18th November 2020Covid-19: Top 10 considerations when it comes to protecting your business against fraud

Covid-19 changed the way we work overnight. And as we rapidly pivoted to working from home, the pandemic also changed the environment for criminals to commit fraud.

As we adjust to a new way of working, it’s really important for companies to take stock and ensure that their systems, procedures and internal controls are adapting properly.

Large or small, no one is immune from the risk of fraud. Even the government is not immune – the National Audit Office has said that more than £3Bn of furlough money could have been stolen by criminal gangs and employers. The Governments ‘Bounce Back Loans’ have also been the target of fraud, with fake business being set up by criminal gangs to claim money intended for struggling businesses.

What has happened to the government is surprisingly very similar to the risks presented to small and medium sized companies: the need to implement new policies quickly will inevitably lead to weaknesses in your systems and controls, and leave you open to fraud.

Prevention is better than cure

As we emerge from the pandemic, it is likely that we will see more permanent changes in work culture. As we replace our physical presence in an office building with electronic communication and home network access, we need to re-evaluate our controls. We have put together our top 10 considerations when it comes to protecting your business against fraud.

  1. Who has authority to authorise payments to your supplier, and how is that approval granted? Make sure you also have a plan in place for approving new vendors.
  2. Who has the authority to bind the company into new agreements, or sign contracts?
  3. What process is in place for changing the bank details for existing suppliers?
  4. Who manages the payroll, and who has authority over this?
  5. Where IT processes are in place, how are these protected from misuse by third parties?
  6. Does your team have proper cyber-security training, to ensure that they do not fall victim to fake scam emails?
  7. Who manages key client relationships and what oversight do they have?
  8. Is there sufficient segregation of duties within the accounting and bookkeeping functions?
  9. Do you have multi-person sign off for expense claims, overtime and other accounting and payroll functions?
  10. Do you compare actual to budgeted expenditure to identify potential discrepancies?

By revisiting these core questions, while reflecting on a new work environment, you can ensure that your exposure to fraud (both external and internal) is minimised.

Internal audit

An effective internal audit function can test the controls and procedures in place, and ensure that they are fit for purpose. They can also develop internal controls to improve them, and also ensure that your systems can provide relevant and robust management data more quickly, improving the month-end and year-end process.

Some companies may not be large enough to attract a high-quality internal audit team, or may feel the benefit of having a fresh perspective on their finances. At HW Fisher we are able to provide internal audit services, to ensure that your systems are robust.

Please get in contact with us if you are interested in reviewing your internal audit function (or would like to set one up), or if you would like to discuss managing fraud risks.

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Darshna Choudhury

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