Fraud Basics

Open public entities’ ledgers for transparency

Imagine if citizens, journalists, oversight agencies, and internal and external auditors were able to view all transactions of taxpayer and donors’ money online. The fraud prevention and deterrence possibilities are endless.

The 2019 movie, “Bad Education,” chronicles the discovery in 2004 by Rebekah Rombom, an earnest high-school newspaper reporter, of a $250,000 embezzlement that eventually snowballed into the exposure of two senior school district officials who’d perpetrated a $11.2 million fraud scheme. (See Roslyn HS reporter who broke ‘Bad Education’ story speaks out 16 years later, by Rose Weldon, the island now, April 21, 2020.)

The fraudsters, for many years, misused school credit cards and created bogus purchase orders supposedly for school supplies and equipment, but the administrators directed the funds into their pockets.

My favorite scenes in the movie include the actress playing Rombom sharing a purchase order with a chemistry teacher who shakes his head and says, “No, I never received those glass beakers …” and when Rombom ventures into New York City she discovers a school “vendor” is located in the superintendent’s apartment.

Rombom’s efforts to follow up on school vendors and specific purchases were significantly hampered by her inability to gain access to records about how the school was specifically spending money.

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