November 18, 2014

Q & A with VSU’s Director of Internal Audits

VALDOSTA – With the theme “The Spirit of USG,” Valdosta State University is joining University System of Georgia institutions in promoting a continued ethical culture at all 31 colleges and universities.
Director of Internal Audits Jeanne Severns discusses why it is important for VSU faculty, staff, and students to understand the definition of fraud, the importance of awareness, being good stewards of state resources, and accurate reporting.
Q: What is the definition of fraud?
Severns: Fraud is any deliberate act for the purpose of unfair or illegal gain.
Q: Why is it important to make employees aware of possible fraud, waste, and abuse in the workplace?
Severns: An estimated 25 million U.S. consumers are defrauded out of $3 billion annually. As a state institution, Valdosta State strives to promote an ethical culture. Any loss resulting from fraud, waste, or abuse runs the risk of employee layoffs, decreased trust, and increased scrutiny throughout the organization. There are also a lot of resources consumed in correcting the fraudulent issues.
Q: Is there a stereotypical description of a person who commits fraud in the workplace?
Severns: No, there is no clear way of identifying a person who might commit workplace fraud, waste, or abuse. Even though statistically 60 percent of frauds are committed by senior level managers and 85 percent are committed by male workers, we have seen recent examples within higher education of female mid-level managers committing fraudulent acts. A more accurate assessment suggests a person is more likely to commit fraud because of the fraud triangle —opportunity, rationalization, or pressure.
For example, a person might commit fraud because their position affords them an opportunity to do so. They might also rationalize their actions by telling themselves things like “I deserve this” or “my boss deserves this because they don’t treat me fairly.” Others might do so because of personal financial pressure; they may need extra cash for medical bills or some other personal, financial hardship.
Q: What should an employee do if they see a situation of fraud, waste, or abuse in the workplace?
Severns: Everyone has a duty to report suspected fraud, waste, or abuse. We encourage employees to report suspected malfeasance through their immediate chain of command (supervisor) if possible. Alternatively, they can report directly to either VSU’s attorney or me (director of Internal Audits). They can also use the University System of Georgia Hotline at or call 877-516-3470. All reports made are confidential and those reporting suspected cases of fraud, waste, or abuse are protected through Georgia’s whistleblowers law and USG Board of Regents policy. Each case is investigated and reporting helps the university to maintain sound financial resources and protect its valuable resources.
For more information, visit VSU’s office of Internal Audits website at download VSU’s fraud awareness fact sheet.