Oxfam has won the large charity category at this year’s Charities Against Fraud Awards, for the work of its anti-corruption team in tackling fraud and corruption in the UK and across its global operations.
Speaking at the awards event on Monday night, Karen Thompson, partner at accountancy firm Moore Stephens, which helped to organise and judge the awards as part of Charity Fraud Awareness Week, said: “In what has been a challenging year for Oxfam GB, its anti-corruption team have continued to work tirelessly in their efforts to tackle theft, fraud, bribery, nepotism, money laundering and terror financing in the UK and across its global operations.
“Comprising eight staff split across four country bases, the team led the delivery of the four strands of Oxfam’s anti-corruption strategy; deterrence, prevention, detection and response.”
Thompson said Oxfam’s entry demonstrated the breadth of their international engagement and application of a core strategy, driven by a very small number of UK staff. “The volume of workshops and staff reached and trained over the last year is fantastic and it’s commendable that the counter-fraud function has been embedded in the investigations teams as part of their holistic, international strategy.”
It was also notable, she said, that the team ran a major cyber-awareness campaign on the back of Fraud Awareness Week 2017 and have worked hard to tackle individual elements of fraud risk – particularly conflict of interest and nepotism - via a global training package, with support from the HR function.
“Using capacity-building visits, facilitating close working with peer organisations, undertaking a fraud survey and engaging a network of 45 counter-fraud champions, Oxfam has demonstrated its commitment, skill and professionalism in corruption deterrence and prevention, with many initiatives that can be taken forward by other charities.”
Oxfam's Raoul Seth, fraud prevention & analysis lead, said that the charity's investigations team had continued to do great work this year, despite the pressures the organisation has been under, and counter-fraud and corruption training had taken place in many overseas territories.
Daniel Kowalczuk, fraud and loss prevention advisor, added that at a domestic level, the training division had worked hard to reach the charity's 635 stores around the country.
Small charity category winner
The small charity category was won by Colchester Foodbank, for the way it reviewed and improved its financial controls after suffering a number of unauthorised withdrawals from its bank account.
Under the guidance of its new chief officer Michael Beckett, who joined in September 2017, the charity reviewed its policies, procedures and practices and undertook a volunteer survey to identify risks. Since then, cash-handling has been improved and donors are encouraged to make financial contributions by Direct Debit or BACS whenever possible.
The Foodbank now operates within an agreed budget and any departures from budget are authorised by the trustees. Financial transactions are overseen by the treasurer, chair and chief officer and performance is monitored monthly by the trustees by means of a detailed financial statement.
The charity has also adopted a “do it all but do it better” strategy which includes a twice-weekly review of all transactions. This process allows any unexpected withdrawals to be immediately investigated and funds reinstated by the bank. Funds surplus to immediate operational needs are transferred to a deposit account, for which access is extremely limited and tightly controlled.
This means the charity can continue to publicise its bank details on publicity materials and receive donations direct, without incurring fees – an important element of its fundraising processes.
Caroline Beckett, trustee at Colchester Foodbank, said a key part of the success of the review was the training of volunteers to know what good practice looks like. “Rather than focusing on what can actually go wrong and panicking everybody, if we just get people to recognise what good practice looks like, then they can spot when there are deviations from that,” she said.
Charity Fraud Awareness Week is a global event, involving more than 40 charities, regulators and professional bodies. This year's week focuses on cyber security. The Charity Commission and Fraud Advisory Panel have created a number of resources and are holding various events during the week. Find out more at fraudadvisorypanel.org.