As I start to write this, I am sitting at the Auckland District Court waiting to give evidence in a fraud trial. A company was defrauded of a large sum of money by a trusted employee. We were asked to calculate the level of offending.
The matter has left the owner frustrated, hurt and out of pocket.
It's made me think about what can be done to reduce the possibility of this type of thing happening.
Here are some ideas:
- Don't implicitly trust people (employees) who seem very nice and committed on the outside, without putting checks and balances in place to materially reduce the level of possible offending.
- Ensure any cash coming into the business is soundly reconciled to back up documentation eg daily till totals
- Make sure the boss authorises all payments made with supporting documentation available to check things
- Keep an eye on monthly gross profit margins - how do these compare (actual vs expected). If actual is way lower this may (or may not) indicate money is being siphoned off to where it shouldn't be
- Ensure payments to employees are legitimate and in line with their employment agreements
- Review monthly income and expense numbers against expected budget - are the variances explainable? This one is how the theft was picked up.
- Take out officers and executive coverage on your Insurance policy
- Never share logins - you need evidence to be attributable
- Watch for sole charge people who never take holidays and hoard info, and have large debts (these can be fraud signs)
If any of the above throw up questions, then it pays to address them immediately. Don't wait until later when it may be too late.
The outcome - the perpetrator was found guilty on all 32 counts but with reparation unlikely. The person got 2 years 9 months prison.
Fortunately, the business will survive but it may not always be so for others unless the above things are taken heed of.