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Geoffrey Storms, CFE, CISA, CIA, FLMI
Chief Internal Auditor
Saskatoon, Saskatchewan, Canada
For the past 40 years, Geoffrey Storms, CFE, CISA, CIA, FLMI and Chief Internal Auditor of Cameco Corporation, has worked and moved up in his career as an internal auditor, a title that was not always synonymous with "trustworthy" and "professional." According to Storms, when he began in the field in 1971, there was a general misconception about the function of an auditor and its value. However, just as the career has changed into a well-respected and vital part of fraud detection, the types of fraud attempted and committed have changed as well.
Describe your job function (a day in the life of):
As Chief Audit Executive, I am responsible for assessing the systems of internal control for the largest uranium producer in the world. I report to the Chair of the Audit Committee of the Board and manage a department of 17 auditors. These auditors manage a risk-based audit universe and conduct a variety of audits in locations around the world. Among the audit staff are two fraud examiners – one of whom is ex-RCMP. They have responsibility for conducting physical security assessments and fraud investigations at all sites – both North American and international. I meet with all levels of management providing my expertise with respect to internal controls, systems under development, business continuity planning, disaster recovery and anti-fraud activities. My mandate includes corporate office headquarters as well as all mine sites in all locations. I work with the external auditors, as well as regulators who monitor our activities and the impact on the environment. I have a department that is a conventional structure with clear lines of site from my chair to the entry level audit staff. Each auditor is on his/her own career path and is provided with coaching vis-a-vis professional certification and continuing professional development.
What made you decide to become a Certified Fraud Examiner (CFE)?
I had the opportunity to attend an ACFE training seminar in Ottawa, Ontario in 1993 and met Dr. Joseph Wells, ACFE founder, and Jim Ratley, ACFE president. I and my colleagues returned to Saskatchewan and formed the provincial chapter here. It has existed ever since and continues to provide timely training and guidance to fraud examiners across the province.
What advice would you give to someone looking to become a mentor or looking to help a junior employee develop professionally? As you near retirement, what priorities have you seen change in your professional career?
The first thing is to 'park your ego' – regardless of how long you have been a fraud investigator, there are others out there from whom you can learn a lot. Part of the role of the mentor is to impart that knowledge to the individual being mentored. Secondly, a mentor should not be directing or telling the individual what they should do. The mentor should be pointing out options or paths to follow – questioning, reinforcing, responding, encouraging, guiding and so on. The mentor can be a resource to the individual who sought out the mentor – providing real world experience from whom the individual can gain invaluable knowledge.
How has earning the CFE credential benefited you in your career?
The ACFE has become an internationally recognized force in the fight against fraud. I have been able to establish Anti-Fraud Policies and Procedure Manuals in several organizations where I have served as Chief Internal Auditor. I have worked with both in-house and outside counsel to deal with fraud matters and have worked with a variety of local police services. My two most recent employers are SOX compliant and that means bi-annual Fraud Risk Assessments. In organizations where fraud is relatively uncommon, it is a bit of a challenge to make a success of these assessments.
What do you enjoy most about your career as a CFE?
The opportunity to learn, to interact with other professionals in an exciting and challenging environment and to provide measurable progress in the fight against fraud.
In your opinion, what are some of the biggest challenges and opportunities for CFEs today?
The speed at which technology is developing and expanding – thus creating new opportunities for fraudsters to use their imaginations looking for ways to 'beat the system.' Consequently, it is a constant challenge to stay up with (never mind stay ahead of) the criminal element.
What are some of the more challenging tasks you've personally faced as a CFE?
Interviewing suspects who lied and defied, and did not breakdown under questioning.
In an interviewing/questioning stage of an investigation, knowing when to pull back and call in the professionals.
In my current role, we have a significant number of native employees – their culture is quite different, and as a result, many of the flags that should go up where fraud risks are apparent do not. There is a significant need to educate both employees and suppliers/providers. And, the challenge to provide that training/education without seeming to insult the intelligence of the natives. For some reason, this is even more apparent in Australia, compared to Canada or the U.S.
What types of fraud are you most concerned about at your company? What kind of fraud-risk plan has been implemented at your company?
We have very large purchasing and procurement functions in Canada, Kazakhstan and the U.S. In today's world, the need to develop and maintain a robust system of internal controls which focuses on:
Defined financial authority
Appropriate division of duties
Dealing with FCPS requirements
The expectations of Provincial and Federal regulators
Nepotism and appropriate governance – to avoid the appearance of favoritism or situations where the independence of the decision-maker can be questioned.
How important is networking to you as an anti-fraud professional?
The network of contacts is critical to maintaining a robust anti-fraud program
Professional colleagues are there to reach out for leads, guidance, recent experience, what works/what doesn't.
Local police services can be key to the timely resolution of both suspected and actual fraudulent situations. Police services can be the subject matter experts to provide guidance in assembling evidence files that will stand up in court.
Federal police services – RCMP, CSIS and so on – have a different level of experience and are very capable of moving at a significantly faster pace than local police. Their networks of contacts are consequently much stronger as well.
I have established three Ethics Hotlines (Whistleblowers) using my contacts in the police world – these hotlines have been invaluable in providing communication lines for concerned employees.
What is your personal motto?
'I am from Internal Audit, and I REALLY am here to help.' I find that this phrase has smoothed out some reputational wrinkles and eased the investigation process.
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