Dave Carter, Head of Global Counter Fraud, British Council
As Charity Fraud Awareness Week 2021 begins, I recall the journey we’ve been on since the initiative first started six years ago. That might not sound like a long time but considering what’s happened to the UK and the World, it’s a very long time indeed. The first few awareness weeks were, of course, a lot smaller with a reduced engagement. But every year the impact and exposure grows exponentially. Face to face events have been replaced with those online but still the buzz around the week continues.
Not wishing to lose sight on what Charity Fraud Awareness Week is all about, it’s a timely reminder that it was originally devised to help guide the sector on what fraud actually is; that it’s a serious risk that affects us all and needs to be taken seriously. Secondly, that there is so much support out there across the sector. So many kind and generous people give up their time and effort, writing helpsheets, appearing on webinars, hosting events – and let’s not forgot those people pulling the whole event together!
It takes me back to the start of my time at the British Council, where I was employed to lead a new team to help professionalise the organisation’s management of fraud. The trouble was that ‘team’ comprised of one member – me! Initially I met resistance, as the organisation at all levels genuinely didn’t truly appreciate the scale the risk of fraud presented. Slowly over time, I put the initial building blocks in place; reviewing the Fraud Policy and Response Plans, creating a mandatory training product, devising a reporting process as well as networking, networking, networking!!
Over time – as more and more stones started to be looked under – the cases started to rise. As did the problems this created but each of these provided an opportunity to move the organisation another notch towards a counter fraud culture. The team now actually has more than one member. With my colleagues based regionally around the globe there is a heightened awareness plus more appreciation of fraud in almost every part of the business. This has enabled us to not only protect our assets but also guard against the serious risk to our precious and hard-won reputation. I told our CEO only the other week that it is very unlikely a fraud would bring down the organisation – but a mismanaged one could. And that’s the importance the correct management of fraud brings.
Charity Fraud Awareness Week has always been a red-letter date in our team’s diary. It’s when we run a host of internal events to raise further the awareness of fraud. In the past we’ve hosted webinars, quizzes, townhall meetings, roadshows among other events. We’ve also shamelessly exploited the opportunities this week brings, in promoting our events and including the support provided by our various partners. We’ve also seen ourselves as a function that is prepared to assist our colleagues – not only internally but also across the sector. All the problems faced by charities both large and small, trust me when I say, we’ve probably seen something similar before so we’re always happy to support whenever we can.
As I close, it would be amiss of me not to mention and thank the real heroes of Charity Fraud Awareness Week: Mia and Zara from Fraud Advisory Panel and Claire from the Charity Commission. Without their combined drive and commitment, this event simply wouldn’t happen – so on behalf of the charity sector can I thank the three of you very much.
My last words are: together we can achieve more and are stronger – let’s all work together to make the sector a hostile one to fraud.