Risks facing senior procurement professionals in their personal capacity

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Robert Cameron-Ellis SPWorld.pngSooner or later most senior Procurement Managers will be faced with an enquiry into procurement practices, levelled at the individual. Robert Cameron-Ellis, Director of ENS Forensics, gave delegates at SmartProcurement World some insight into what to expect and how to prepare for the inevitable.

“If you are faced with a departmental enquiry then your best route is to co-operate. Request the right to respond, provide input where you can and document your responses,” said Cameron-Ellis.

Regardless of the allegation(s) and your guilt, he advises you take legal advice because you face personal risks such as criminal sanctions (PFMA, Companies Act); a loss of your reputation or credibility; personal liability; and the danger that the stress could pose to your health.

In making allegations of misconduct against you, the organisation is managing the risks that it has determined it will encounter owed to your actions, such as a disruption to business and distrust in its future procurement activities, putting it at a disadvantage.

Rather than correcting fraud or mismanagement and taking disciplinary action, the senior forensic investigator shared his insights on making it difficult for it to occur in the first place.

In the fraud ‘universe’ only 20% is exposed, another 20% is discovered and the remaining 60% goes undetected, he noted.

“Remember that auditors are not responsible for spotting fraud. And controls do not counter collusion.”

Therefore, to focus procurement departments on a smaller basket of risk, procurement leaders should make their jobs simpler by automating systems and processes; recruiting the best and ensuring that they are qualified; and outsourcing non-core activities.

Cameron-Ellis advises:
• Know the law - Know the risks.
• Keep your policies up to date and follow them.
• Understand and document expectations (yours of them and theirs of you).
• Do not make hasty decisions.
• Explain your decisions. Document your decisions.

Instil trust and control in an organisation by educating the client. Teach client departments what is expected of them and what they can do; define who does what and create service level agreements with obligations on both sides.

But importantly, “ensure the accounting officer knows what can/can’t be done.” Simplify your policies (remove jargon), publish them in an easily understood format and create and update simple templates for each process.

However, if your department is faced with investigating an incident, Cameron-Ellis advises that you are consistent in your disciplinary action.

“Follow a defined process with set objectives and keep your superiors informed,” he concluded.

For more information email Robert Cameron-Ellis on rcameron@ens.co.za

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