Responding to COVID-19: insight, support and guidance
The accountant who stole more that £4m from Haberdashers' Aske's state schools, in a case described as the "biggest ever educational fraud", was sentenced to nine years in prison in June 2016. There were some key points in the account of this case that can be found in many investigations.
To recap, the matter was explained to the jury in the trial of Samuel Kayode, accounts manager. He was apparently caught when an anonymous whistleblower phoned the then new chief financial officer of Haberdashers’ Aske’s schools and reported their concerns. The new chief financial officer stated that they had been concerned about Kayode’s secrecy regarding the accounts. Indeed, Kayode would arrive at work each day wearing Gucci and Versace and carrying a Louis Vuitton briefcase for his £57,000 accounts manager job. He often worked late locked in his office.
Prior to the whistleblowing call and chief financial officer’s suspicions, no one suspected that the secretive accountant and part time pastor was stealing huge sums from the organisation. However, when he was arrested he had a new Mercedes, a new £40,000 Infiniti luxury car, an Audi TT sports car, at least four properties in Britain and more in Nigeria. It is alleged that he spent the monies siphoned from the Haberdashers’ Aske’s accounts at a rate of up to £98,000 per month.
There are many areas that all organisations should consider when stories like this one arise. We have noted four key actions.
It is vital for organisations that want to be transparent to have a whistleblowing process that is:
Failing to act in any of these areas can result in staff feeling that they should not report their concerns.
The fraud in this instance had been running for at least seven years unnoticed. Whatever lies and barriers to viewing the accounts were put in the way of management, they should not have been allowed to prevent those responsible for governance from getting a true picture of the finances. It seems that the accounts manager had a level of delegated authority that allowed him to commit fraud.
It is essential that organisations have a suite of policies that set out their stance on fraud and corruption and govern how individuals should act in the event that there is a suspicion of fraud. Staff should know who to report fraud to and management should have a clear fraud response plan – a plan that gives instruction on how the allegation will be dealt with and who will manage any investigation.
It is essential to know what to look out for, by keeping up to date on trends and behaviours and knowing the risks that may be presented from external threats.
The counter fraud landscape is always changing, as are staff. Keeping informed through regular newsletters and counter fraud briefings is essential. In addition, organisations must ensure that their policies and procedures are up to date, to help keep themselves safe from fraud.