Sowing the Seeds of Success

FROM THE PRESIDENT AND CEO
Bruce Dorris, J.D., CFE, CPA

“Corruption exists everywhere,” says Tony Kwok, the former deputy commissioner of the Independent Commission Against Corruption (ICAC), Hong Kong’s ace anti-graft agency. He’s not only right, but sadly corruption remains a major problem. It ranks as the most common occupational fraud scheme on every continent on the globe, according to ACFE’s Occupational Fraud 2022: A Report to the Nations. And the percentage of cases involving corruption is on the rise, jumping from 33% in 2012 to 50% in 2022, the report shows. (See ACFE.com/RTTN.)

It’s against that backdrop that the ACFE, at the 33rd Annual ACFE Global Fraud Conference, presented Kwok with this year’s Cressey Award, which it bestows annually for a lifetime of achievement in the detection and deterrence of fraud. Kwok watched corruption play out firsthand in his native Hong Kong and then spent his career and retirement fighting it.

Before the ICAC cleaned up the city, Hong Kong had a long history of corruption, and one that Kwok witnessed growing up. He soon learned about the serious ramifications of fraud and corruption, and that experience inspired him to pursue high ethical standards and join the ICAC as a junior investigator in the mid-1970s.

In this issue’s cover story, Kwok describes the “sense of mission” at the ICAC, which defeated pervasive fraud in the private and government sectors to make Hong Kong one of the least corrupt places on the planet. That unusual feat has made the anti-corruption agency a model to emulate. The ICAC’s three-pronged approach of deterrence, prevention and education may sound familiar as the underpinnings of a solid fraud risk management plan. But the ICAC came up with the idea long before it became a common concept.

Since retiring, Kwok has traveled throughout the world sharing his expertise to help countries combat corruption. Some have enjoyed a measure of success, but eliminating graft is often an uphill battle. As CFEs know all too well, we can face strong headwinds when we wish to develop, establish and enforce anti-fraud measures at organizations, whether it’s in the private or public sectors. Kwok advises fraud fighters that a strong political will is the primary ingredient in any battle against corruption. And while that’s lacking in many countries, he remains optimistic.

That positive outlook can be difficult to maintain amid reports of recurrent fraud around the world. But changing perceptions takes time. As CFEs, we can effectively pursue our mission of reducing fraud worldwide by educating others about the value of our work and the difference it can make. Not every employee needs to be a CFE, but they should be aware of fraud, how it happens, what to look for and how to report it. Through his advisory and education work, Kwok says he’s sown the seeds for future generations of fraud fighters to succeed. It’s that kind of educational work that will help us to effectively eliminate fraud and grow our much-needed profession.

SOURCE: ACFE Insights – A Publication of the Association of Certified Fraud Examiners