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Wanaka fraud case a reminder of the value of background checks

The discovery that a man who defrauded the Wanaka Lakes Health Centre and had a history of illicit financial management has called attention to the importance of running background checks on new employees.

The trial and conviction of Richard Gregory Beven, the former general manager of the Otago healthcare body, follows his arrest in December on charges of funnelling over $730,000 into his personal bank account between 2011 and 2015. Beven is currently awaiting sentencing, and the unearthing of his past conviction (a surprise to his employers), will likely lead to a lengthy jail term and substantial fine.

Are you confident in the background details of your new employees?
Are you confident in the background details of your new employees?

A history of fraud

According to Stuff, in 2005 Beven was convicted after defrauding previous employer Daimler/Chrysler of $1.1 million, and sentenced to a three and a half year jail term. The details of the case contained in a Serious Fraud Office report had been available online at the time of Beven’s appointment by the Wanaka Lakes Health Centre in 2009, calling into question the organisation’s hiring process.

The Otago Daily Times reports that the directors of the centre have declined to comment on their hiring of a convicted fraudster. However, the ready availability of the information regarding Beven’s history suggests that any investigation during the recruitment process was cursory at best.

A number of background checks should be carried out on a potential candidate.

Background screening as an element of recruitment

While the details of the Wanaka Lakes Health Centre’s hiring practices are being kept from public knowledge for the time being, it’s reasonable to assume that had the organisation known about the earlier conviction, they may have thought twice about their appointment. Simply having the standard yes/no question about past convictions included on the application documents is a good place to start, but in most cases carrying out further investigation is a smart and necessary risk mitigation strategy.

In New Zealand, a number of background checks should be carried out on a potential candidate. These include a criminal background check through the Ministry of Justice and an international police check for legal matters, as well as credit and financial checks, employment history checks and qualification checks.

As the case in Wanaka proves, there are rare occasions where candidates may not be fully forthcoming with their most pertinent information, so taking the initiative and gathering those details yourself is an important factor.

Carrying out these simple checks can provide an extra level of confidence in your workforce, and reduce risks associated with worker engagement, protecting not just your company’s assets but also its reputation.

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