The more things change, the more they stay the same…

18 November 2019

In 1849, French writer Jean-Baptiste Alphonse Karr wrote  “plus ça change, plus c’est la même chose “ – the more things change, the more they stay the same…

Filled with apprehension, in mid-2018, I returned from maternity leave. Like most new mums returning to the workforce, I was concerned. What had changed in my “year off”? What impact was technology having on the investigation process? What was the fall-out from the Royal Commission and how was this changing business? And on a more personal level, how was I going to possibly balance responding to clients’ needs and getting to daycare by 6pm.

So what did FY19 look like? Jean-Baptiste’s words still ring true 150 years on. The matters of alleged fraud, corruption and misconduct our team managed were no different to what I left in 2017 and if I am honest, no different to ten years before that. We still seem to be getting the basics wrong. Huge advances in technology have made businesses a little complacent, we trust that systems will prevent or detect potential fraud or misconduct however, when it comes down to it, there are still people involved in all processes that involve the movement of company funds. To coin another well-known phrase – “where there is a will, there is a way”.

So what have I learnt this year?

  • You need to identify where your risks lie and work with the people on the ground to understand where the gaps are. It is not enough to have a policy, process map or system control in place and simply rely on the fact that these are being adhered to.

  • Develop a strong whistleblower policy and ensure it is well communicated to staff, suppliers, customers and contractors. People need to know who they should report to and they need to be provided reassurance that complete anonymity can be maintained and the investigation process will be thorough and independent.

  • Encourage staff to be sceptical, to ask questions and to not take things on face value. Every matter I worked on this year was detected by a whistleblower. Sadly, many of these whistleblowers took years to build the courage to come forward despite suspecting the wrongdoing for a very long time.

  • Ensure that any exception reports are fit for purpose and are reviewed by the right people. The volume of data going through systems is making some exception reports completely unwieldy, resulting in reports being ignored and anomalies and patterns of interest being missed!

  • Look for the red flags and know your people. Changes in behaviour, lifestyle and work performance can be an indicator of something more sinister going on.

  • Some days, it is quite hard to get to daycare by 6pm – but, ‘where there is a will, there is a way’!