide behind them. As we know, sometimes they will ‘act’ by narrowing terms of reference for an inquiry. This is a dangerous exercise for them when other material surfaces that shows the shoddiness of their inquiry.
    Whistleblowers have guts. I admire them. Politicians and bureacrats need to have more guts and not fold as soon as the word ‘legal’ is used by the powerful.

  5. Calvin Oaten

    The following is an opinion piece I submitted to the ODT.
    Phillip Somerville in his usual inimical manner advised that “we’ll pass on using this one”.

    It was interesting to read that the Council has made a definitive change to the internal audit processes of the organisation. This shifts the responsibility to governance level. This is an “important change” Cr Richard Thomson told a council meeting on Monday, 16 March. He went on to say he had been “kind of staggered” when he became a Councillor to find internal audits overseen at management level which he found extremely odd. Part of this change would involve establishing a Council ‘whistleblower’ contact.

    Now that is a radical move in anyone’s book, as ‘whistleblowers’ have a checkered history, especially when challenging authority. One only needs to look at the Julian Assange ‘Wikileaks’ saga plus the Edward Snowden affair to realise the implications.

    Here in Dunedin we have just seen the unedifying example of Cr Lee Vandervis being subject to ‘code of conduct’ hearings brought about by Crs Richard Thomson and Chris Staynes for allegedly misleading the Council Audit and Risk Subcommittee over the scope of the Citifleet investigation, and of acting aggressively towards its independent chairwoman Susie Johnstone at the same meeting.

    That this came about is due to Cr Vandervis’ diligence, of which Crs Thomson and Staynes ought to have been fully aware. It was Cr Vandervis who first alerted the Council to Citifleet anomalies as early as August 2011, due to approaches he had received from various members of the motor trade, both new and used vehicles and parts and service. In December 2014 at the meeting in question, he simply reiterated his findings to which exception was taken.

    Had those two gentlemen taken an interest in developments over the preceding three years they would not have been misled, and would be more receptive to the position. It seems instead that it was more important to portray Cr Vandervis in this adverse manner. Cr Thomson claimed Cr Vandervis’ “bullied” Susie Johnstone and as that is unacceptable, finally, he was taking a stand. Mayor Cull agreed it was “bullying” and was embarrassed by the “lack of respect” shown Ms Johnstone.

    Cr Wilson’s complaint could easily be described as vexatious, with Cr MacTavish saying she was “struck by the shocked look on Dr Bidrose’s face” as a “red faced” and gesturing Cr Vandervis spoke loudly to her. Strange, that Dr Bidrose didn’t initiate proceedings on her own account.

    That there is an element of persecution is manifested by Cr Vandervis’ recent actions of calling into question the expenditure of the cycleways project plus its resultant loss of parking facilities. This incurred the wrath of Mayor Cull resulting in Cr Vandervis being expelled from the Council Chamber.

    None of this reflects well on the Mayor or the Councillors and would not encourage any would be ‘whistleblower’.

    • Peter

      Calvin, l suspect any whistleblower policy the DCC dreams up could well be a device for giving them a headsup to strategise a response before the shit hits the fan in a nasty public sort of way. Let’s face it, the DCC is not into accountability so why should a whistleblower expose him/herself through the DCC? Better to go outside. I suspect this is just another ‘managing difficult people tool’.

  6. Anonymous

    “If you’re not actually opening your eyes and looking for the risks, you’re not likely to find them.”

    Interesting story below that seemed to rapidly fall off Stuff (oddly enough anything raising awareness of fraud seems to). Anyway, not sure about the “migrants” angle, but here in Dunedin the white-collar criminals are much closer to home and have been looting the ratepayers for years.

    I’d rather have a Councillor with eyes wide open than a bunch of seat warmers and cake chokers looking the other way.

    ### Stuff Online Last updated 16:41, March 26 2015
    Rising bribery and corruption tarnishing NZ image: Deloitte
    By Richard Meadows
    An increase in bribery and corruption tarnishing New Zealand’s ethical image may be due to an influx of migrants from countries where such practices are normal.
    Read more

  7. Peter

    Corruption is more subtle here. We don’t have openly blatant bribes paid to cops or other officials/ bureaucrats, like Customs Officers, to facilitate our lives more smoothly.
    Instead we create legal loopholes where white collar theft is somehow made legit. We can, for example, create ‘charitable trusts’, held at arms length to do what they will, without being easily touched and made accountable. We can also have monitoring bodies to protect the public good…theoretically, of course. These bodies have to be shamed into acting, even according to their own rules. They rely on complainants giving up so they can rest easier without taking any action which would be a hassle.
    We also have a large segment of the media that can be bought, or silenced, if the ‘legal’ word is used by white collar crims. This scares the pants off them as well as timid bureacrats and politicians who don’t like the ‘legal’ word or, it seems, anyone who is LOUD. (Funny how they pick on some loud people, like ones who expose the truth, but meekly back down with other white collar thugs who march into their offices being thoroughly unpleasant if they don’t get their own way.)
    NZ, second least corrupt country in the world? You figure.

  8. Calvin Oaten

    Corruption in my book doesn’t just include money changing hands. Suppression of information going into the public arena is equally insidious, as is knowingly incurring debt in the name of the citizens and at the same time lying about the full extent of it.

  9. Elizabeth

    Latest from DCC on their whistleblower policy, while they stone Cr Lee Vandervis: http://www.odt.co.nz/news/dunedin/340589/dcc-training-raise-awareness-fraud

    • Mick

      Just a little time line to amuse ya’all a little bit

      ODT Online Tue, 1 Jul 2014
      Citifleet now fraud inquiry
      By Chris Morris
      The investigation followed the sudden death, six weeks ago, of the departments’ longstanding team leader, Brent Bachop. Council chief executive Sue Bidrose has for the first time described Deloitte’s work as investigating possible fraud. Asked why the police were not doing the investigating, Dr Bidrose said the police were aware of the situation, but the council will need to have evidence of wrongdoing before referring the issues on.
      Wait wait
      This item was published on 22 Aug 2014.
      Wait wait
      An independent investigation into an alleged fraud at the Dunedin City Council has been completed and the matter has now been passed to the Police
      “The complaint is being assessed and will be investigated further,” Guthrie said. This investigation was likely to take months.

      Thursday, 18 December 2014, 3:50 pm
      Press Release: Dunedin City Council
      Findings of fraud investigation released
      Wait Wait
      Dunedin (Thursday, 18 December 2014) – The findings of an independent investigation into a fraud at the Dunedin City Council have been released publicly.
      DCC Chief Executive Officer Dr Sue Bidrose says, “The Police have advised their investigation is now at a point where the Deloitte report can be released.
      But me no talkie about certain erm unpleasant things.
      So you can Wait wait
      18 Dec 2014
      Commenting on the Police investigation, Dunedin Clutha Waitaki Area Commander Inspector Jason Guthrie says, “This is a complex series of offending involving the significant misappropriation of DCC assets. There are a number of aspects to the Police investigation and whilst it is well progressed, it will be subject to a final review in the new year.”
      So you can Wait wait
      The Deloitte report looks at a range of issues, including the ways the fraud was carried out and internal control failings at the DCC. Some parts of the report have been redacted for privacy reasons.
      Guthrie said. This investigation was likely to take months. So far it has been 8 months and now almost a year since Brent Bachop died.
      So you can bloody well wait wait wait and wait some more – peasants!
      But in the meantime we can certainly get rid of that pesky whistle blower wazzizname and it all might get forgotten. Yep that’s a plan. We can do that quick smart. You won’t have to wait at all. Moving rocks at that beach up there might take a bit longer though – very complex stuff that. Legal stuff involved ‘n all.

  10. Elizabeth

    Approved and adopted at the Dunedin City Council meeting yesterday (Monday):

    Report – Council – 25/05/2015 (PDF, 143.1 KB)
    Protected Disclosure/Whistleblower Policy

    NOTE: Items 1.4.1 – 1.4.3
    The whistleblower contacts listed are not independent of DCC.
    The chair of the Audit and Risk Subcommittee is paid by DCC – therefore is not independent.
    The Ombudsmen’s office is overwhelmed with work, meaning swift action is highly unlikely. They triage complaints – like dealing with a slug.
    The Auditor-general is politically motivated to play down any irritants (see budget control exercised over the OAG by central government).

    If you want to ‘blow the whistle’:
    First, consult your own lawyer for advice – or visit Community Law in Filleul St for free legal advice.
    As a whistleblower you are protected by law.
    Protect your identity while you’re on the DCC payroll.
    Become familiar with the use of social media and mainstream media operating across New Zealand.

    Best Advice: To keep safe, do not blow the whistle to Dunedin City Council.

    Adventures with Citifleet and DVML tells us what not to do !!!!!
    Don’t become part of the whitewash.

  11. Peter

    Whistleblowing means you take your information out of the hands of the organisation you are whistleblowing. The organisation mustn’t be in control, the whistleblower has the control.Always best not to show all your cards in case of coverup. The whistleblower needs to see what the organisation is prepared to do first and see if (guarded) trust can be established. The elements of uncertainty, and surprise, are paramount.

  12. Diane Yeldon

    Unfortunately, because of the snow, I did not attend yesterday’s full council meeting (25 May 2015). However, I hope to watch the video … eventually.

    Cover ups can occur at meetings too. And I hope more people will scrutinize meetings, even by video, especially with regards to points of order. Making a point of order is the only way a councillor can protest about an improper meeting process being used. Improper meeting process is a very serious matter because the rules are there to ensure fairness. If the chair over-rules a councillor making a point of order, that’s it – there is no possible redress or follow-up for that councillor, either during the meeting or after it. So there is ABSOLUTELY NO ACCOUNTABILITY for unfair chairmanship.

    EXCEPT in the court of public opinion, where observers of the meeting (or the uncut video) can comment on the way the meeting has been conducted. And here in Dunedin that is very limited by ODT’s policy of imposing silence on certain aspects of council activities. But such comment is possible (thankfully) here on What If.

    To have any practical relevance or effectiveness, meeting videos need to be publicly available WELL BEFORE the following meeting. Maybe if more people were to persistently ask for this, meeting videos might be clearly more than just window-dressing for transparency. Delaying long enough for people to have forgotten about meetings is no good. And if the more controversial the meeting, the longer the wait, then I am concerned that a kind of censorship may be taking place.

    From: Diane Yeldon [mailto:diane@yeldon.net.nz]
    Sent: Monday, 25 May 2015 8:07 a.m.
    To: dcc@dcc.govt.nz
    Subject: Meeting videos

    > Hi, I like to follow council meetings on YouTube. But I am still waiting
    for the April council meeting and I can’t find the March council meeting
    either. But some of the April committee meetings are there. It would be
    great if you could link the meeting videos to their minutes when the videos
    come out. Because then I could search the minutes and know if the video was available. It’s a great shame the meeting videos aren’t available promptly after the meetings because delays make it very hard to follow the business the council is deciding on. Especially when the following meeting continues it. But I am very appreciative of the fact that meetings are videoed at all because for health reasons I can’t often attend as an observer.

  13. Anonymous

    This is about taking the steam out of the whistle or redirecting it down an underground pipe, allowing those in the know to get safely away before the bloody thing blows up in the face of Dunedin City ratepayers.

    I don’t trust this Cull council. They removed my right to representation and taking away the vote from Cr Lee Vandervis was inappropriate, unconstitutional and illegal.

    Nothing good can come from a council that acts like this and clearly doesn’t give a shit about the constituents who voted for him. Right there should tell you everything you need to know about where they are taking Dunedin.

  14. Calvin Oaten

    Anon, you say nothing good can come from a council that acts like this. The Cull council is acting as if it were under seige. In effect it is, and by its own actions. It has followed a foolish policy of indulgences without the foggiest understanding of the financial implications of its actions. Now when it comes to budget time it shows its total incompetence and lashes out at any questioning of its decisions, hence the ostracizing of Cr Vandervis. What we are witnessing is a dictatorship supported by a cabal of like minded fanatics, in turn outnumbering any opposition around the table. Nothing good can come of this. So right, but unfortunately as it is structured, the thing has to run its course, by which time the city might well be beyond help. It really behoves the senior management to take a stronger stance and tell these idiots exactly where they are heading. Seems unlikely.

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