Carrying Coals to Newcastle

It has been a while since I last poked fun at Papa Rob Mattison, the self-appointed Grand Wizard of Revenue Assurance. In general I try to ignore him, but then he does something that just boggles the imagination…

Nigeria is known for a lot of things. They produce a lot of oil. Nigeria has a thriving movie industry known as ‘Nollywood’. The ‘Super Eagles’ national football team has qualified for the World Cup again. What is that you say? You know of another thing that Nigeria is famous for? Ah, yes. Fraud. Nigeria is famous for that too. Hence why advanced fee frauds are also known as the ‘Nigerian Scam‘ or the ‘419 fraud’ after the relevant clause in the Nigerian Criminal Code. So you might think Nigerians would know a thing or two about fraud – and how to detect it.

If I want to find the world’s best expert on BCP, I look for him in a country where businesses have to overcome real difficulties to maintain continuity. If I want to find the world’s best expert on mobile banking operations, I look for him in a country that has lots of subscribers using mobile banking in real life. If I want to find the world’s best expert on operating GSM networks, I do not look for him in a country that was slow to adopt GSM networks. I could go on… but you get my point. Sometimes Americans know things better than Africans. Sometimes Africans know things better than Americans. So if I wanted to learn about fraud in Africa and how to detect it, I think I would look for a Nigerian with experience of detecting frauds, on the basis that he will probably know more about fraud in Africa than anyone else. I would not employ an American to train Nigerians about fraud! An American might know plenty about those clever American intercarrier frauds involving LECs and manipulation of data, but none of that has any relevance to Nigeria. I also would not take training from someone who has not worked in the industry in the last ten years. Fraudsters keep evolving and changing their techniques. For good fraud intelligence you need to meet with your peers and share what you know. The best part is you can do that for free! Yet I see Papa Rob and the GRAPA clan are now offering to train Nigerians and charge them for certificates that say they know how to manage fraud. How did that happen? Did GRAPA bribe someone? ;)

There is a phrase in Britain: ‘carrying coals to Newcastle‘. Newcastle was famous as a place that produced and exported coal – so it would be silly to take coal to Newcastle. The same principle applies to knowledge and learning. If you want to learn something, ask somebody who knows more than you. Do not give lectures to people who know more than you. Nigerians with experience of working in fraud will know fraud and how to deal with fraud – so they should be the ones giving the lectures.

Eric Priezkalns
Eric Priezkalns
Eric is the Editor of Commsrisk. Look here for more about the history of Commsrisk and the role played by Eric.

Eric is also the Chief Executive of the Risk & Assurance Group (RAG), a global association of professionals working in risk management and business assurance for communications providers.

Previously Eric was Director of Risk Management for Qatar Telecom and he has worked with Cable & Wireless, T‑Mobile, Sky, Worldcom and other telcos. He was lead author of Revenue Assurance: Expert Opinions for Communications Providers, published by CRC Press. He is a qualified chartered accountant, with degrees in information systems, and in mathematics and philosophy.