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Fraud and Corruption in the COVID-19 Environment

Written by: Brett Lyndon – Pro Leaders Academy

The impact of COVID-19 is significant across every sector of society, none more so than how we buy and sell products and services. Social Distancing has resulted in broken supply chains, business closure and for some, a new way of doing things.  What, and more importantly who, guides us on how we operate as teams, businesses so that we stay within the emergency rules that have been imposed being that we haven’t any experience of operating within these restrictions to base our decision making on?

Firstly, each state or territory can enact their specific Emergency Legislation for when specific events occur that are so different from our daily experience as to precipitate specific responses.  Under this Emergency legislation, the state Government will likely share guides on how its citizens may be required to change the way in which they work or live.  However existing Legislation and Rules still apply. When we consider Procurement, it would be easy to perhaps look to use an accelerated procurement environment as a reason to do things differently. After all we want to ensure we are supporting our local economy and we have supply and time constraints to work around, surely the rules can be relaxed?

The answer is a resounding NO!

Public confidence in the spending of public money must be preserved. To preserve the reputation of the sector, decisions made even in these somewhat disrupted times must still be able to withstand public scrutiny and audit, and governance frameworks must continue to mitigate fraud and corruption risks.  The current climate could be considered a catalyst to increased risk of fraud and corruption by facilitating knowingly or not, unethical parties who see this as an opportunity to exploit the emergency situation.

For example, there may be more pressure to buy more than is needed, or to make payment on goods not yet received, even see the possibility of inducement or rewards being offered for preferential treatment – all of which are unethical and illegal.

What do you do if you are faced with this?
Reduce the risk by:

  1. Continuing to operate and adhere to internal controls; and
  2. Using good procurement practices – Remember those Codes of Conduct you studied during your Cert IV or Diploma course.

In cases where you must act quickly and suspend usual processes, for example to preserve life, safety and well-being, you must ensure as soon as possible after the event that you document your actions and seek any outstanding approvals. If you think a supplier to government or another buyer is taking advantage of the emergency and acting criminally or corruptly, you should immediately report the matter in accordance with your agency’s procedures, and the law.

The rules don’t stop just because we may be forced to do things differently. They are there to support us in our roles and to ensure we continue to provide value to tax & rate payers, work towards supporting the economy and doing the best jobs we can as professionals.

NOTE: The content of this article is intended to provide a general guide to the subject matter, and specialist advice should be sought about your specific circumstances. The content must not be relied upon as legal, technical, financial or other professional advice.

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