Corruption is a ubiquitous problem without jurisdiction. As a concept, corruption is often referred to as a cancer, a contagion, an infection – medically infused terminology which infers that there must be a cure; a silver bullet so to speak.
When a conversation turns to the topic of fraud and corruption, there is a tendency to focus on improvements to hard controls and systems; remedies which are tangible and can be quantified; ergo, a barrel of silver bullets. Despite these, organisations remain susceptible to fraud and corruption, yet wonder why … they have a hotline, a policy, a Code of Conduct.
On the occasion that fraud and/or corruption is considered, it is often thought of as a financial issue, but this focus neglects to address the many influences which contribute to its pervasive and insidious nature. This is the essential aspect that is often omitted from any anti-fraud or corruption framework, hence understanding the key determinants of fraud and corruption is essential in this regard.
While strong systems and controls will limit opportunities for fraud and corruption, it is crucial that any anti-corruption framework recognises that it is through the actions of individuals that good or bad practices stem. Regardless of the purported rigour behind organisational controls, a workplace culture that is tolerant of bad or unethical practices will be more susceptible to corruption in the end; it is a slippery slope.
Those who might engage in fraudulent or corrupt activities are not necessarily criminal masterminds, but have found themselves in a situation that they did not envisage. In and around these scenarios, other employees may be complicit; condone the behaviours; or, may simply capitulate – these three C’s contribute to a culture of corruption. It is rare that they will speak up in such a culture.
A robust framework which incorporates an ethical workplace culture with robust systems and processes will ultimately be more productive and resilient. Developing a workforce which is vigilant and accountable at every level will be more sustainable in the long-term.