Career Center: Take Me to the Next Level
Adama Renner, CFE, FCA
Adama Renner, CFE, FCA, is no stranger to fraud, having been involved in fraud detection and prevention since the early 2000s. She serves as the Deputy Audit General of Audit Service Sierra Leone (ASSL) and has played an instrumental role in exposing high-level governmental corruption that led to multiple public servants suspended without pay. Renner recently attended her first ACFE Global Fraud Conference and found the experience to be inspiring and enlightening. “Listening to the presentations and interacting with fraud examiners from other fields helped me to appreciate how I can better undertake my audits in order to increase the chances of a successful prosecution in a court of law,” she said.
How did you become passionate about fighting fraud?
After obtaining my bachelor’s degree in accounting, I started my career as a trainee auditor with KPMG in 1998 prior to obtaining my ACCA. As a young professional, I was trained to ensure full compliance with rules and procedures. I became concerned when during the course of my work, I began to be confronted with “false reporting” — that is, reports being falsified to present activities which were never undertaken, overstatement of work actually undertaken as against actual work carried out, or poor quality of work charged at high costs. This was my first exposure to fraud, and since then I have been committed to exposing misappropriations at every turn.
What steps led you to your current position?
From KPMG, I moved on to work as the head of finance at an international non-governmental organization (NGO) in 2002. I was tasked, amongst other duties, with setting up internal controls to mitigate fraud risks. I then moved briefly to the public sector as principal auditor at ASSL, the Supreme Audit Institution of Sierra Leone, in 2010. Following a brief stint managing an African Development Bank (AfDB) Funded project in 2011, I returned to ASSL in 2012 to take up my current role.
Through the lens of your work as the Deputy Audit General of the ASSL, do you believe there are any types of fraud issues unique to Sierra Leone?
I would not say any fraud issue is unique to Sierra Leone but rather, the reaction to fraud is what appears unique. Whereas in other jurisdictions, fraud is greatly frowned at, in Sierra Leone, the repercussions of being caught in fraud are virtually nonexistent.
What is a memorable case or project that you have worked on?
Usually our audits are done after end of year. There was one occasion, however, where we undertook a real-time audit during a national emergency and exposed high levels of fraud and misappropriation of assets. The report was widely publicized and led to parliamentary scrutiny which was aired live on national television for the first time in our history. In an unprecedented move, high-ranking public servants were suspended without pay for six months and recoveries of monies lost in taxes and undelivered goods were recovered.
What trends do you see on the horizon for fraud prevention and detection in your government or the world as a whole?
As fraud fighters, establishments like the ASSL and Anti-Corruption Commission (ACC) have been coming up with strategies aimed at sensitizing the general public to the negative impact of fraud on the national economy. This awareness is gradually gaining ground, although not fast enough. Public servants are now required to submit updated asset declaration forms annually. The advent of social media has also increased public scrutiny and public awareness over issues of transparency and accountability.
What is one of the biggest lessons you have learned since becoming a CFE?
Somehow, I had not imagined that fraud was perpetrated in developed countries. The fact that so many people are dedicated to fighting fraud worldwide made me understand that fraud is a global issue resulting in untold losses.
You recently attended your first ACFE Global Fraud Conference. How did that impact you?
The networking opportunities, the availability of resources and the dedication of fraud fighters like [VA whistleblower] Dr. Sam Foote were truly motivating.
Over the years, teaming up with the ACC and attorney general’s office to investigate and charge cases of fraud detected during our audits have been met with challenges over the issue of admissible evidence. The presentations linking audit and investigations gave me a clearer understanding of the relationship between the roles of the auditor and the investigator in a fraud examination.
Finally, watching videos of convicted fraudsters is inspiring in a way, but having a live testimony was overwhelming. It brought the issue of fraudulent conduct closer to home and not as some far-fetched idea. I could see first hand how fraud has the potential to not just take all you ever gained but even leave your reputation and legacy in total ruin. That for me was mind-blowing and a proper climax to my first conference.
How has membership in the ACFE, or the CFE credential, impacted your professional development?
As a CFE, I now have a better appreciation of the link between audit and investigation and how I can undertake my audits to preserve evidence that can be admissible in a prosecution. I was becoming increasingly frustrated over the fact that auditors’ role only stopped at reporting. I now understand that with proper collaboration with the investigators, a lot more can be achieved in the area of redress for fraudulent actions detected during an audit.
What activities or hobbies do you like to do outside of work?
Reading is my hobby. Meeting the authors of some of the books in the bookstore inspired me to get their books, and my target over the next few weeks is to read the books purchased from the bookstore during the conference.
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