FROM THE PRESIDENT AND CEO
Bruce Dorris, J.D., CFE, CPA
Our profession requires plenty of insight and knowledge to understand the fraud landscape. But it also takes a good measure of moxie. Thulisile “Thuli” Madonsela is one of those unique people who possesses that know-how and fortitude — at an extraordinary level.
Her hard-fought battles against corruption at the highest levels of the South African government only prove this. The ACFE honored that strength in June when we presented Madonsela with the Cressey Award for a lifetime of achievement in the detection and deterrence of fraud.
Madonsela found her calling early in her career. As a lawyer, she was instrumental in drafting South Africa’s robust constitution in the 1990s as the country emerged from the horrifying grip of apartheid. And when she was appointed public protector in 2009, she was duty bound to protect those laws. Yet rather than using her position as a bully pulpit, she leveraged her soft power and calm demeanor to investigate and build cases.
Those qualities were useful when she probed excessive spending at former President Jacob Zuma’s private residence. She and her family soon started receiving death threats. Madonsela held strong and met Zuma and his allies head-on with the best weapons we fraud examiners have — our body of work. “For us, the outcome was only going to be determined by facts and the law,” she tells Fraud Magazine.
Madonsela’s efforts brought accountability to the government. South Africa’s politicians are now being examined in a new light, and the public is better able to ensure they’re acting in the best interests of the citizens, not themselves.
Seeing what watchdogs like Madonsela go through is painful. Many CFEs deal with similar angst and stress as they try to perform their jobs. It takes guts to tackle corruption directly.
As a preventive measure, Madonsela advocates for anti-fraud training across the government. Education about laws and the consequences of violating them is key. All agencies must conduct training at every level. Only then will they have a chance at rooting out corruption and fraud at all levels.
The ACFE Fraud Awareness Training Benchmarking Report supports the benefit and effectiveness of anti-fraud training within all public and private organizations. If no one talks about fraud and how to spot it, then it will only continue to grow. As Madonsela says, “Training for fraud investigations is vital.”
We salute Thuli Madonsela for her outstanding bravery and pioneering actions in South Africa, not just for being the first female public protector, but for facing down the forces that would try to protect their graft at all costs. She truly embodies the best of our profession.
In the July/August cover story of Fraud Magazine, Thuli Madonsela shares insights from her time as the public protector of South Africa and what more needs to be done.
SOURCE: ACFE Insights – A Publication of the Association of Certified Fraud Examiners