Welcome to 2020, a year of the coronavirus pandemic. Times of scarcity like these are fuel for fraudsters. As you have learned from your fraud examination training – pressure, opportunity, and rationalization — the Fraud Triangle — significantly influence someone to commit fraud. In pandemic times like these characterized by loss of income, many people are exploring ways of survival. The pressure on them is too much to bear. They are under lockdown at home and must find money to pay the bills and buy food. Any opportunity available, many are likely to take it. Because they have the reasons for doing it: we are starving due to covid19!
Let’s get straight to the point: Why are you a fraud fighter or anti-corruption advocate? Are you a fraud fighter to make money or make a difference?
Into the unknown
When I became a fraud examiner about 10 years ago, to be exact on 25th October 2007, I felt on top of the world. I was excited because I knew, I had obtained that magic code to access a safe full of money. I was wrong. This is not a profession for those in to get rich quick. If that is your driver, find another calling.
Fighting fraud is an unpopular career. It is where work well done equals stepping on people’s toes! Afraud fighter or anti-corruption advocate holding an evidence file of a case well investigated is seen by many (including the client) as an agent of doom. A dream killer. An antagonist to their good life. A bad person who is fighting others. Yet as a professional, you win when you solve the client’s problem. However, with fraud–fighting and anti-corruption management, you are seen as a great professional when you fail to find evidence that supports your investigation theory!
A good engineer is one who builds a house according to the plan as approved by the client. A good marketing professional is one who meets or exceeds the set revenue targets. However, a good fraud examiner is one who fails to find evidence. How ironical! This means, the economy setup supports the incompetent professional, not one with skills and expertise to determine who did what, where, when, how, and why.
I am fortunate (or unfortunate) to have handled so many big cases on my desk as a lead investigator. This has come at a huge cost to my colleagues and me.
I have got suspects calling to threaten me. Been accosted in a traffic jam and had a gun pointed at me. Survived a kidnap attempt on me. And above all –overcame attempts to accept bribe money to kill evidence. As an anti-fraud examiner, you are on a road less traveled with lots of attractive gems yet to be exploited, but with lots of hidden time bombs. You must think long term and lead with integrity and God. Each case is unique and unknown. The more evidence you collect, the more you know. Such facts then expose and put you in harm’s way. I am proud of all you out there for having chosen such a career that facilitates accurate delivery of justice.
Courts work on evidence supported by facts. Fraud examiners and investors help look for evidence no matter how culprits try to hide it. A lot of excitement in the work of an investigator happens on jobs that are difficult in terms of finding evidence. The scarce the evidence, the more interesting the case. The more effort a true investigator puts to solve the puzzle. It is always interesting.
The power of many
In all these, I survived because I said, “let me speak to my boss, who is a custodian to the file with all the original evidence.” And that simple statement helps us and many other professionals to escape the tough moments. As a fraud examiner, you have got to tone down your ego and say, “I am not the final person on this case.” And that is the power of a team. The power of numbers. Alone you are nothing. Together we are very powerful. Fraud associations and forums offer a forum to face the adversaries and fraudsters with confidence. “We must tell them we are many. You may eliminate one, but you won’t eliminate all of the professionals.”
Fellow fraud fighter, you have the opportunity tofocus on prevention than investigation. At Summit Consulting Ltd, a firm I founded, and which offers investigation services – our 2017 policy was only to accept special fraud investigation cases that are sophisticated, and the clients are known to us and are good corporate citizens. But this changed. We now focus more on empowering our clients and any member of the public interested in confronting unethical conduct with skills and tools to do so with confidence.
We believe that training so many people in your company to acquire the skills of a fraud examiner is the best gift you can give your country. Equally, having many fraud examiners and anti-corruption champions in the same company makes your work light and improves governance. That is why our fraud prevention strategy is training as many investigators, fraud examiners, and anti-corruption champions as we can through our training institute, www.forensicsinstitute.org, and promoting awareness of what good governance, ethics and personal financial resilience at staff and entity levels looks like. I find it a pleasure to investigate a suspect who knew the right thing to do but opted otherwise!
Again, why are you a fraud examiner? Are you a member of a fraud examiner or investigator to make money or make a difference?
Let me know your answer in the comments below.
Copyright Mustapha B Mugisa, 2020. All rights reserved.