Friday, 25 September 2015

Is it good enough to rely on mistakes to detect a fraud?

There was a remarkable story in yesterday's Times about a "Don [who] faked academic projects to steal £223,000"

I don't find it that strange that someone, even a Cambridge Don, tried to fraudulently obtain £223k forging paperwork and invoices, but I do find it interesting that at least three mistakes were involved: one which led to the exposing of the fraud, one which enabled him to carry out the fraud, and the other meant a convicted criminal was able to avoid declaring his convictions and thereby obtain an opportunity to commit the fraud.

Firstly, the fraud only came to light as a result of a letter being sent to the wrong address - in other words the systems were not in place to protect against the fraud and to a certain extent it was a fluke he was caught.

The second mistake was that the Heritage Lottery Fund didn't actually check the references provided - had they done that they would have identified the references were bogus.

But the fraud was only able to be perpetrated as a result of an earlier mistake, namely, not sticking to a robust protocol for recruitment. That meant, Dr Barrowclough didn't complete the standard application form which would have required a declaration of his previous conviction for stealing clients fees which led to four years in jail and being struck off as a solicitor, but instead had his application considered on the strength of a CV and covering letter!

There is are clear message here for procurement. It isn't good enough to rely on mistakes to detect fraud but don't be surprised when you discover those who use 'workarounds' turn out to be up to no good, so design a robust process and stick to it.

Feel free to read my white paper on Procurement Fraud.

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