This regular feature includes brief interviews with various ACFE members from the UK and Europe sharing their views on fraud. This edition's interview is with Bob Browell, CFE.
Q. You work for the Skills Funding Agency - please tell us a little bit about what you do.
A. The Skills Funding Agency is a partner organization of the Department for Business, Innovations and Skills. Our mission is to ensure that people and businesses can access the skills and training they need. The Skills Funding Agency invest £4 Billion of public money into Colleges and training organizations. Part of this is to fund the governments ambition of increasing apprenticeships. Like all organizations, our funding is open to abuse and on a regular basis we receive allegations of potential financial irregularities. Previous cases have highlighted that we are targeted by organized crime, terrorism and greed.
My role in the organization is the 'Counter Fraud Manager' in the Special Investigations Unit. The purpose of my job is to deliver and manage complex investigations. My role involves involves working with senior management at colleges and other training organizations; liaise with external agencies including the SFO, Police, BIS Insolvency Service etc.
I am required to deliver and manage investigations to quality standards to include: interviewing informants under Police and Criminal Evidence (PACE) conditions, maintaining evidence in accordance with PACE requirements and liaising with legal and other agencies, take action to safeguard public funds and recover money, provide advice across the SFA on counter fraud measures and develop and maintain a counter fraud culture within the Agency. Last year the Unit conducted in excess of 50 cases and identified £22 million pounds for recovery.
Q. What types of fraud do you deal with?
A. The type of fraud handled by the Unit has been and continues to be varied:
Claims for 'ghost' learners, false achievements (like NVQ's and Apprenticeships) and where no training has been delivered at all;
Corporate type fraud where training providers knowingly massage their data to the agency to gain an financial advantage;
Collusion;Forgery (providing fabricated certificates for payment);
Responsibility for dealing with any internal irregularities.
Q. How did you hear about the ACFE?
A. I first heard about the ACFE in the mid nineties when I worked for another government department where I had responsibility for investigating West African insurance fraud. I must admit that at the time I thought there could be vast improvements in how we went about our work and wanted to establish a minimum standard of recognized training for all investigation staff. At this point I came across the ACFE. It really was by chance and through word of mouth. I think nowadays the ACFE has come along way since. In those days having a CFE was not fully recognized and valued by employers. However, when I applied to join my current department it was a specific requirement in the application process.
Q. Has being a CFE helped you in your workplace?
A. In 1998 I became a Certified Fraud Examiner. Following this I have continually served on the ACFE UK Chapter Committee since 1999. In my view being part of the ACFE and (being a) CFE has helped me considerably. For many years other professions, such as accountants and auditors, were recognized by a professional body and consequently gained status and credibility within their respective organizations. They provide a benchmark to a certain standard. In an area where, in my view, management and HR do not fully understand or appreciate the requirements of being a specialist fraud investigator, the ACFE provides that assurance and credibility.
Through the ACFE I have formally continued with my professional development and kept abreast with new ideas and, in particular, developments in IT. Without the support of the ACFE I'm not sure there is any other structured or regular support.
Finally, being a CFE sets certain standards and ethics which allow me to demonstrate my professional skills in the area of fraud for the benefit of myself and the organization I work for.