EthicsLine, a high-quality provider of cost-effective anonymous hotlines for corporations, has put together a checklist to help companies evaluate their ethics programs. This questionnaire asks management to evaluate the company’s training regarding ethics and their internal promotion of the fraud hotline.
A section of the questionnaire dedicated to a company’s anonymous fraud reporting process points out some of the critical aspects of making such a program work. The following questions are asked, and the ideal answer to each is “yes”:
- Has your organization established an anonymous reporting mechanism?
- Does your organization ensure confidentiality for those who wish to remain anonymous?
- Ensuring accuracy and detail: Do Interviewers ask probing questions to ensure pertinent information is uncovered?
- Do interview questions change according to the type of unethical behavior being reported?
- Is the hotline available free of charge to all employees?
- Is there a well-defined process for immediate notice of time-sensitive issues, such as impending illegal activity?
- Is the hotline available 24/7/365?
- Does the hotline enable reporting in the native languages of all employees?
- Is there a process for maintaining ongoing communication with anonymous parties?
The EthicsLine questionnaire also points out some key elements of creating an ethical corporate culture. The questions point out the importance of consistently reinforcing the message that management is committed to ethical behavior by all employees.
Attention is also given to the process of handling ethics complaints and completing investigations. Namely, a company should have a case management system that requires documentation of all key elements of a fraud report, and the established process of investigating those complaints should be documented and consistently followed.
Companies that have not instituted an anonymous fraud hotline should seriously consider doing so. It is an effective fraud prevention tool, and even the smallest of companies can implement one at a reasonable cost, thanks to companies like EthicsLine that outsource these functions.
Note: I am not in any way affiliated with EthicsLine, nor have I been asked or encouraged to promote their product. They are simply a company that has an established relationship with the Association of Certified Fraud Examiners, and has developed a good reputation.