‘How to tackle fraud, corruption to salvage Nigeria’s economy’
Godwin Oyedokun is the President, Association of Certified Fraud Examiners (ACFE), Lagos Chapter. Apart from his years of experience in the financial sector, Oyedokun, a certified member of over 12 associations including the Institute of Chartered Accountants of Nigeria (ICAN) manages OGE Professional Services Ltd, an organisation that offers professional services basically aimed at reducing fraud. In this interview with KINGSLEY JEREMIAH, he talks on the growing rate of fraud in Nigeria and the reasons the anti-corruption war in Nigeria may remain elusive and a waste of taxpayers’ money. Excerpt
Despite concerted efforts, cases of fraud are still on the increase in Nigeria, how can this be reversed?
Incident of fraud will continue to increase until people do what is right. It is very costly to detect fraud and even when it is detected you may not gain back the lost fund. What is important is to prevent fraud. There is a popular saying that “We don’t blame thieves; we blame people who put their things carelessly”. If you had protected your things, it will only take armed robbers to collect it but fraud is not like armed robbery. If anti-fraud professionals are engaged, private and public organisations will not have course to worry. But most organisations don’t want to hire one. They believe they can cover things up. Loss to fraud most times is 100 per cent higher than what it would have taken to hire a professional.
However, that does not mean that there won’t be fraud even when a professional is hired but the degree will be minimal. Perception of detection is the greatest deterrent to fraudulent activities. We must do everything to make fraudulent activities less attractive. If I know my employees can forge receipt, then I will have to look for various means of checking them. If you want to procure anything and you have a policy ensure that not less than two to three vendors submit quotation and other group of people come together to approve based on so many criteria, by that you have remove possibility of fraud compare to when only one person is making the decision. We need to close every possible loophole. That is what we mean by prevention. It takes serious originations and government to see things in this perspective.
What is ACFE all about?
Association of Certified Fraud Examiners (ACFE) has its global headhunters in Texas, US. It was established in 1988 by eminent personalities, who were basically FBI staff. It is a professional organisation of fraud examiners. We are the world’s largest anti-fraud organisation and we are provider of anti-fraud training and education, with more than 80,000 members. We are now in almost every country of the world. Our activities include producing fraud information, tools and training. The ACFE grants the professional designation of Certified Fraud Examiner. The Certified Fraud Examiner (CFE) credential denotes expertise in fraud prevention, detection and deterrence. CFEs are trained to identify the warning signs and red flags that indicate evidence of fraud and fraud risk. CFEs around the world uncover fraud and implement processes to prevent fraud from occurring.
We disbanded the Nigeria chapter a while after ACFE came to Nigeria and that is why we have the Lagos chapter today, which take care of the South West states. We are founded to reduce the incident of fraud globally.
But with your presence in Nigeria, fraud still remain a major concern in the country, would you say the impact of the association has been felt here?
Yes. Our impact has been felt. This is logical. It is logical in the sense that we will first of all take care of our homes. We ensure that we are competent members and by that we want to ensure that every organisation has at least two certified members. By the time we have members in every organization, it is very sure that incident of fraud will be reduced. Just like every organsation has an accountant that is how they must a certified member. Currently in Nigeria we have over 2, 000 members spread across the country. The number is very small compare to the task of fraud ravaging the country. One thing we have also done is to train journalist who report cases of fraud. That will broaden their reporting skills on fraud.
What is you take on the current anti – corruption drive of the President Buhari led administration?
They are doing well. They are trying. However, I can’t score them four over 10. Not because they are not working, but all we are seeing are activities, no result. See the case against Justice, Ademola. It happened that way because they were too quick to act. Nothing is going to come out because there was no proper investigation. We have spent a lot of money training people to fight fraud but they work with so much impulse and you will continue to lose good cases if you don’t take care of every little loophole. Every accused have their rights and that right must be protected even when you are conducting investigations. Also evidence that will be brought to table in the court must be ruled upon before it can be entered in the court. There should not be room for the evidence to be punctured by the other party. They will end up wasting taxpayers’ money without proper investigation. The agencies are being paid salary but they keep doing investigation for the whole year and nothing is coming out of it. At the executive arms of government, accusing fingers are being pointed at people and nothing is being done. People were accused in the senate too and nothing happens.
What do you expect from the judiciary? Until the three arms of government are treated equally, there cannot be corruption fight in Nigeria. If you track the record since the anti-corruption campaign started, it is always about the opposition party. Even when an opposition moves to their camp, the person will not be punished except those in the system, who are going against their wish. It is very glaring. There is a system problem.
As an expert, how can the anti-corruption war succeed?
It must be all-inclusive. Even when your family member is involved, the person must be brought before the law court. Government agencies responsible for fighting corruption must do their work. They should take a look at how other agencies like the FBI work across the world.
How will you rate the whistle blowing initiative?
It is a step in the right direction. But it can only continue to work to the extent, which government permits. I hope the people blowing the whistle don’t end up in problems. If there is a need for legal framework to protect the people, government should immediately do that.
Do you think we have the capacity to fight fraud and corruption in Nigeria?
Yes. EFCC is enough. We don’t need any other agency. But their body moves to where their hearts belong. They are only instruments in the hand of the executives. If they can be autonomous they will perform. Even the police and other parastatal report directly to the President, so if anybody around the President needs to be arrested and the President said no, what will happen? The President is the accounting officer of the country, if anything is wrong we have to blame the President. However, corruption fight should not be left to the presidency alone, we must all come together.