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Hutt City Council's practices for recovering money owed by commercial ratepayers

1 September 2010
The text of the Assistant Auditor-General Local Government Bruce Robertson's letter in response to Mr Richard Burrell is reproduced below.

31 August 2010

Richard Burrell
Building Solutions
PO Box 9270
Marion Square
Wellington 6141

Dear Mr Burrell
Thank you for your letter dated 13 August in which you questioned the Hutt City Council's practices for recovering money owed by commercial ratepayers.

We have looked into aspects of the matter you have raised. Please note that we have not looked into Mayor David Ogden's actions in relation to his current mayoral campaign. Such matters are best addressed in the first instance by the Hutt City Electoral Officer. We have also not looked into any actions that Mayor Ogden may have taken in relation to money owed to Hutt City by Mr Terry Serepisos. In our view, Mayor Ogden’s actions in that regard have no bearing on our core concern that the Council is effectively recovering money owed.

The Auditor-General's concern is whether the Hutt City Council has the correct processes in place and is applying them to ensure the appropriate recovery of debt on a timely basis, and that Hutt City ratepayers are not out of pocket. Through our preliminary enquiries we consider that the Council is appropriately dealing with debts owed by commercial ratepayers and, in particular, Mr Serepisos.

We have examined a range of documents and interviewed Council staff on these matters. We are satisfied that the Council's set procedures have been followed, including the meeting of time frames for debt recovery, and that commercial ratepayer debt is under control and being monitored appropriately.

There is no evidence to suggest favourable treatment of particular commercial ratepayers, including Mr Serepisos. There is also no evidence of delay or withholding of Council processes in respect of the recovery of any debts owing to the Council.

In one instance, a small portion of annual rates before 2009/10 is overdue for one property owned by Mr Serepisos. We are satisfied that the Council is applying appropriate processes to recover the amount.

We also note that the Council has withheld issuing a Code of Compliance certificate on Mr Serepisos’ IBM building in Petone until the full amount of the Reserves Contribution is paid. Payments for this levy are up to date and are being made on time to an agreed payment plan.

Please note that, because of some inaccuracies in media reports about this matter, we intend to release this letter publicly.

Yours sincerely

Bruce Robertson
Assistant Auditor-General Local Government

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