Insights for Strengthening Regional Anti-Fraud Efforts

February 27, 2024 by Arjonela Dedja, Kaja Nadj

About a year ago, in Skopje, we hosted a special gathering that brought together regional auditing and accounting experts. The attendees included public officials from different countries, dedicated to supporting the professional growth of their colleagues, and championing the advancement of auditing and accounting through certification programs. We co-delivered it with CIPFA, our longstanding partner, and included other partners, such as OECD Sigma and the Ministry of Finance of the Netherlands.

For us, this gathering represented a significant milestone. With this event, we kicked off a bigger network. Our idea has been to provide a platform for peer-to-peer learning and cross-regional cooperation. As we discussed various challenges and learning needs, one common challenge stood out: fraud and corruption.

We embraced this message. Being demand-driven, our goal is to assist public officials in overcoming challenges. However, a question arises: How can we effectively tackle fraud and corruption as a learning platform and an institution aspiring to inspire others to become learning organizations?

We know fraud and corruption stand out as one of the biggest problems worldwide. According to Transparency International, the 2022 Corruption Perceptions Index (CPI) shows that most countries are failing to stop corruption. The CPI ranks 180 countries and territories around the world by their perceived levels of public sector corruption, scoring on a scale of 0 (highly corrupt) to 100 (very clean). The global average has remained unchanged for over a decade at just 43 out of 100.

In addition, we acknowledge that everyone with access to media experiences frustration, stress, and distrust in institutions when a new corruption scandal emerges. It negatively affects democracies. However, what about those whose responsibility it is to detect fraud and corruption? How can we effectively support auditors, accountants, and other PFM officials in this role, enhancing not only their knowledge but also their resilience?

"The integrity of auditors and their role in identifying fraud should not be underestimated. Rather the opposite – we need to approach it very seriously. Part of my work is closely related to fraud and corruption detection and prevention activities, which is the main reason why I found this training relevant for my professional endeavors and advancement of my knowledge and skills in this area."

This is a quote from Ms. Dana Šarčević, Senior Expert Associate for Financial Control at the Bosnian Ministry of Finance and Treasury, and the winner of the Anti-Fraud Game we organized within the event Integrity in the Implementation of Structural Reforms in 2021.


We started with Dana’s reflection to reiterate how our participants internalize these topics and highlight their value. We had many participants like Dana, who had, by the end of this three-day online game exercise, embraced a new way of thinking and unique skills: making greater use of their instincts and senses, critical observation, stepping outside the box, detecting instruments, analytical and thinking skills, professional skepticism, and IT solutions.

Moreover, the participants had fun, as the concept of this training was not typical, just discussing rules and regulations and fraud prevention measures, rather than playing in teams and individually, and making them the protagonists, while boosting their ability to recognize fraud and corruption, and compete for the first prize. Having such an educational atmosphere and gamification component made learning unique, enjoyable, and memorable.

We believe that after this event, all participants, who attended the game, have learned to detect the red flags of fraud and corruption by being more vigilant and receptive to environmental cues. At the end of the game, we also published a blog: A Game Inside a Game: Professionally Challenged which was chosen by the CEF as one of the top five blogs for summer reading in 2022, with a high level of reader interaction on our website.

In short, our great experience with the Anti-Fraud Game, and the interest of the network that chose the topic of fraud and corruption, has given us a signal that we should explore this topic further. We know that learning about anti-fraud and corruption should inspire innovative thinking and encourage imagination through practicing various scenarios. The goal is to shift the perspective.

Wihout strong watchdog institutions impunity becomes the very foundation upon which systems of corruption are built. Rigoberta Menchu Tum, Nobel Prize Laureate

So, we decided that accountability mechanisms and anti-corruption will become one of the four learning focuses of our “Empowered Accountants and Auditors for Accountable Public Sector (EAPS)” project. And we decided to incorporate the online course "How Auditors and Accountants Can Collaborate to Combat Fraud and Corruption" into our 2024 learning program. We have been designing the course to support auditors and accountants in increasing their knowledge and practice in assessing the risk of fraud and corruption, and explore ways in which they can collaborate closely to effectively manage the related risks. We will engage members of the network in sharing their experiences, and reflect on the online course outputs in the upcoming network meeting that is scheduled in May.

As we look ahead, our focus is on leveraging insights and shared experiences, and enhancing accountability in public sector institutions across SEE. Together with our regional and other counterparts, we embark on a path where transparency, strong internal controls, and culture of integrity are the cornerstones of our continuous efforts in fighting fraud and corruption.