How we delivered peace of mind to a government organisation in the education sector
Ethical conduct, transparency and integrity are vital to any government organisation. For this client--a government organisation in the education sector--any allegations of impropriety require a thorough investigation.
When a whistleblower report made allegations about a former employee, this client needed to uncover the truth of the matter. They engaged RSM Australia’s Fraud & Forensic Services team to investigate.
This case involved a former employee, the Person of Interest (POI), who was accused of exploiting their position to secure an undeclared benefit for a family member. This benefit was a privilege that the family member wouldn't have otherwise been entitled to.
The investigation's purpose was to find out whether these allegations were true. The client required a report that would include detailed supportive evidence to back up our findings. This also needed to be done without revealing the whistleblower's identity.
RSM's role was to uncover and document evidence, whether incriminating or exonerating, in order to either confirm or refute the allegation that the Person of Interest (POI) had received an undisclosed benefit.
Our tailored approach:
In-depth Briefings: We initiated the process with comprehensive briefings involving key stakeholders, ensuring a thorough understanding of the case's context and nuances.
Document Analysis: We meticulously obtained and scrutinised relevant documentation, which included:
- Scrutinising the organisation's relevant policies and procedures.
- Thoroughly reviewing the POI's email communications.
- Analysing the POI's conflict of interest declarations.
- Scrutinising expense reimbursements made by the POI to uncover any irregularities.
Witness Engagement: We conducted interviews with the whistleblower and other pertinent witnesses, gathering valuable firsthand information crucial to the investigation.
Open-Source and Social Intelligence: Harnessing the power of Open-Source Intelligence (OSINT) and Social Intelligence (SOCINT), we expanded our investigative reach to unearth additional insights that might be otherwise elusive.
POI Interview: Our investigation culminated in a direct interview with the Person of Interest (POI), allowing us to gain further perspective and clarifications on the matter.
Challenges, Issues and Risks
This investigation needed to be handled delicately, due to several sensitive factors. The case involved First Nations individuals, necessitating an extra layer of cultural awareness and respect.
Further complicating matters, we had to sift through a staggering 10,000+ emails spanning a 16-month relevant period. You could liken it to searching for a needle in a digital haystack, except with an unknown quantity of needles. And we had to find all of them.
We also needed to protect the identity of the whistleblower and ensure their confidentiality. It was important to prevent any detrimental actions against them as a result of raising their concerns. Whistleblowers play a critical role in unearthing misconduct, and their safety is paramount.
The allegation was substantiated.
Through meticulous investigation, RSM's fraud and forensics team obtained direct evidence to support the allegations. The POI had indeed received an undisclosed benefit for their family member. The trail of evidence left no room for doubt, showing that the POI actively pursued this benefit. The POI also did not make any declaration to the organisation relating to the benefit.
Additionally, we uncovered circumstantial evidence that the recipient of the benefit may not have met the qualifiying criteria to receive it.
As the POI was already a former employee, no disciplinary action within the organisation was needed. However, the findings in RSM's report helped the organisation secure peace of mind and restore their sense of integrity. The report was also instrumental as they sought legal guidance on potential reporting responsibilities, including the possibility of involving law enforcement.
This case study is a testament to the power of forensic investigation in upholding accountability and restoring integrity. In the challenging landscape of the education sector, it's essential to maintain the highest ethical standards. Our work provided the government organisation with a clear conscience and the confidence to move forward.
FOR MORE INFORMATION
If you would like to learn more about the topics discussed in this article, please contact Roger Darvall-Stevens.