Responding to COVID-19: insight, support and guidance

fraud's global footprint is bigger than most think


Part of the solution to tackling fraud begins with raising awareness in general. It’s no longer acceptable within the UK to turn a blind-eye to fraud in the workplace. The CIPFA Counter Fraud Centre, as part of its role, champions the need to proactively fight fraud and help safeguard the public sector, and its purse, from the growing fraud problem. The price individuals, businesses, organisations and governments pay for ignoring fraud is high with reputations as well as finances at risk.

The growing cost and the seriousness of global fraud is also on the increase. In the UK alone public services fraud costs the taxpayer an estimated £21 billion a year. Part of the solution to the problem of fraud lies in informing people on the best ways to prevent fraud and corruption in the workplace, as well as educating individuals and teams who are more likely to be exposed to bribery, fraud and corruption. Being able to recognise and identify the early warning signs makes a substantial difference to an organisation’s counter fraud defences.

Education and awareness raising reduces the risk of fraud in both public and private sectors. One key area many public sector organisations should address is ensuring that employees who require a working knowledge of bribery and corruption risks, as part of their job, are up to date with the latest training in this specialist area. To help with this, the Counter Fraud Centre has created the Anti-bribery and Corruption e-Learning Package. The e-learning package equips workers with the skills and knowledge required to effectively block and prevent bribery and corruption at work. 

Geared towards those on the ground who have increased exposure to bribery risk, the e-learning package illustrates the reach of the UK Bribery Act (2010), and draws attention to the fact that becoming involved in bribery anywhere in the world is the same as becoming involved in bribery in the UK. Employees, for example, are not exempt from the Act if they work overseas, and may be investigated by UK law enforcement and regulatory agencies, and be tried in UK courts even if the offence took place overseas. 

Many people in the UK, and UK citizens working abroad for public, private and not-for-profit, need to be alert to risks and to the development of a relationship that could lead to a bribe being hinted at, offered or even accepted. The e-learning package makes navigating the murky waters of bribery a lot easier as it brings clarity to what is often perceived as a complex area of regulation. 

A common area of confusion, for example, is understanding the difference between bribery and corruption as the terms are often used interchangeably. Corruption is essentially about the ‘corruption’ of office or its use for private, personal or partisan interests. This may take a number of criminalised forms, such as bribery or embezzlement, or ethical issues including conflict of interest or cronyism. 

On the other hand bribery’s distinctive characteristic is the transaction, or the possibility of the transaction. For example, ‘I give you, or promise or offer, to give you something and I get, or expect to get, something in return.’ In other words, the giver is buying or trying to buy you, your actions or decisions and that’s why the emphasis is on breaches of trust and duty. These are subtle yet important distinctions, and being aware of the differences of approach will influence how a worker may respond or take appropriate action. You can read more about the e-learning package here

Awareness, detection and protection form the cornerstones of fraud prevention. Moving into 2016 all organisations need to reflect on their counter fraud initiatives and ensure that they have robust systems and processes in place. A first step for any organisation is to assess whether they have the right knowledge, skills, systems and policies in place to prevent and tackle fraud. Do your staff know, for example, what is ‘improper’ hospitality? Assessing and evaluating where your organisation is today in terms of fraud prevention will help to see where the chinks in your armour may be.