A phone call from the police. Certain payments had been made from the company I worked for that had been traced to what we might describe as Eastern European gentlemen of not altogether legitimate business interests. Why were you paying these people, the police wanted to know.
When the payments were traced, they appeared to be to a furniture supplier. Apparently for chairs and desks that the firm had purchased, according to the invoices – yes, there were invoices. On further investigation, it became clear that not only was the money going to someone who had never manufactured a chair on their lives, we had never received the items we had “ordered” and paid for.
The final part of the mystery then became who had ordered the goods. Eventually, the purchase orders were traced and the invoice authorisation signatures decoded. And the answer was – a senior manager who, although not reporting directly to me, had a role that was largely involved with procurement activities. He was also, unfortunately, the budget holder for furniture for a reasonable part of the organisation!
Of course there should have been more safeguards in place, a simple counter-signing of his orders or payments would probably have been enough to avoid what happened. But he had been able to place the order, authorise payment against his budget, and divert money to his friends without anyone realising - until the payments had come to light through the police investigation which had started with a totally different focus!
The person in question went to prison, I think.
Yes, fraud and corruption really does happen. It is often senior employees who are the perpetrators, as they have more opportunity, more decision making power and bigger budgets, and sometimes it is even procurement professionals.
A winning procurement horror story doesn't have to involve imprisonment (though it doesn't hurt, and extra points for mug shots). The contest closes in a matter of hours, so send, send, send!