/ Corruption on the Agenda / Case Handling / Take Action!

 

Before you take action in cases of corruption, fraud or misuse of resources and power, you have to investigate the case - and you have to get the facts right. 

 

 

When you detect warning signs, you must react and you have to take action. Your potential actions might be limited, and depend to a great extend on your position in the organisational setup. Below we offer the following pieces of advice based on different perspectives:

 

Volunteer and Staff Perspective

A staff member suspecting fraud or corruption within his or her own organisation is very vulnerable. The person risks losing his or her job or position as well as being discredited. You often feel powerless. In no situation does the employee him/herself have a responsibility to investigate the suspicions.

Is the organisation as an entity misusing for example donor funds? This is very difficult for a lower level employee to act on, except for informing the donor, maybe anonymously.
Do you suspect a member of management of improprieties? Reporting your suspicions to a higher level manager is the obvious action, but is often complicated. A whistleblower facility within the organisation helps.
Do you suspect a fellow employee? In this case it may be relatively easy to report your suspicions to your immediate superior.
 

 

Management Perspective

A top level manager of an organisation suspecting a staff member, or a group of employees, of fraud or corruption has an unconditional duty to act on this suspicion. The manager may not risks as much as an employee suspecting a manager, making it easier for the manager to act. It is important, though, to act in a proper and initially discreet way in order not to discredit an potential innocent staff member. A manager suspecting the organisation as an entity of misuse of donor funds will normally face the same difficulties as any staff member.

Informing the top executive should be done at an early stage. The top executive should then normally inform the board. The action to be taken should then be decided jointly between the manager in question and the top executive.

 

 

Board Perspective 

The board is often lacking specific information of day-to-day operations of an organisation, and the top executive plays an essential role as the link between the board and the secretariat. Overseeing the top executive is the board’s duty. No one else can take on this task. The board needs to have checks and balances in place for this oversight, including detecting warning signals of fraud and corruption. If the board suspects the top executive of improprieties, it must act. It can normally not use the staff resources of the organisation itself and must find other means of following up on its suspicions.

 

It can do an initial investigation internally, performed by board members, or it can hire outside resources on a consultancy basis.
If the board suspects any other staff, the obvious action to take is to inform the top executive.
 

 

Funding Partner and Donor Perspective

Funding partners and donors are often geographically far away from where the projects they have granted are being implemented. This fact makes it difficult for them to asses and judge warning signals, they might receive. Nevertheless, funding partners and donors are obliged to react. If initial queries point to concrete incidents of fraud or corruption, they will have to consider setting up a proper investigation. Meanwhile the investigation is going on the project will normally be put at a hold until the outcome has been established.  An investigation based on suspicion of fraud or corruption is a challenge to any partnership relation and in some cases it will mark the ending of it. In other cases it can result in a new beginning based on (a new) mutual understanding of roles and responsibilities.

Read CISU's 'Notes on what to consider when setting up an investigations based on suspicion of fraud or corruption'.

 

Illustration by Sammi Mwamkinga ©
 

Address: CISU - Civil Society in Development, Klosterport 4a, 8000 Århus C, Denmark
Tel: 045 8612 0342, weekdays 10.00-15.00, Mail us at cisu@cisu.dk