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Unlawful use of funding leads to fraud conviction

National Indigenous Australians Agency
Date published
November 2021

The former general manager of Papunya Community Store Aboriginal Corporation was convicted of 2 criminal offences after using funding obtained for the construction of a 'Community Hub' to pay various personal debts.

A National Indigenous Australians Agency staff member initially questioned a budget spreadsheet and requested more evidence and explanation for expenditure. After reviewing additional material supplied by the former general manager, these concerns were escalated to the Program Compliance and Fraud Branch for investigation.

The Alice Springs Local Court imposed a fine of $5000 and a sentence of 4 months imprisonment, which was suspended conditional on being of good behaviour for 2 years.

Related countermeasures

Establish governance, accountability and oversight of processes by using delegations and requiring committees and project boards to oversee critical decisions and risk. Good governance, accountability and oversight increases transparency and reduces the opportunity for fraud.

Make sure a manager, independent person or expert oversees actions and decisions. Involving multiple people in actions and decisions increases transparency and reduces the opportunity for fraud.

Verify any requests or claim information you receive with an independent and credible source.

Use system workflows to make sure all requests, claims or activities are approved only by the appropriate decision-maker.

Separate duties by allocating tasks and associated privileges for a business process to multiple staff. This is very important in areas such as payroll, finance, procurement, contract management and human resources. Systems help to enforce the strong separation of duties. This is also known as segregation of duties.

Reconcile records to make sure that 2 sets of records (usually the balances of 2 accounts) match. Reconciling records and accounts can detect if something is different from what is standard, normal, or expected, which may indicate fraud.

Internal or external audits or reviews evaluate the process, purpose and outcome of activities. Clients, public officials or contractors can take advantage of weaknesses in government programs and systems to commit fraud, act corruptly, and avoid exposure.

Prepare summary reports on activities for clients, managers or responsible staff.

Report on incidents or breaches to help identify if further investigation is required. Clients, public officials or contractors can take advantage of a lack of reporting and transparency to commit fraud, act corruptly and avoid exposure.

 Investigate fraud in line with the Australian Government Investigation Standards (AGIS).

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