Consultant axes IT executives

Financial consultancy PricewaterhouseCoopers has dismissed the general manager of its Auckland operation's IT division and the network manager over alleged misappropriation of funds.

"They are no longer working for the firm," confirmed Auckland-based partner Stewart Bauld.

An internal investigation is under way but PwC has not yet laid a complaint with the police.

The company is not in a position to disclose the actual nature of the alleged fraud due to the ongoing investigation, but says there were some irregularities over expense claims. Industry speculation is that these may be related to provisioning of the IT infrastructure at PwC's new premises in central Auckland. However, Bauld cannot confirm if the allegations are directly related to the infrastructure contracts.

Over the last few months, there has been much industry debate surrounding the handling of tenders for the implementation of PwC's new network, which has around 700 PCs and is considered to be one of the most sophisticated networks in the CBD. The firm's 700 employees have been relocated to the new office.

The tender for switches and routers in particular was surrounded by controversy and was pursued by almost all the top New Zealand systems integrators. It was awarded to Auckland-based integrator Infinity Solutions.

Networking vendor Cisco, PwC's global partner, also chased the deal. It was going to provide the hardware and work with a gold partner for the implementation. It is believed there were some requests from PwC that the networking giant refused to comply with as it felt they were inappropriate.

Bauld says the tender was awarded to Infinity because it provided the best pricing and the products.

"The entire package was better priced and we decided to go with it," he says. "While PwC and Cisco are global partners, there is no requirement for the New Zealand subsidiary to follow that partnership. We are independent of our global alliances and at times what may be the best partnership in another country may not be the best in New Zealand."

As for the speculation, Bauld is unaware of specific allegations but has heard the rumour. "If Cisco had concerns it should have come to us and talked about it, but it has not done that."

It is not known what the tender was worth, but PwC says it was a significant one. An integrator, who did not wish to be named, says it was an expensive courtship that led to nothing. This company says it dropped its pricing for the deal so much that it became financially impractical.