What’s new with SAO’s fraud program

Nov 16, 2022

The Association of Certified Fraud Examiners (ACFE) recently reported that nearly a third of all fraud cases occur because of a lack of internal controls. When your government has anti-fraud controls in place, you not only increase your ability to detect fraud quicker, but also decrease potential losses resulting from fraud.

With schemes evolving and fraudsters becoming more sophisticated, your government needs to adapt its controls or establish new ones to help prevent, detect and deter fraud. That's why the Office of the Washington State Auditor is continuously improving its fraud program so local governments have access to the latest resources they need. Here are some recent changes to our fraud program, as well a look at some things ahead.

New fraud-prevention page

As part of International Fraud Awareness Week, SAO has redesigned and refreshed our Preventing Fraud page. This newly designed page has a new layout that's easier to navigate—with helpful categories to find the fraud resources your government is searching for.

We've also included a lot of new content, including links to fraud trainings, short YouTube videos, articles, internal control checklists and more. You're going to want to bookmark this one!

New policy defining what losses you need to report and when

State and local governments should be familiar with RCW 43.09.185, which requires governments to immediately report all known or suspected losses to SAO. But the statute's long history has come with a lot of questions and confusion, such as what constitutes a “loss,” and are there times when “immediately” doesn't make sense for the situation? Further, the statute did not leave any wiggle room—requiring you immediately report even something small like a lost screwdriver. To help in resolving these complications, the Legislature amended the law. Effective in 2022, the law now includes that “The state auditor must adopt policies as necessary to implement this section.”

SAO recently published a new general loss reporting policy in accordance with the law, and we're currently writing additional sections that will guide state and local governments on when and what losses to report. For example, our policies will allow governments not to report receipted NSF checks and normal over/shorts, as well allow certain state agencies with robust internal audit departments or investigative units to set up different reporting arrangements with SAO.

Subscribe to our weekly newsletter, “This Week's Best from SAO,” to hear when we've released these new policies and to stay up to date on other important information from SAO and our partners.

New questions on the loss reporting form

When your government becomes aware of a known or suspected loss of funds, the most effective way to report it is through the How to Report a Concern page on SAO's website. If you've reported a loss in the past and are coming back to report something new, you may notice some new questions on the reporting form.

Why the new questions?

The information you provide in your report helps us more effectively triage the case and determine next steps, which could be anything from launching an investigation to closing the case without any further action.

What if I can't answer all the questions when I submit a loss?

Don't worry! We understand that you might not have all the information yet, but you should still report losses as soon as you suspect or know about them. Just fill out what you can. If you want to update a loss report, let us know at Fraud@sao.wa.gov—just don't send us sensitive or confidential information through email.

Resources you might've missed

Over the past few months, SAO has published a few resources to help you strengthen your government's fraud-prevention program. Earlier this week, we published a guide for elected officials and members of elected boards to help them better understand their role in preventing, detecting and responding to fraud. We also recently published two key best practices resources—one on Automated Clearing House (ACH) payments and another on wire transfers— that will help you protect your government from falling victim to electronic payment fraud schemes.