2010-2011 Annual Global Fraud Survey report of Kroll conducted by Economist Intelligence Unit gives expected results. Fraud continues to be a big problem worldwide and more so in India. Of the companies surveyed, globally 75% reported experiencing fraud during the year. Though the figure has reduced in comparison to previous year’s 88%, the situation is still dismal.
In India, the situation is disastrous, with 84% organizations reporting that they suffered from fraud during the year. It is wake-up call for India, as it is ranked second worldwide after Africa and shares the position with China
The chart below compares the top six fraud categories at global level with India. In most of the cases, India is doing much worse than its global counterparts are. Worldwide management conflict of interest, internal financial fraud, corruption and bribery and vendor procurement related frauds have increased. Physical theft of assets and information theft decreased. Indian business crucial pain points are corruption and bribery, information theft, internal financial fraud, financial mismanagement and vendor procurement.
1. Cost of Fraud
The report answers the most relevant question relating to fraud – what is the loss caused by fraud? The estimated figure given in the report is that globally organizations suffered 2.1% revenue loss due to fraud. For India, the percentage is higher at 2.4%.
Further analysis available in the report says that 18% of the companies reported an earnings loss of more than 4%. A quarter of these most affected companies suffered losses more than 10%. These companies are reporting corruption, bribery, money laundering and regulatory breaches frequently. However, they are doing nothing about it. The lack of fraud prevention and investigation measures is causing huge losses in these companies.
Indian companies are ill prepared to the fight fraud menace. Just 50% companies have background screening, third-party due diligence and other fraud prevention measures in place. In my view, India does not have adequately trained fraud investigators as part of the risk management teams. Overall, the focus is on financial statements audits and internal audits. These audits are not done to detect frauds.
2. The Inside Job
Management finds it hard to accept this fact that internal employees and related parties conduct most frauds. The report mentions that insiders conducted 60% of the frauds globally. That is, 28% junior employees, 21% senior employees and 11% third-party agents conducted frauds. In India, 59% of the frauds were conducted by internal sources.
The frauds conducted by senior employees cause more damage to the company. Not only are the financial figures larger, the reputation damage is huge. However, the companies in India still do not have adequate focus on internal controls and management controls.
However, government has initiated some steps to address the high level of frauds in Indian private sector. In my view, the Indian government’s decision to give more power to the Serious Fraud Investigation Office (SFIO) in the new Companies Bill is a step in the right direction. SFIO will be in a position to conduct more investigations, arrests, raids and seizures. This would put some brakes on the escalating financial fraud cases in India.
3. Corruption & Bribery in India
The report has a special coverage on corruption in India. It shows that the 2010-2011 corruption and fraud cases in India – 2G telecom scam, Adarsh Society scam, CWG fraud, various land scams etc. – have negatively impacted India’s reputation internationally.
Last decade depicted India’s growth story. The government and private sector post independence never had it so good. Huge investments were planned to improve infrastructure. With liberalization foreign investment flows increased. The sudden spurt in economy also resulted in higher greed and corruption soared. The cases show how senior level politicians and business heads who were much revered and respected compromised their ethics.
As per the report, 78% of the Indian organizations have stated that they are highly/moderately vulnerable to corruption. In my view, this is an understatement; around 90-95% of the companies are exposed to corruption.
The multinational subsidiaries in India are also significantly affected by corruption. Though the FCPA and/or UKBA are applicable to them, the acts do not have much teeth in Indian scenario. In my view, the US/ UK authorities will be able to follow through only on the bigger cases, and the smaller ones will be ignored. Hence, the effectiveness of these acts is limited. Secondly, the developed countries have a one sided view of corruption. They prohibit their own country’s companies from paying bribes. However, accept the bribe money deposits from Indian (and other countries) politicians and businesspersons in their country’s banks. This encourages money laundering rather than curtailing corruption.
Although, India has a Prevention Against Corruption Act, it hasn’t reduced corruption. As per the act, government officials cannot receive any form of bribes or grease payments. However, receiving 2-10% bribe of total contract value assigned is quite prevalent. The India Against Corruption moment led by Anna Hazare has forced government to issue a strong Lokpal Bill. The bill expected to be passed in this winter session of parliament. The implementation of the bill may curb the demand side of corruption to some extent.
Recently in October 2011, the Prime Minister announced, “that his government was working on proposals to criminalize private sector bribery and to also make illegal gratification of foreign public officials an offence.” This is in line with United Nations Convention Against Corruption, which India had signed off earlier in the year. The government is also planning to issue a bill to protect whistle blowers. The two bills jointly would have significant impact on curbing supply side of corruption.
India to maintain its growth story needs to reduce fraud and corruption in government and private sector. As previously mentioned corruption and fraud stop multinationals from investing in the country. The decrease in foreign direct investment in 2011 and the international financial institutions outflow of funds from stock markets are clear indicators of the negative impact of fraud and corruption.
Therefore, Indian government must improve governance and take strict action against the offenders. Comptroller Auditor General is showing the way forward, the need of the hour is for political parties to have the spirit to clean up the mess. The private sector must implement fraud prevention measures and focus on ethics to reduce frauds. Both sectors have to collaborate to minimize fraud risks in India.