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JAM | May 1, 2023

Audrey Hinchcliffe | What’s fraud got to do with it? (PART I)

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Hiding in plain sight…

Audrey Hinchcliffe, founder anhd chairperson of Manpower and Maintenance Services Ltd (MMS) Group.

As a business owner, I am feeling the pain of the immense level of fraud being inflicted on businesses both internally and from external forces.

This article is not a research report, as many such ones with outcomes and books abound. I am simply raising awareness of the scourge among us, undetected until an issue blows up in our faces. Many examples are currently being reported in the media, the most recent is the occurrence at InSport, Facey Commodity, Stocks and Securities Limited (SSL), NCB, and Sagicor Bank.

I am sure others are occurring and may not be in the glare of the media, as companies suffer silently from being too embarrassed to expose internal weaknesses. 

But things happen, so deal with it.

The trust deficit in Jamaica, right across all sectors, public and private, industry, social agencies, security, politics, religion and even the media is at an all-time low. 

But to run a business, you cannot do everything by yourself, so you have to structure the business in such a way as to place it in the hands of employees at all levels. So, from little white lies, and misrepresentation of the truth, to concealment of facts—this is the foundation for fraud and corruption.

I am not naïve to think that the explosion of reports of fraud is a new phenomenon, but what is showing is that all our businesses are vulnerable.

So, what do we think is driving this huge increase in fraudulent activity across Jamaica? I submit it is a mixture of causes. These include financial pressure and problems, vengeance against the business, inducement, living above one’s means to maintain a lifestyle or perhaps emotional problems.

Regardless of the perceived or proven cause, fraud poses a threat to the very existence of a business enterprise.

In the public space is SSL. The worrying trend (my perspective) is that when the fraud is exposed, it usually comprises several culprits. 

It means, therefore, that it is time for a serious examination of how businesses now operate, what mechanisms are in place to detect fraud, employee motivation and accountability. Companies must now be on their guard against weak surveillance systems and correct them.

In subsequent articles, I will explore the contributory factors for fraud committed by employees against their employers to encourage consultation among stakeholders to establish the basis for the development of policies on Fraud and Corruption Prevention and Control and best practices where none exists and to strengthen existing ones.

The subject of fraud (and corruption) spans all sectors-public, private, and civil society. The common thread running through all systems is people, yes, the people—from senior executives to middle management to line staff. The human element is ever present as can be seen from the recent cases of institutional fraud in Jamaica.

Businesses have lofty missions and values. The most problematic is living the values and aligning them with personal professional standards. The buzzwords these days are honesty, integrity, and responsibility, but the motivation and opportunity for fraud cannot be discounted. Those who run companies must be on the lookout for those who are grudgeful and those who are easily enticed within the organisation.

Fraud is hiding in plain sight.

Stay alert for Part II.

Audrey Stewart-Hinchcliffe is founder and chairperson of Manpower and Maintenance Services Group Limited.


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