Lessons Learned from a Columbus Schools Fraud Investigation

After an 18-month investigation that ended in January, Ohio State Auditor Dave Yosts discovered that some Columbus school employees had been deceiving state and federal education departments by altering student data files in order to boost the district’s performance.

Yosts stated that the problem boiled down to the fact that those in charge “helped create the environment where administration felt free to play fast and loose with the data, contrary to Ohio law.”

In order to prevent an entitled environment from taking ahold of your company, apply these three key lessons:
1.Tone starts at the top. If top executives or administrators do not follow the rules then others will follow their example. It is important employees know that fraud or other financial misconduct will not be tolerated.
2.Checks and balances. No one person should have full control over any aspect of a system. In the case of the Columbus schools, the Principal may have covered up the data scrubbing but there could have been other district supervisors or boards to monitor her actions.
3.Ethical goals. Set goals that are realistic and can be achieved in an ethical way. Creating an environment where it is difficult to achieve success can set the stage for fraudulent behavior. It essentially creates one element of the fraud triangle, which is motive.

Learn more from Bill Bush and Jennifer Smith Richards article at http://www.dispatch.com/content/stories/local/2014/01/28/1-columbus-school-audit-yost.html.

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