Financial services firm PwC’s recent Global Economic Crime survey 2018 has shown that South African organisations continue to report the highest instances of economic crime in the world - of 77%.

They were followed in second place by Kenya with 75%, and third was France with 71%.

Half of the top 10 countries in the report are in Africa.

Trevor White, the PwC partner for forensic services and South Africa survey leader, warned that internal fraud was as much of a threat as fraudsters from outside the organisation.

“Fraud risk has been seen to emerge with as much prominence from within organisations as it does from the outside. We are always on the lookout for the enemies at the gate, but what about the enemies already inside?” asked White.

“And not just anyone: often it’s the ones with the keys to the kingdom. The conventional arsenal is not going to cut it, and a more holistic and collaborative view of the organisation is necessary.”

He said focusing on human behaviour offered the best opportunity for preventing or reducing fraud.

Fraud

The PwC survey states that there is a “fraud triangle” - a set of three conditions, or drivers, that influence an act of fraud.

Dealing with these three environmental conditions will significantly reduce the potential for fraud to take place because it effectively works towards removing the environment that breeds a fraudster.

“The birth of a fraudulent act usually follows the following trajectory: it starts with pressure - generally related to an internal issue. Then, if an opportunity presents itself, the person will usually wrestle with it emotionally. The last piece of the puzzle, which enables them to move from thought to action, is rationalisation,” the report said.

“While the personal profile of a fraudster is a broad concept, the environment is easier to understand and defend against. Each condition, which is an opportunity, pressure and rationalisation needs a focused and detailed intervention that is holistic,” said White.

He said the antidote to opportunity is about addressing the actual culture within the organisation.

With pressure, organisations need to ask what the drivers of pressure within the business are, and are expectations aligned with reality.

Rationalisation, the final ingredient, happens when a “person who decides to commit an act of fraud against their own employer has reconciled their planned actions to their own personal code of ethics”.

The report concludes that just as fraud does not happen through the agency of a single factor, but by a combination, businesses have to find the right mix of technology and people measures to combat it.