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Fraud in Not-for-Profits

October 22, 2013

Not to oversee workmen is to leave them your purse open. – Benjamin Franklin

Again and again, stories appear in newspapers about abuse and misuse of funds in not-for-profit organizations.  In many cases, these frauds have been schemes that have been going on for numerous years.  The frauds are usually carried out by long serving employees who earned reputation and trust that resulted in relaxation of controls or oversight.  Many times, this provides temptation and ample opportunity to commit and sustain fraudulent activity over long periods paired with a reduction in the “fear” of being caught!

Boards of such organizations face tough challenges in this regard.  The question they have to answer is whether their policies and procedures are adequate, are implemented and create a culture of deterrence so that lines are not crossed for personal gain (that under the right control conditions would not.)

Here are some of the things that can be done to provide controls while fostering positive work ethics:

  1. Not only establish effective financial controls but see that they are properly implemented with their compliance monitored regularly.  This should be reported at board meetings.
  2. Reporting to the board should not be through one person who becomes the sole liaison.  The board should have direct interaction and access not only to senior management but the levels below.  Establishing sub committees of the Board to review an extended range of employees is an easy way of doing it.
  3. Have an annual check-up of board responsibility and oversight procedures from an outside organization along with their evaluation of use, effectiveness and potential for improvement.
  4. Establish a whistleblower policy and communicate to employees how to use it with the board monitoring complaints and dispositions.
  5. A representative of the board should periodically inquire about long-term vendor relationships and contracts such as insurance brokers, investment advisors, auditors and outsourced IT service providers.

It is the direct interest of not-for-profits to become proactive in their oversight procedures.  Report these efforts to donors and regulators who will be reassured of effectiveness of controls, transparency and continued viability of the organization.

Anupam Goradia, CPA, CISA, CITP, Manager at WithumSmith+Brown, PC and specialist in risk management, and establishing and auditing systems and controls assisted in the preparation of this blog.

One Comment leave one →
  1. Robert Nagler permalink
    October 22, 2013 11:13 am

    Hi Ed This not only for not for profits corporation but it should also be apply to

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