Originally published February, 2017.
For the past 80 years, Saudi Aramco has worked to establish itself as a leader in energy, and oil and gas production. Most recently, the company has also taken steps to lead fraud detection and prevention efforts in the Middle East. More than just a company tagline, “energy is opportunity” is only a stepping stone to the larger principles of integrity, citizenship and ethics.
"While 'energy is opportunity' to us at Saudi Aramco, the company can only capitalize on its opportunities when the basic underlying business processes are all in place and functioning effectively," said Waheed Alkahtani, CFE and CCEP-I, head of the Internal Auditing Advisory Services Group at Saudi Aramco. "The culture has to be one that values and upholds core principles of high integrity, while each employee demonstrates good corporate citizenship. In this regard, being a leader in both fraud detection and also prevention, such as through greater ethics and fraud awareness, surely contributes to the success of Saudi Aramco."
Headquartered in Dhahran, Saudi Arabia, and employing more than 65,000 workers worldwide, Saudi Aramco is one of the largest oil companies in the world. The oil and gas producer leads the industry in production, operational reliability and technical advances. It is currently the world’s largest crude oil exporter, producing roughly one in every eight barrels of the world’s oil supply. With this great responsibility of service, comes an even greater responsibility of ensuring the businesses’ processes and values stay true to the vision of creating opportunity through integrity.
According to Alkahtani, Saudi Aramco has had a history of valued partnership with the ACFE. It established an ACFE Saudi Arabia Chapter in 1997, and most recently joined the Corporate Alliance Program. "When we realized the many benefits of the program, joining the Corporate Alliance became a natural transition for us," he said. "It allows our sizable complement of investigative professionals to have direct access into ACFE’s many resources."
The Corporate Alliance also complements the company’s own programs to adhere to the highest level of corporate governance and ethical standards. “Saudi Aramco has various activities and initiatives that are conducted by its committees and organizations, which formulate Saudi Aramco fraud risk management framework." Alkahtani said. "The fraud risk management framework is designed on three key elements: policies, people, and systems to ensure that an overall high ethical behavior exists in Saudi Aramco. The Corporate Alliance, through access to ACFE resources, is a key input source into our design process for policies that address fraud management."
Saudi Aramco decided to join the Corporate Alliance during a difficult time for oil prices, a bold step that could have been viewed risky. But according to Alkahtani, it was actually more cost-effective for Saudi Aramco to administer a group membership as opposed to individual memberships. “At a time of cost-containment and focus on efficiency due to budgetary tightening across the oil industry, the Corporate Alliance offered a positive solution for us, while maintaining valued access to ACFE for our professionals," he said. "We are also able to use ACFE research studies and reports to benchmark our anti-fraud efforts against best-in-class practices. The Corporate Alliance provides cost-effective tools that support our anti-fraud efforts, while keeping us abreast of the latest industry developments and training opportunities."
Affiliates are located in China, Japan, India, the Netherlands, the Republic of Korea, Singapore, the U.K. and the U.S. Like many large corporations, even though the company is headquartered in a central location, its reach is global. Saudi Aramco has designated organizations to effectively manage and investigate suspected fraud cases. “Fraud case profiles tend to be surprisingly similar across global locations,” said Alkahtani. “Saudi Aramco uses a consistent fraud investigation and reporting process to ensure that the General Auditor can reliably provide a comprehensive view to the Board Audit Committee. The two key departments that are involved in investigations of suspected fraud: Special Audits (SAD) and Corporate Security Services (CSSD). Their reports are issued to two corporate executive committees, such that the company acts fairly, ethically and responsibly.”
Perhaps a benefit of joining the ACFE’s Corporate Alliance that may seem obvious, yet understated, is something that Alkahtani is most enthusiastic about: he, and Saudi Aramco, are not alone. "We are all in this fight together! The fact is, no organization operates alone, and we must rely on each other’s efforts to stamp out fraud and corruption," he said. "No government can do it alone either. Regulatory pronouncements must be complemented by corporate policies that work hand-in-hand to enhance transparency and promote integrity. The company has taken a proactive stance in this matter to lead by example. By doing so, we hope that the benefits of a higher integrity business culture will accrue to every citizen and to Saudi Aramco itself."
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