Employee thefts hurting Saskatchewan’s public purse

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The government has fallen victim to thousands of dollars in employee theft. Jules Knox takes a closer look at what it means, and what you should do to protect your business – Aug 9, 2017

Money is missing.

SaskTel had $184,000 worth of phones stolen over the last two years.

READ MORE: 213 phones stolen by SaskTel employee: report

The Regina Qu’appelle Health Region allegedly overpaid an estimated $100,000 for work with a contractor. It also called police and checked pawn shops after realizing $20,000 worth of cardiac care equipment is missing.

“In some regards it’s like ‘Wow, can’t believe this is happening,’ and then when you think about it, this type of stuff does happen,” John Hopkins, Regina and District Chamber of Commerce’s CEO, said.

Provincial auditor Judy Ferguson said it’s important for the government to disclose losses of public money on a quarterly basis.

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“One, it keeps the public informed, the fact that when that occurs, second, it’s more transparent,” Ferguson said. “And thirdly, I think when organizations have to go public then it actually creates a culture for them to be aware.”

“Every quarter, there’s loss reports that come out. And you’ll find that the loss reports, they’re not very long when you consider the number of government agencies that we have,” Ferguson said.

“You have to keep it in context: $184,000 to the members of the public that sounds huge, right? But think of the size of the organization,” Ferguson said.

READ MORE: RQHR taking legal action against local contractor

SaskTel has $1.3 billion of revenue, $1.1 billion in expenses and $2.4 billion in assets, Ferguson said.

“So in the larger scheme of things, it is important, a sizeable amount of money, but in the whole scheme of the organization, it’s not huge.”

Hopkins said employee theft is a concern for many businesses.

“A lot of the times the studies seem to indicate it’s long-term employees. It’s not short-term employees but longer-term employees that kind of figure out how to do it,” Hopkins said.

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To help protect your business, Hopkins suggests screening new employees carefully and conducting surprise audits and inventory checks.

“It’ll deter people from stealing because that way they never know when it’s going to actually happen,” he said.

It’s also a good idea to have a way for employees to provide anonymous or confidential tips if they suspect an employee or manager is stealing, Hopkins said.

“One of the most important things is to have the best practices in terms of accounting, to make sure that there’s dual signatures on cheques, those kinds of things, that there’s some sort of audit procedure for petty cash,” Hopkins said.

It’s also a good idea to have insurance to cover your business in case something does happen, Hopkins said.

“And when somebody is stealing, whether it’s $10 or $10,000 or $184,000, do something immediately. Don’t wait, just do it,” Hopkins said.

Ferguson recommends separating key functions to help avoid employee theft.

“When it comes to cash, you don’t let one person do everything. You don’t let them collect the cash and do the record keeping,” she said

After discovering missing equipment worth thousands, the health region installed a new security system with swipe card access.

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SaskTel is changing its procedures too.

“The systems were manipulated by a person that was in a position of trust, so what we’ve had to do is instituted manual processes, and we are going to look at more automation to ensure that this can’t happen in our systems again,” Darcee MacFarlane, SaskTel’s corporate communications vice president, said.

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