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Fraud risk jumps by 56% in Indian M&E sector over last two years: E&Y survey

MUMBAI: The Indian media and entertainment (M&E) industry witnessed an explosive rise in fraud-related cases over the last two years, say 56 per cent of respondents surveyed by Ernst & Young for its ‘M&E Fraud Survey 2014’.

One out of six respondents reported increased cases of fraud in their organisations. According to 83 per cent of respondents, kickbacks given for approval of talent-related and acquisition costs, carriage fees, Intellectual Property Rights (IPR) and satellite rights constitutes another challenge faced by the industry. The effects of these hidden costs could see a far-reaching adverse impact on the industry as well as the economy as a whole.

The survey features insights of key decision-makers in the Indian M&E space—companies with domestic operations as well as Indian and global multinational corporations. It also reveals content distribution and TV/film content production, finance and advertisement sales functions as particularly vulnerable areas. The survey also highlights a high risk of facilitation and unethical payment in segments which mandate government approval.

E&Y partner, Fraud Investigation and Dispute Services Mukul Shrivastava said, “The war against fraud, bribery and corruption risks have leapfrogged and slices across sectors, geographies and economic conditions. Being on an upward trajectory, the Indian M&E sector is increasingly victimised by the growing challenges around governance breakdowns and unethical practices. This has led to extensive losses (monetary and reputational), sub-par performance and arrested development. In light of the changing industry dynamics, organisations will have to improve vigilance, boost internal controls and raise compliance benchmarks for sustainable growth.”

E&Y India M&E sector leader Farokh Balsara said, “As companies in the M&E sector increase in size and move from unorganised to organised operations, the need for proactive fraud prevention has increased. The adoption of an ethical business conduct and sound governance policies will play a crucial role in determining its true success.”

Securing data and enhancing privacy standards

Today, most organisations are leveraging the benefits of technology and providing immense flexibility to users. The downside is an augmented risk of confidential and sensitive information being compromised. Insider threats are more likely to have a negative impact on the business as compared to external ones.

The survey states that 76 per cent of the respondents have easy access to personal emails and networking websites. While 50 per cent say that they have undertaken multiple checks to secure their IT networks, only a minority (26 per cent) have instituted penalties in case of information leakage by employees.

Health checks to thwart bribery and corruption are inadequate: Organisational principles and good practices always tend to trickle down from the top. The survey indicates communication from the corner office to spread awareness and conduct training remains insufficient.

67 per cent of respondents say that their organisations did not deliver training on anti-bribery and anti-corruption (ABAC) policy to their employees and vendors. With threats related to third parties (such as dubious or non-existent vendors) on an uptick, alarmingly 59 per cent were unaware that organisations are jointly responsible for the unethical actions of the former. Only 13 per cent indicate their companies conduct audits of third parties.

Chalking a roadmap for compliance

Organisations’ internal audit departments are increasingly seen as a corporate wall against risks related to fraud. Supplementing them are external specialists or advisors that bring in added competencies to implement an effective compliance management system. However, the survey results suggest that only 24 per cent have regular reviews conducted by external law firms or specialist consultants.

57 per cent are yet to set up a whistleblowing mechanism to protect the company’s interests and 41 per cent have minimal knowledge about anti-corruption laws such as Foreign Corrupt Practices Act, UK Bribery Act and local regulations.

Regular training, awareness programmes, interactive sessions with case studies and scenarios are expected to be strategic enablers in institutionalising a robust fraud risk management programme.