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Internal Investigations At Coast Council Continue

A forensic examination begun in mid-2022 at West Coast Regional Council is continuing after it refused to pay a $90,000 bill from the Westland District Council.

Former chief executive Heather Mabin in mid-2022 announced she had ordered a forensic examination into electronic records, administered by a former staffer.

Ms Mabin said she believed the ex-staff member was responsible for an alleged informal agreement for council to pay a share of a district council access project on the Hokitika Seawall.

News of the forensic examination came after the regional council received a $90,000 invoice from the Westland District Council, and amidst questions about other projects council had committed to.

At the time the district council claimed it had an agreement with the regional council to pay a $90,000 share for the beach access.

By November 2022, Ms Mabin reported that despite "ongoing" dialogue with the district council there was still no final agreement to pay the disputed $90,000.

Council could find no record of any such agreement and it refused to pay, Ms Mabin told the November 2022 meeting.

She said the main issue was "nothing was put to paper" following an apparent verbal discussion between staff of the two councils.

Ms Mabin also named during the open meeting a former staff member allegedly involved in the disputed agreement.

LDR has previously asked the current chief executive Darryl Lew if the matter had been taken any further.

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He refused to discuss if the Serious Fraud Office had been asked to investigate. The Serious Fraud Office also declined to comment.

Risk and Assurance Committee chairman Frank Dooley confirmed this week the internal systems investigation begun two years ago continued.

"What the council have done, under the leadership of the former chief executive officer Heather Mabin, is to go through a process to interrogate the internal systems -- or lack of," he said.

"Under the new chief executive Darryl Lew … we're following through with that work that was commenced and putting in place all the processes needed to update any procedures," Cr Dooley said.

Asked if anything had been flagged to date around the actions of former staff, in terms of outstanding finance needing to be taken further, Cr Dooley said nothing had arisen.

"No. What councillors have done, we have commissioned external advisors to come in," he said.

This was around the audit of four different accounting sectors in-house, as reported to the Risk and Assurance Committee this week, Cr Dooley said.

It meant procedures were now being put in place "to move forward" and he believed there should be no repeat of the previous issues around documentation.

"You have heard me say this organisation was broken. It frickin was," Cr Dooley said.

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