Wednesday, May 14, 2014

Focus on Fraud

Anti-corruption compliance programmes for companies operating in the Sultanate of Oman

Bribery and corruption made for some high-profile arrests and headlines in the Sultanate in 2013/14 which has highlighted the need for companies operating in Oman to have and maintain fully robust anti-corruption compliance programmes. This is to satisfy the demands of regulatory authorities in Oman as well as foreign headquarters in complying with local and international laws - some which have extraterritorial effect.

For companies in Oman, this would be an opportune time to conduct a health check on their existing anti-corruption compliance programme and reinforce it.

An early audit by legal and compliance experts is a cost-effective means of ensuring that a company has a programme that meets local requirements and internationally accepted standards. It will show that a company exemplifies legal and ethical compliance across its operations which could avoid expensive internal investigations or subsequent criminal prosecutions and civil claims which are also likely to result in negative publicity.

What does an audit involve?

A strategic audit review provides:

  1. a full analysis as to the reliability and effectiveness of the organisation’s internal integrity and anti-corruption policies;
  2. identification of areas for improvement;
  3. implementing processes to bring solutions to any areas of concern (such as additional/ stronger checks and balances that may be required);
  4. devising implementing guidelines, tools, reporting lines, internal communications and a framework for accountability; and
  5. providing ‘examples-based’ trainings.
What are the building blocks of a thorough compliance programme?

In providing or enhancing any compliance programme, essential requirements which an organisation must adopt are:
  1. ‘top-down’ management approach to compliance;
  2. risk identification, assessment and abatement (including building the necessary processes, documents and guidelines);
  3. concern identification, reporting (‘whistleblowing’), and resolution (including internal investigations process);
  4. analysis as to the reliability and effectiveness of the organisation’s internal integrity and standard policies;
  5. solutions to any areas of concern such as additional or stronger checks and balances that may be required;
  6. commitment to training;
  7. effective reporting lines, internal communications and accountability; and
  8. effective evaluation, tracking and measurement programme.
Why have a compliance programme?

Adopting a compliance programme will provide the following benefits to the organisation:
  1. Protects reputation.
  2. Reduces risk: implementing necessary processes and practices to reduce the risk to the organisation and its employees;
  3. Provides comfort to stakeholders: reassuring the organisation’s stakeholders such as: shareholders; board members; employees; clients; suppliers; banks and financial institutions; governments, relevant authorities and regulatory bodies;
  4. Enhances stability: providing additional stability to the company, both internally and as perceived externally;
  5. Prevents wrongdoing: clearly articulated and visible prohibition of misconduct (fraud, corruption, collusion, and coercive practices) within the organisation; and
  6. Reinforces corporate culture of ‘zero tolerance’: creation of a systematic and thorough trust-based culture which will encourage ethical conduct, and the application of codes and processes across the organisation.
A compliance programme does not need to be overly complicated or expensive and, with the right advice and commitment, it will be effective.