Routledge Business July Author of the Month: Oliver May

Oliver May was the Head of Counter-Fraud for Oxfam GB, where he led the international aid organisation’s efforts to tackle fraud and corruption across its 54 operating countries, 31,000 volunteers and staff, and £400m annual budget. An accredited criminal investigator and an accredited crime analyst, Oliver joined Oxfam from the UK’s Serious Organised Crime Agency (SOCA, now the National Crime Agency) where he worked on a number of award-winning investigations and interventions. He has conducted counter-fraud and corruption work throughout the developing world, from Haiti to Afghanistan. His new book, Fighting Fraud and Corruption in the Humanitarian and Global Development Sector, is available for purchase here.

Oliver May has an authentic and unique insight into the fraud and corruption footprint of the humanitarian and global development sector.

As the head of Oxfam GB’s anti-fraud and corruption unit, Oliver led the aid organisation’s efforts to tackle fraud and corruption across its 54 operating countries, 31,000 volunteers and staff, and £400m budget. An accredited criminal investigator and an accredited crime analyst, Oliver joined Oxfam from the UK’s Serious Organised Crime Agency (SOCA, now the National Crime Agency) where he worked on a number of award-winning investigations and interventions. He has conducted counter-fraud and corruption work throughout the developing world, from Haiti to Afghanistan. His experience includes suspected fraud, theft, bribery, nepotism, money-laundering and terrorist financing cases involving NGOs worldwide.

Oliver is an Affiliate Member of the Chartered Institute of Public Finance and Accountancy (CIPFA), an Associate Member of the Association of Certified Fraud Examiners (ACFE), and was a member of the UK Fraud Cost Measurement Committee.

Oliver is passionate about helping organisations to reduce fraud and corruption. He is currently based in Sydney, Australia. He blogs on these issues at http://www.secondmarshmallow.org, where you can also find out more about his other writing and speaking engagements.

What made you decide to write this book?

I found myself having the same conversations time and again with stakeholders that did not understand the counter-fraud and corruption agenda. I just wanted to be able to pass them a book and say, ‘look, read this, and we’ll have this conversation again in a few days.’ So I went looking for that book, and when I couldn’t find it, I wrote it. Understanding how best to reduce fraud and corruption in our work can require a significant change in perspective for some sector professionals. There was a real need for a book that explored what the sector’s fraud and corruption problem might look like, challenged myths and misconceptions about it, and set out a simple, accessible and holistic approach that international NGOs could use to reduce it.

What is the one thing you hope readers take away from this book?

Although the problem of fraud and corruption is likely to be more significant than many in the sector realise, the good news is that there’s a lot more that most organisations can do to reduce it. There are also roles to play not just for sector workers themselves, but also for their trustees, donor agencies, private supporters and the public. This is a good news book.

Is there something you think is important to highlight about this topic?

Investing in reducing fraud and corruption to an absolute minimum is not an optional extra, it’s a vital part of both operational delivery and the maintenance of public trust. One wouldn’t expect a firefighter to go into a burning building without protective clothing, so why should humanitarian and development organisations move resources around without adequate protections? The most effective protection is provided by a holistic approach – not just relying on preventative procedures and reactive investigations. So, as public scrutiny of the sector mounts, we are likely to be increasingly asked: how much effort goes into coherently deterring, preventing, detecting and responding to fraud and corruption?

What is a common misconception about this topic that you would like to clear up?

Sadly, the historic lack of transparency in the sector about the problem has enabled a range of misconceptions to blossom, and the book tackles some of the most significant. Perhaps one of the most common has been the idea that the sector is somehow different to others – that its workers are more trustworthy and honest than those in the private or public sectors. But people are people, whatever organisation they work for, and people are complicated. Fraud and corruption in this sector have their own drivers and enablers. Recognising this is the first step to understanding those drivers and enablers – and how we can tackle them.