The Association of Certified Fraud Examiners (ACFE) lists payroll fraud as one of the costliest examples of asset misappropriation affecting businesses around the world. This is partly due to the fact that payroll fraud tends to go undetected for longer – as time passes, the scheme grows, and your business suffers exponentially. Sometimes, payroll fraud can be traced back to human error but more often than not, it’s an opportunistic criminal act. Either way, outdated payroll processes that are unable to proactively detect fraud put your business at risk.
Africa is a vast continent, full of opportunities but not without its challenges. Many government departments, as well as private businesses, have fallen victim to unethical payroll administrators falsifying employee benefits, paying ‘ghost’ employees and miscalculating expenses. In South Africa, for example, a 2016 PwC survey reveals that 28% of local companies have suffered as a result of fraudulent HR and payroll activities.
Moving up the continent, the governments of Liberia, Kenya and Nigeria have all reported incidents of payroll fraud. These include administrators paying themselves salaries long after retirement, paying salaries to people who no longer work for the government, and paying salaries to non-existing or ‘ghost’ employees.
In April 2017, Ghana’s finance ministry conducted an audit of civil servants, identified non-existing ‘ghost’ employees and removed close to 27,000 names from the payroll. A national census removed just over 23,000 names, reducing the enormous wage bill substantially and saving the country over US$50mn in 2017 alone. On the back of this, the Ghanaian government is now looking into outsourcing its payroll to ensure a more efficient management system that improves visibility and speed, while also ensuring compliance and accountability.
Outdated payroll processes that rely on Excel spreadsheets and manual accounting are easy to manipulate and defraud. However, the following three technologies can provide your business in Africa with better payroll protection, keeping your operations fully compliant and safe.
- The cloud
Cloud-based, mobile payroll software gives payroll managers, administrators and employees easy access to relevant payroll information on any device, anywhere and at any time. The information is fully transparent, and access is clearly tracked and recorded. If certain information is particularly sensitive like medical and financial data, then different access controls can be assigned to different employees.
Management can use real-time cloud analytics to filter data-points according to relevant fields, generate daily activity reports with little effort and thus, spot any payroll fraud fast. When people know measures are in place to identify and catch a criminal, they are less likely to commit a crime. Transparent company data that makes use of the cloud is crucial.
To reduce the risk of payroll fraud, you need to reduce the need for human oversight and intervention. Modern payroll technology eliminates the need for manual intervention, automating these five important functions:
- Leave management – an employee self-service authorisation process automatically inputs leave dates into the payroll system. If an employee applies for more leave than they are entitled to, the system will send a notification.
- Commission allocations – a built-in company specific commission calculator ensures that employee commissions are worked out and paid correctly.
- Data integration – seamless integration with accounting software, further reducing the amount of human errors.
- Earnings and deductions – automatically process recurring employee earnings and deductions.
- Bank account and ID number verification – confirm new employees’ details quickly.
- Workflow authorisation
A modern payroll system helps you combat fraud by sharing authorisation responsibility across departments. If, for example, HR adds a new employee’s ‘master’ information like name, surname, ID number and address, it then directs the task to payroll to load the employee’s earnings and deductions. With this additional oversight and multiple authorisations, it’s much harder to create ‘ghost’ employees.
Unfortunately, there will always be dishonest people looking for an easy way to make more money – and some of them may end up working for you. Don’t give them the opportunity to commit occupational fraud under your roof. Put modern automated payroll technology to the test and protect your African business’ from costly fraud.
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