red card

Last year, Fifa was at the centre of a media circus as it was revealed that the top echelons of the organisation had been involved in widespread fraud and corruption. Former Fifa president Sepp Blatter was found guilty of ‘disloyal payments’ and suspended from football, casting a shadow of doubt across not only the organisation itself but the entire industry.

Recently, Gianni Infantino was announced as Fifa’s new president and the long and arduous journey of rebuilding the organisation’s reputation began. This example of workplace fraud brought a sporting giant to its knees. And, whilst most companies will not find themselves subject to such a large-scale incident, it highlights that internal fraud is a pressing issue that many businesses face.

Despite the best efforts of many companies to proactively combat fraud, there are two common obstacles that most businesses will face. First, a relaxed company attitude towards fraud prevention can often trickle down to staff. This notion is supported by research from YouGov and Concur which found that 20 per cent of those surveyed considered it acceptable to exaggerate their expenses. Clearly, company culture is of vital importance. Second, it is very difficult for many companies to identify suspicious behaviour. This is largely due to the fact that they lack real-time visibility in to their expenditure and so cannot identify, when necessary, irregular spending.

So how can businesses look to prevent fraud? Ultimately, there are three key factors to bear in mind: utilise relevant technology to spot fraud before it can develop; be strict with spending at a management level, and implement user-friendly processes.

Make use of technology

Fraud prevention must be supported by the right technology. Once a company has implemented the correct systems, fraud prevention is a much more manageable task. Take expenses for example. Expenses are a part of business administration that is often overlooked and no doubt outdated. However, businesses that still run their expenses on Excel spreadsheets are presenting an open goal for fraudsters.

Technology is important due to the prevalence of bribery, which is exemplified by the Fifa case. The Bribery Act has spurned many companies to re-evaluate their technology and to integrate their systems in order to gain a more holistic view of their expenditure. We have already begun to witness many of our customers triangulating their expenses and CRM, allowing them to monitor their businesses more thoroughly and root out any suspicious behaviour.

Be fair but firm

Consider your own company and its expense process - chances are any spending you put in front of your manager is glanced at, at best, and approved. Of course, managers are both trusting and very busy, but this system allows for manipulation, especially because many companies have no real way of tracking or linking the invoices that come in or the expenses that go out.

In order to combat this, managers should make sure that expenses are completed in a consistent and timely fashion. This gives managers greater visibility and control of employee spending, and if this is coupled with a regular auditing, the potential for fraud to occur is greatly reduced.

Make it easy for employees to do the right thing

Ultimately, not all of your employees are intent on defrauding you, but accidents do occur. Therefore, make processes as simple as possible. Avoid jargon, and create a best-practice policy employees can follow them without considerable stress. If you are then able to educate your staff on the process, you are on to a winner as employees will be more able and willing to follow the rules.

By Chris Baker, MD of UK Enterprise at Concur