Fighting fraud & bribery with 16 Rwandan Non-Profit Organizations (NPOs)
15 years ago, few in the not-for-profit sector were willing to mention the ‘F word’ – fraud. Sure, everyone knew that fraud, bribery & corruption, was there. Efforts to combat it were energetic behind the scenes. But admitting it, or even bringing up the subject, was as good as committing reputational, and funding-stream, suicide.
Times have moved on, and like most taboo subjects, our sector is realizing that the best way to effectively fight corruption is to bring the conversation out of the shadows, be more open about the scale of the problem, and celebrate the concerted efforts that are being made to combat it. Even 10 years ago, if an NPO claimed it lost 0% or maybe just 0.0001%, of its income to fraud, they might be lauded. Today, savvy readers are more likely to conclude that organization is just choosing not to look too hard. Counter-intuitively, some international NPOs go as far as to publicly disclose the amount lost to fraud & corruption each year, or the number of cases detected, and highlight their investment in anti-fraud & bribery prevention, detection & training.
It is tempting to assume that fraud happens in local implementation organisations, while donors and INGO entities who give sub-grants are somehow immune. Of course, that is far from the truth. Grantors and grantees do well to be proactive in discussing the issue, and work together as part of the same team against a common enemy. So, Humentum was delighted to be approached by Norwegian People’s Aid to support them to work with 16 of their partners in Rwanda. Each partner had already been required to have an anti-corruption policy, and if they did not have their own, they could adopt NPA’s own global policy. NPA wanted us to explore the issues more deeply and for each organization to ‘own’ their policy rather than the dreaded copy/paste syndrome.
We worked together to develop a 4 day programme, including participatory, scenario based training, and a template policy for them to use. These are a few of the questions the training helped us to explore:
• What’s the psychology behind why people engage in corrupt activities? Am I immune myself?
• How can we be strategic in the fight – using the 7 Zero Tolerance Principles and the 5-part holistic framework?
• What difference do policies, declarations and contract clauses make, if any?
• What practical steps can we take to avoid being asked for or offered a bribe, and what tactics can we use to resist?
• Why and how should we decline inappropriate gifts or favors?
• Why and how should we declare and manage conflicts of interest?
• How can we offer a safe and trusted way for people to speak up?
• How should we respond to allegations?
• How can we embed anti-corruption into our everyday organizational culture?
Each day we had 3 training sessions, with the last session of each day set aside for the senior leaders of each NPO to get together and work on adapting specific sections of the policy template to their own context. By the end of the 4 days, most organisations had a draft policy to present to their boards, and action plans for how to implement those policies. Even more than that, they left as passionate anti-corruption champions, equipped with the skills and confidence to know how to make a difference.
What did the participants say? “Fantastique! Best training ever! I am so happy to have this course. I feel I can even train others about fighting fraud & corruption. Very courageous and well explained. No one can resist when it’s about mindset change.” And NPA said: “The training was super, with well-prepared material and adapted to NPOs. We appreciated the competent trainers very participatory methodology.”
If you are interested in doing something similar with your partners, get in touch at firstname.lastname@example.org.
The template policy is freely downloadable from our website here. But please don’t just copy/paste – challenge it, debate it, edit it and own it for your own organizational structure and context. We welcome any feedback you have, as well as any fraud / bribery stories you would be willing to share for our anonymized scenario bank, which can be shared here.