The British Council has won this year’s Charities Against Fraud Award for its anti-corruption work in tackling fraud in the UK and across its global operations.
The award ceremony, held by BDO LLP, helped mark the start of International Charity Fraud Awareness week.
The British Council is the United Kingdom’s international organisation for cultural relations and educational opportunities. It said it “has a zero-tolerance policy towards fraud”, and aims to be “transparent in its management of counter-fraud”.
A spokesperson for the charity highlighted the “meteoric rise that fraud has had”, saying “all charities are susceptible to fraud and we all need to work together” in order to deliver awareness.
Given this, the charity publishes an annual fraud report. This is part of its commitment to be transparent about any fraud which happens within the organisation. For example, during 2017-2018, the charity reported 144 instances of fraud and recorded losses of £460,000.
On reporting its issues with fraud, the charity lists the allegation and the outcome, alongside any financial loss it has incurred from the incident. It also lists the country or location of the alleged fraud, as the British Council is an international organisation and operates in more than 100 countries.
No submissions from small charities
This year the awards did not receive any submissions from small charities, but organisers said “there is a lot to be shared out there”, and that the work of small charities is certainly “not trivial” compared to the work of larger charities.
Alan Bryce, head of development, counter fraud and cyber-crime at the Charity Commission, said that the shortlisted charities were mostly those “who have faced threats but have tried to do the right thing”. Bryce said the main themes which the nominated charities held involved having the right culture and controls in place, having support from trustees, and having specialists involved to put the right measures in place.
He said: “Charities often hold special places in people’s hearts so when they’re hit by fraud, the effects can be particularly harmful – both to their work and to the trust people place in charities.”
The Commission recently found that more than half of all fraud affecting charities, 53 per cent, is committed by people known to the organisation.
Bryce said: “The most important defence against charity fraud is heightened awareness among employees, trustees and volunteers; and so our survey finding that 69 per cent of charities recognise fraud as a major risk to the charity sector is encouraging.
“That awareness is a vital first step in tackling the problem, as is adopting a strong culture of openness and transparency - you can’t fight fraud if you can’t find it.”