COMPANIES worried about corporate fraud have recently been given stark reminders about the magnitude of the problem.
The Commonwealth Bank’s former manager in Karratha pleaded guilty this month to defrauding the bank of $19 million, while CPA Australia’s latest small business survey found that 28 per cent of businesses have suffered fraud within the last two years.
The most common types were employee fraud (10 per cent), followed by loss of funds from bank accounts, credit card fraud, supplier fraud and Internet fraud.
Deloitte Touche Tohmatsu partner and head of its Perth forensic practice, Martin Langridge (pictured), agrees that fraud is a widespread problem.
While the high-profile cases attract headlines, Mr Langridge said many companies suffered losses in the tens of thousands or hundreds of thousands – money that came straight off their bottom-line profit.
Deloitte’s forensic accounting practice recently marked its second anniversary with the appointment of computer crime investigator Peter Murdoch.
Mr Langridge said the appointment reflected the trend towards electronic and online fraud.
“Over the last two years, many of the investigations we have been involved in have required analysis of a computer’s hard drive for clues and evidence,” he said.
Deloitte’s ‘scalps’ include former car dealer Colin Houghton, who defrauded Ford Credit of $1.2 million, and accountant Darren Skinner, who stole $3.3 million from Minesite Catering over five years.
Mr Langridge said an important skill was to ensure evidence was admissible in court.
He believes Deloitte has achieved a competitive advantage by having a dedicated forensic team, presently numbering 10 staff in Perth.
The forensic role at other big accounting firms in Perth tends to be managed by staff in areas such as litigation support.
Mr Murdoch, who formerly worked for Ernst & Young, said he had observed the growth of Deloitte’s forensic practice.
Mr Langridge said an important part of his work was helping companies put in place appropriate policies to ensure problems do not arise.
This included fraud susceptibility reviews and the development of Internet user policies, which would define matters like acceptable use of the Internet and policies for security passwords.
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