Godwin Oyedokun is the Chief Executive Officer of OGE Professional Services Ltd, OGE Business School and the President of Association of Certified Fraud Examiners, ACFE, Lagos Chapter. As a fraud examiner, chartered and forensic accountant, he belongs to the family of one of the untamed and unsafe professions, which goes beyond doing the numbers. Disciplined and widely read, he talks about his life as an anti-fraud specialist, dark corners of the profession and balancing the home front. Omolabake Fasogbon presents the excerpts
Not many people are in anti-fraud profession in Nigeria. Why do you think it is so?
Yes, you are right, we are very few in Nigeria. Even some parading themselves as anti-fraud professionals are only using their accountancy experience. The reasons for this are due to the low level of awareness and the cost of training. It will interest you to note that few of us in this field travel as far as South Africa, UK, Canada and USA for anti-fraud and forensic training.
The nature of your job- to detect and expose fraudulent acts is vulnerable to risks. How do you manage them?
There is no job without its risks. As a journalist, you have your job-inherent risks. As an accountant, there are so many risks and so also it is for us in anti-fraud and forensic accounting field. Now, back to your question, in this field, we were trained on how to manage risk and we put it to use in ensuring that the impacts of such risk are not directly felt by mitigating such risk.
Aside security, what are the other risks that come with the job?
Majorly, most of our clients don’t bother to pay the remaining balance of our professional fees if the forensic report does not go their way. On the other hands, our work ethics demand that we engage other professionals to be sure of the fact that we have closed all ends in our engagements; this poses risk which may be termed financial risk.
How does your wife feel about your job considering the risks involved?
He who finds a wife, finds a good thing and obtains favour from God. My wife is a gift from God and her ways of life complement mine. She loves what I do and her prayers also help in achieving my aim on any engagement. She was there for me when I was just an accountant in a company, this function comes with closing late and series of accounting issues, she is also here with me as I moved on in my career. She is the manager of my house and she does that well. My wife is a director in our company and a major signatory to all our bank accounts. This shows she is with me on this and we both mitigate risk together.
Most ladies would reject an accountant for husband on the excuse that accountants are stingy. How did you convince your wife?
Being an accountant is a thing of pride and people around us always need one favor or the other from us. My wife and I both worked in the same organisation some 15 years ago and she was highly respected to have had an accountant as a man. On the issue of stinginess, I do not think accountants are stingy, we are only prudent in spending, we want to know what a kobo collected from us is spent on and we need people around us to give account of what was entrusted to them. As for me, I have a good blend of so many professions and none could be said to have a domineering effect on me. My wife has my key and she knows how to get what she wants to get from me. She is reasonable. I allow her to have her ways all the time and that suggests why we are still enjoying this common union till tomorrow.
There have been commendation and condemnations for the anti-corruption fight of this government. Where does your association belong on this?
I think it is better for me to go with the later than the former. This is not because they are not doing anything at all but because there is not much result to show for the expenditure and efforts on same. Action and reaction are opposite and equal. This fight must be fought with less of talking on the pages of newspapers. There should be less of political jingoism. I want to see a situation where the news would be: Mr. A was convicted of a crime so so so and not that we are going to raid Mr. A or we are planning to arraign Mr. B.
Would you report your family members?
Yes because to be fore-warned is to be fore-armed.
As a professional, suggest other ways Nigeria can tackle financial fraud
We all need to go back home and do it right from there. What we see today in our society is a true reflection of our homes. Our value system is faulty; there is no respect for humanity. Some do bad things with impunity and there is no fear of God. We should ensure strong institution and not strong individual; rule of law should be taken seriously. Our punitive and corrective regime should be above board. More importantly, both private and public organisations should strive to engage anti-fraud professionals.
Are you saying that there are no anti-fraud professionals in our institutions?
I have not said that we do not have anti-fraud professionals in our various institutions and organisations. However, the problem we have in Nigeria is that of ‘body Language’ of those charged with authority to determine the direction where these people will go. This, we can all confirm from one administration to the other. Our people need change of orientation. We are sure that those with ACFE credentials are trained to even leave their job instead of joining the bandwagon.
Fraud is carried out everywhere even at the home front, like women inflating prices of foodstuffs or a child wanting to increase price of handout. How do you detect and handle such cases at home?
We have virtuous women out there who would not engage in any kind of fraudulent activities. However, we have those that are desperate and are ready to do anything to achieve their objectives. Yes, there are red flags to professional fraud and same exist for home fronts. Red flags are signs that things are not right (possibility of existence of fraud). In this situation, you see the suspect living beyond his or her means of income, extravagancy, staff that do not wish to go on leave year in year out, staff refusing promotion, staff wanting to help others perform their duties, resuming early and closing late in office etc. At the home front, that is when you see women buying cloths and other related materials far and above what the husband provided, receiving unnecessary visitors or attending associations’ function, shrinking food stuff at home, agitating for more money to buy food stuff, fighting the husband for helping to buy food stuff at home etc. This is common where the husband is the sole provider at home. As for my children, it is a no go area as the kind of school my children attend would not give room for such fraudulent acts. Like I said, we need to begin from our home in order to change our country. I do not have the opportunity of defrauding my parent when I was in school for the purchase of handouts, may be because, I was not begged to go to school; I facilitated my going to school through the help of my parents.
What is your greatest achievement in life?
My greatest achievement is the fact that I am now the Group Managing Director/CEO of a Group of Companies after working for so many organisations; and secondly, for obtaining doctoral degree in Finance.
How far do you intend to go in this career?
I have done a lot in this profession and I have written so many articles for upcoming professionals to read in this field to enhance their performances both academically and professionally. These can be accessed free of charge at SSRN.com and slideshare.com by just searching with my full name. This is to ensure that even when I am no more, generation to come would still continue to enjoy my work.
Not too many practice what they studied in school, but you did, what inspired you?
I have carefully chosen this path and I will continue in it as long as I live. It was the wish of my father to study within sciences but I made him realise the fact that I wanted accounting. He gave his blessing and I am not regretting my action. I cannot really say what inspired me about accounting-related fields but for the level of intelligence required to be an accountant. In school then, only good students picked accounting. This also spurred me to take up my ICAN examination and other related professional examinations.
As a fraud examiner, does that mean you have never indulged in any fraudulent act?
I’m trying to recall. But I can boldly say that I have not involved myself in any fraudulent activities before. Here, the definition of fraud is necessary. Fraud is defined as an intentional (deliberate) deception resulting in injury to another person. In a broad strokes definition, fraud is a deliberate misrepresentation which causes another person to suffer damages, usually monetary losses. Most people consider the act of lying to be fraudulent, but in a legal sense, lying is only one small element of actual fraud. Fraud usually involves lying for a specific gain that causes someone loss while lying does not always include hurt.
Is it possible that we get a society free of corruption?
Yes, this is achievable. I will explain this with my experience in Mushin, one of the notable towns in Lagos where I had spent over eight years. I realised that people of Mushin apart from the known political fight, don’t engage in armed robbery (I cannot say they don’t do so outside Mushin) just because of the punitive regime. Once you are caught, the judgement comes immediately before law enforcement would arrive. With this, residence can sleep with their two eyes closed. In year 2011, I took a new Toyota Corolla to this town and parked on the street of Ogunbaye and till today, I still have the car with others. If those charged with governance of this country are serious about the business of governance, they will set the right tone at the top – obey rule of law, ensure free and fair election and others – and you will see a changed people of Nigeria. You cannot live your life at the expense of other citizens and expect them to continue to keep quiet and do nothing.
You have practiced within and outside the shores of the country, compare how fraud is tackled here and how it is addressed outside?
This is just like comparing sleep with death! Over there, they have government, professionals, tools, and enabling environment with sound judicial system, but here, you know the story. It is easy for a plaintiff to become the defendant in Nigeria. I am sure you understand me well. At times, it is difficult for those charged with governance in Nigeria to fight fraud because of the fact that ‘he who seeks equity must do equity’ and also ‘he who comes into equity must come with clean hands’.