17th - 23rd November marks international fraud awareness week. Whilst it seems slightly incongruous to focus on such an important issue that crosses the boundaries of all sectors for just one week, it does give national and international focus on key areas of action that all organisations should consider to reduce the significant impact of fraud.
Preventing fraud need not be arduous or expensive, nor does it need to expose an organisation - it can be achieved by addressing a few simple questions:
Is there a robust anti-fraud and bribery policy, setting out your zero-tolerance response to such activity?
A good policy will not stifle business or funding, but it should ensure that all staff work to the same set of rules. This should theoretically highlight any rogue practice and more importantly will support you in managing an incident to the extent that will reassure stakeholders that the organisation is not at risk.
Is there a good understanding of which business processes, systems and even particular personnel are most at risk of fraud or bribery?
Completion of an organisation-wide fraud risk assessment will help this understanding. It will allow the recording, managing and monitoring of fraud risks in the same way that other risks are managed. This will ensure that controls and assurances are sufficient to protect the organisation and to intelligently and efficiently direct work to mitigate risks where they may be found to be lacking.
Do staff understand what fraud and bribery are, how they might present themselves in the operating environment and what they should do if they spot it?
Staff may be unaware of how fraud may affect them and their organisation, or may assume it would never happen to their organisation. Staff often do not realise that some departments are much more susceptible to fraud than others. You need to be confident that your finance team would recognise a mandate fraud and that your recruitment teams would recognise a forged or counterfeit identity document.
This is a good opportunity to think about these questions, to promote openness and honesty amongst your staff and to seek advice from your peers and professional advisors to protect your organisation from fraud.