24th January 2023
It’s not always easy to detect fraud in schools, but with the right digital technologies, school leaders can certainly reduce theft, remain compliant and save money.
Joe Cox, Asset Auditor and Loss Prevention Specialist at Civica, discusses simple and effective ways schools and MATs can protect their assets, from observations made on site visits.
When you think of fraud, a school setting doesn’t usually spring to mind. But no one is immune from the risks and unfortunately, fraud in schools does occur. The UK Cabinet Office has estimated that 5% of total public funds is lost to fraud and error, costing billions each year. A huge portion of this deficit is attributed to asset misappropriation, whether accidental or intentional.
Loss prevention is an exercise that implements processes to protect school assets and minimises the risk of loss through theft (internal and external), damage (both physical and reputational) and wastage. Through some very simple measures, schools can mitigate the risks which is especially important in the current climate where every penny counts.
Protecting assets internally
In the current financial climate where some people are struggling to pay bills, the temptation and risk to take expensive school assets has heightened. Of course, some missed assets are taken unintentionally, forgotten about, or simply misplaced. However, no matter how assets go missing, it’s still a financial loss that can negatively impact the support and tools needed for high-quality support to students and staff.
Our school asset auditors have observed that most schools already have the tools to minimise risks to theft. However, a lot more can be done to increase security and further protect costly assets.
For example, laptops and tablets that are abandoned in classrooms make easy pickings for someone to slip in a backpack unnoticed.
It’s time schools and MATs make proper and extensive use of their laptop and tablet charging trolleys. Civica auditors have noted during site visits that these trolleys are often empty, which is an inefficient use of resources, or unlocked, making expensive IT equipment easier to misappropriate. Protect your school with simple and effective best practices with trolleys:
- Always lock the trolleys
- Ensure the correct number of laptops and tablets are returned to the trolley at the end of use
- Don’t leave keys to the trolleys in obvious places, such as teachers’ desk drawers
- Consider allocating 1-2-1 devices to students and staff for the school year. This will enforce accountability which reduces the risk of damage, theft, or mishandling.
This is where a smart asset management system is essential to protecting school belongings. Civica Education Operations (formerly Parago) intuitively enables schools to always know what assets they have, how long they’ve had them, how much they cost to maintain and its depreciated value, which saves money with accurate asset procurement.
Handling cash and finances correctly
Unfortunately, some schools inhabit dishonest staff, pupils or both. News reports continue to release articles on fraud and embezzlement of school funds. In a world of corruption, it’s important to not only protect school finances, but for managers to protect themselves from misaccusation. Do you have appropriate processes in place to prevent the mishandling of cash? It’s always best to be extra vigilant by ensuring:
- Multiple staff members double check cash handling
- Any invoices or requests for payment are expected and received by a genuine email
- Expenses conducted for family members are prohibited if they also work at the school, or at the very least are counter-signed
- Cash is kept in a locked safe with limited access
- Procedures are enforced for entering into school contracts to get the best value for money and the correct people are involved in procurement
An effective asset management system can help schools monitor and manage cash handling and outline which staff members oversee which tasks pertaining to finances and contracts. Our operations management software enables schools to audit asset and finance trails, which protects schools from theft and ensures staff adhere to a predetermined duty of delegation.
Protecting assets from break-ins
If the unthinkable happens and your school is broken into, how easy are you making it for thieves to take valuable assets? Would you know what was taken? Would you be confident in submitting an accurate insurance claim?
Again, if laptops and tablets are simply left lying around, they are easy pickings for a quick smash and grab. Make it difficult and unattractive for them by making full use of locked trolleys and ensure you also have a robust end of day procedure. Check that all windows and external doors are secured as well as internal doors, so thieves are not given the opportunity to roam from room to room. And of course, set the alarm.
Civica Education Operations can send daily reminders to specific staff to ensure these processes are completed to keep the school secure. With a task-based check lists system coupled with school classroom layout, managers can see what security tasks have been done, when and by whom.
Dealing with damages to school property
Some accidental damages are inevitable, but you may also occasionally suffer from malicious intent. Our Civica auditors often find a lot of damaged tablets and iPads within schools. To minimise this, make sure they’re in sturdy cases with good screen protectors.
An asset management system is a great tool when it comes to managing damages due to the audit trail. With Civica Education Operations, you can record time and cost associated to fixing damaged goods. Live reports indicate which assets are suffering most from damage, if a particular person or class causing most of the damages and what the asset’s current value is. Having a smart solution in place takes the guesswork out of procurement decisions and put measures in place to reduce damages.
To fight fraud, you have to find it. We can help
If your school or MAT has hundreds of assets but no time to create or refresh your asset register, our onsite asset discovery service will take care of everything for you. Our experienced auditors will perform an annual update that will leave you with an intuitive, live asset register which you can manage from the comfort of your desk or on the go with our smart app.
We help schools and MATs save money, make better procurement decisions, keep assets safe and protect reputations.