Fraud and corruption were top of mind last week, and not just because the NSW’s Independent Commission Against Corruption handed down its findings in the Eddie Obeid investigation, while Greg Pearce, former NSW state Minister for the Illawarra, was stood down for corruption allegations.

At the same time, I joined some of the country’s top law enforcement and anti-corruption investigators at the Third Annual National Public Sector Fraud and Corruption Congress (hosted by Intrepid Minds) in Melbourne.

At the congress, the nation’s leaders in this field discussed recent cases of fraud, the challenges of public sector procurement, managing errant behaviour at a time of budget constraints and the new opportunities presented by social media.

One thing that stood out for me at the congress was the need for organisations to be alert to the early warning signs of corruption; their capacity to investigate even minor breaches of policy in a holistic fashion, and to ensure minor misdemeanours don’t develop into major corruption networks.

An increasing number of professional standards officers are charged with employee misconduct in addition to corruption. The fact that Greg Rolph, APM, director of the NSW Police Professional Standards Command, observed at the conference, that he spends more time dealing with poor behaviour between police officers than cases of corrupt conduct, indicates a swing in this field.

Constant vigilance and action are required to manage fraud and corruption in our public service. Organisations can reduce their risk with these simple measures:

  • Identify those people or positions in the organisation with the opportunity/access to funds, banking and invoicing.
  • Review anti-fraud measures and accountability procedures. Ensure adequate procedures are in place.
  • Conduct audits to ensure procedures are followed throughout the organisation and regularly ask questions.
  • Educate staff and managers about appropriate and inappropriate spending.
  • When you find discrepancy, act. Nothing sends a clearer message about appropriate conduct than a case example.

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