Improving global progress to end corruption

23 Oct 18

In the second of our regular fraud columns CIPFA’s Les Dobie looks at ways to tackle corruption globally against a backdrop of an ever-shifting threat.

In 2003, member states of the United Nations declared their commitment to fighting fraud and corruption.

They adopted a convention against corruption, which they stated would send a clear message that the international community was determined to prevent and control the issue, and that corrupt behaviour would no longer be tolerated.

But 15 years on, despite the standards, measures and rules that the member states of the UN have applied to reaffirm accountability and transparency, corruption is still widespread. 

Indeed, according to Transparency International’s recent annual Corruption Perceptions Index, “the majority of countries are making little or no progress in ending corruption”.

And data from PwC shows that there has been an increase in fraud across all territories, with 49% of global companies claiming they have been victims of economic crime, up from 36% in 2016.

So what can be done to better tackle fraud and corruption?

First, we must continue to embrace current systematic efforts to prevent and detect corruption.

Although corrupt practices have not been eradicated entirely, the UN’s corruption convention was an incredible achievement, as it boosted cooperation between states and made many more people aware of the devastating effect of corruption on development.

The UN framework must continue to be promoted and referred to, along with others from bodies such as the International Monetary Fund and the International Organization of Supreme Audit Institutions.

Second, with the corruption menace constantly adapting and changing to the circumstances and environment it operates in, organisations need to be vigilant. The traditional way of countering corruption is heavily reliant on static controls and detection mechanisms that can become outmoded relatively quickly.

This asymmetry of approach hands an advantage to the corrupt. 

Third, accountants and auditors need to redress the balance and increase their awareness of the ever-changing corruption threat. Better training and education on the subject within the profession is a key step in winning this vital battle.

CIPFA’s Counter Fraud Centre offers the CIPFA Accredited Counter Fraud Specialist (ACFS) qualification to protect the public purse through prevention, detection and recovery of fraud.

This specialist course, offering the counter-fraud knowledge and skills required for effective end-to-end management of fraud, is vitally important in helping organisations within the public sector to take control and assist law enforcement in eradicating and tackling fraudulent activity to ensure public funds are protected.

Lastly, governments, public bodies and businesses need to focus on reducing incentives and opportunities for fraud.

According to PwC, fraud occurs when there is an incentive (generally a pressure to perform) followed by an opportunity.

This means effort must be put into counteracting incentives by ensuring ethical behaviour is promoted within organisations and through providing early-warning systems so staff can report potential problems.

There must also be a focus on reducing opportunities, which can be achieved by building up controls and processes. 

Of course, fighting corruption is not a simple task, and the above is not enough to eradicate corruption entirely.

But, I am confident that, given the spotlight on corruption and fraud in recent years, governments across the world will be compelled to do all that they can to tackle the issue. 

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