Why is workplace crime costing R28-Billion annually

03 October 2008 The Polygraph Institute of South Africa, PISA Integrity Assessment Centre, Hendrik van Rooyen

The Solution – Enhance Employee Intergrity

The World Bank estimated the cost of crime in the workplace in South Africa to amount to R28,5-billion in 2007. This covered business losses and the cost of security but excluded the cost of criminal justice, policing and correctional services. KPMG, in their 2007 Fraud Survey, found that 89% of fraud cases investigated, staff were involved.

A recent survey by Grant Thornton found that 72% of private business owners found that either themselves, a family member or employee had been a victim of crime.

“It is estimated that only 12% to 14% of all crime is reported. The police reportedly solve about 50% of these crimes. This could mean that only about 7% of criminals are brought to justice,” says PISA Integrity Assessment Centre MD Hendrik van Rooyen.

“The conclusion is that crime pays. The chances of getting off are high even if the criminal is caught, due to lack of capacity,” says van Rooyen.

He argues that the school of thought that adding technology alone to solve or reduce crime is not working.

“This has led to a proliferation of CCTV systems, biometric access control and sophisticated alarm systems, without solving the problem of crime in the workplace”

“What is required is that employee behaviour needs to be changed. This can only be accomplished by changing perceptions and attitudes of workers regarding crime in the workplace.”

Behaviour is driven by perceptions and attitude. Should an employee have the perception that they are ‘entitled’ to steal, but more importantly, that they can get away with it, the prevailing attitude will be one of ‘ willingness’ to steal in the work environment.

“A good salary alone will not necessarily prevent an individual from committing crime in the workplace. The lowest earning individual could actually be the most honest employee”

What then motivates people? Van Rooyen says that Robert Vroom’s Expectancy Theory explains it best – if a person expects to succeed, with crime for instance, they would probably proceed.”

“Based on the Normal Distribution theory, should staff be employed randomly, 20% of staff will be totally honest, 60% will to a varying degree be inclined to crime, and the remaining 20% will be strongly inclined towards crime.

“It is this last 20% that need to be identified and eliminated at the job application stage, hence the need for proper screening tools and procedures . Polygraph testing will identify staff that may be involved in criminal activities. It therefore must be made known to them that criminal behaviour in the workplace is unacceptable,” says Van Rooyen.

Behaviour is driven by perceptions and attitude. Should an employee have the perception that they are ‘entitled’ to steal, but more importantly, that they can get away with it, the prevailing attitude will be one of ‘ willingness’ to steal in the work environment.

Managing Behaviour

Managing behaviour may sound Orwellian, but in reality it amounts to nothing more than effective management of workers in their work environment. However, many line managers do not believe that managing unacceptable behaviour is part of their responsibilities, says van Rooyen.

“They believe that the HR or Security departments should deal with unacceptable behaviour. This, unfortunately, is not the case. Managing unacceptable behaviour should and must take place in the work environment as and when it manifests itself, and therefore performed by line management.”

An important pre-requisite for any behaviour management program is the total commitment of senior management themselves to integrity and ethical behaviour. It stands to reason that all efforts to coerce staff to behave ethically will be negated if senior management are perceived to act unethically.

Behaviour management starts with the recruitment process, and only ends after the employee’s termination. Only applicants that meet certain integrity criteria are appointed, and unacceptable behaviour is discouraged throughout the employee’s life cycle.

It is important to create the perception that no worker will be able to succeed with unacceptable behaviour. To this end, the polygraph examination is unparalleled in its effectiveness to create what is referred to as ‘a mechanical conscience’ in the workplace.

This is achieved with regular polygraph screening performed seemingly in a random fashion. The employee is required to confirm that since their appointment or previous polygraph examination, no predefined acts of unacceptable behaviour was committed.

It is incumbent on managers to immediately and effectively deal with acts of unacceptable behaviour irrespective of how minor or insignificant they may seem.

Dynamic Code of Conduct

To be able to effectively deal with unacceptable behaviour, a dynamic Code of Conduct is essential. This implies that all employees must ‘buy in’ to the of the Code of Conduct.

Rewards and Recognition

An important aspect of the behaviour management program is the recognition and acknowledgement of acceptable behaviour. To assist with the recognition process, certificates are issued to those employees who have successfully completed their polygraph assessments.


An effective communication programme is indispensable. This could consist of a newsletter or poster campaign. The main purpose is to focus employees on the necessity to display acceptable behaviour and to give recognition to those displaying acceptable behaviour. But to also bring all acts, as well as the results of unacceptable behaviour, to general notice.

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