They were the last people you would ever imagine would steal $____________ (fill in the dollars).
My professional background was originally in accounting. I held various positions ranging from a NATO budget analyst to the Financial Controllership of a major corporation.
In the course of this wide-ranging career it was my dubious privilege to become acquainted with various individuals who had committed fraud. Recently I was once again confronted by the news that a past customer of ours had committed embezzlement and was now facing jail time. This was the second time in the last year that I had heard this kind of news about people I knew. My reaction has always been the same. It’s the one that is classically recorded in the media to these events……. “I can’t believe it; he/she seemed like the last person who would do that!” After a 40 year professional career nothing has changed in this respect. I remember having dinner with a customer many years ago and in the course of that evening I mentioned the sophisticated auditing capabilities that were in our software (which he was using) but which were hidden from the user.
Almost immediately large beads of perspiration broke out on my customers face accompanied by the words “WHAT!!! YOU DIDN’T TELL ME THAT!” You can guess the rest. The amount stolen was in the millions. The message here of course is that we MUST implement best practices in our accounting processes and software when it comes to discouraging embezzlement and trust NOT in our judgment of somebody’s “niceness.”
It is actually almost impossible to completely eliminate the possibility of fraud when it comes to a determined embezzler. Embezzlers I have spoken with have in many cases started out with the promise (to themselves), that they were “borrowing” the money and would put it back when in a position to do so. When they subsequently were unable to pay it back, there then was a rationalization process whereby they convinced themselves that they somehow had “earned” it on just this occasion, so no problem. Needless to say, that rationalization progresses to the point where it becomes a “right” to steal on a frequent basis.
Good prevention practices are a combination of processes like division of responsibilities so that no one person controls the finances, and taking advantage of security features found in your Accounting software. Some software packages are of course much more capable in this area than others, and by and large you get what you pay for.