Payroll fraud schemes typically last about 2 years before being detected, and are twice as frequent in small businesses as in larger ones. This is according a 2016 Global Fraud Study by the Association of Certified Fraud Examiners. Most often, perpetrators hold accounting positions (21.6% of cases).
Cathie Webb, a Director of the South African Payroll Association (SAPA), says employers should be wary when their payroll administrator resists being away from the office. “It may be they’re afraid that someone standing in for them will uncover irregularities and expose them.”
So a payroll administrator who never takes time off, arrives early, leaves late and works over weekends may seem dedicated. But they could also be committing payroll fraud.
Apart from always being at their desk, such administrators are overly protective of their records, computerised or physical. They’ll insist that the work won’t be done correctly by those who don’t know their system but will avoid training backup personnel to perform their duties.
How it starts
“It often begins with financial difficulties at home,” suggests Webb. “The practitioner might create and pay a falsified employee or change their own pay rate for a single run just to get out of hot water.” But when the act goes unnoticed, it becomes easier to repeat and eventually snowballs into major fraud.
Why the problem exists
Unfortunately, blame falls squarely on the organisation. “In most cases we’ve witnessed, the shocked employer completely trusted the payroll administrator and never audited their work,” reports