Aziz Rahman

Aziz Rahman of Rahman Ravelli

How to make sure your business doesn't fall foul of fraud

Aziz Rahman, of award-winning business crime solicitors Rahman Ravelli, explains how a shrewd approach can prevent workplace fraud.

Companies of all sizes can benefit from taking precautions to protect themselves against fraud.

It is usually the case that the big fraud cases make the headlines. This year alone, Tesco has paid millions to settle allegations of accounting fraud, Barclays has been charged with fraud over its dealings in Qatar and the Serious Fraud Office (SFO) is still investigating the likes of GlaxoSmithKline and Airbus.

But there are many other cases that don’t make the headlines; where fraud is identified and prosecuted in companies of all sizes, in all sectors of business. Unfortunately, the evidence points to there being much more workplace fraud out there that goes unidentified and unpunished.

Fraud has been said to cost UK business £73bn a year. Some say the figure could be twice that. The figures are frightening. But by taking some relatively simple steps, the risk posed to your business can be greatly minimised.

Investigate

The simplest piece of advice I would give is investigate your business.

An internal investigation into your workplace can be carried out:

* Because you have a suspicion that there may be a problem that needs to be identified and tackled.

* As a precaution, to help identify any potential problems that may arise in the future.

Either approach will help you prevent fraud. A proper investigation can lead to the creation and implementation of strong, anti-corruption measures that can tackle any current problems and prevent any further ones. And, in that way, the potential for fraud is massively reduced.

Prevention

Fraud in the workplace can be costly to correct. Which is why the old argument that prevention is better than cure is truer here than anywhere else.

Legal expertise is available to help companies assess their vulnerability to fraud and make recommendations on how to instil an anti-fraud mentality into employees.

Implementing anti-fraud policies and encouraging a whistleblowing culture can take time, effort and even a little expense. But such costs are trivial when a company stops to consider – or is given a sharp lesson in – what fraud can cost if it is allowed to develop unchecked.

Fraud in the workplace can be down to greed, the pressure to do well and meet performance targets, desperation to gain a bonus or simply the need to cling on to the job. It can be anything from expenses fiddling and submission of fake sales figures through to major accounting fraud.

But whatever the motive and whatever form the fraud takes, if it is committed and has gone unnoticed it is all too tempting for the guilty party to do it again and again. Yet the right measures can prevent this. 

Culture

The best anti-fraud measures are those that create a culture in the workplace that makes it clear that there is no tolerance of any type of fraud.  A code of conduct should be drawn up, outlining what is unacceptable behaviour and stating clearly the implications of legislation such as the Bribery Act regarding corruption and fraud.

Straightforward activities such as checking a potential employee’s references and their CRB status and holding regular staff appraisals can all help reduce the likelihood of fraud.

A whistleblowing policy should be introduced to ensure that anyone can report suspicions about an employee’s or trading partner’s behaviour, safe in the knowledge that their report will be investigated and acted upon, if necessary.

Devising a means of managing detected examples of fraud is vital if a company is to act in its own best interests when it comes to light. Each company should draw up a clear set of policies or procedures that outline exactly what should be done, and who should be doing it, if and when fraud is detected.

Fraud in the workplace will never go away. But a robust, pro-active approach to identifying and acting upon instances of fraud can reduce a company’s chances of falling victim to it.

The price of prevention can be much smaller than the costs of fraud that is not prevented.

Aziz Rahman is founder of Rahman Ravelli; a top-ranked business crime law firm in national and international legal guides.