Top Things to Consider When Appointing an Investigating Officer

Dated: 12 February 2018 Author: Allan Maund, Director of Counter Fraud

The appointment of an investigating officer during a HR investigation is a key element of the decision-making process.

It’s only a few weeks ago that I wrote an article on due diligence during the recruitment process and how employees were a business’ greatest asset, but also the greatest risk.

When your greatest asset is under suspicion, it’s your responsibility to ensure you receive the best available information or evidence from an investigation to make an informed decision. To ensure this, the appointment of an investigating officer is a key element of the decision-making process. 

 

I’ve been fortunate that I’ve worked on HR investigations and HR related preventative programmes globally for many years, some of these in developing countries with plenty of challenges. During the preventative programme reviews I have undertaken for clients a starting point is the investigator appointment selection. Typically, the appointment process is carried out by HR or the Ethics Department across most businesses or as is the case with the UN, the Office of the Inspector General. 

I have unfortunately evaluated too many investigations where the investigation was flawed due to the appointment of individuals who were not experienced, had a vested interest (in various forms) of the outcome they recommended, who were themselves not fit to be appointed due to ethical concerns, or in some cases accusations of similar behavioural traits as those they were investigating. In other examples individuals appointed as investigators were considerably out of their professional depths. This exposes them, and ultimately you as the business.

The investigator appointment is critical and shouldn’t be overlooked, but it often is.

Allegation triage

For this article I have kept the allegation triage process very simplistic.

An allegation is received, and the following occurs:

  • A review of the allegation and evaluation is undertaken to determine if a disciplinary offence has potentially occurred. If the allegation is minor or misunderstood this is ordinarily resolved outside of the disciplinary framework and without the requirement of an investigator, or quite simply there is no required action to be taken;
  • Where there is potentially a case to answer a further evaluation is required if the employee should continue in their role, the consideration if an interim move to another department during the investigation process is required, suspension, or immediate dismissal; and,
  • Where there is a case to answer one of the first steps is the appointment of an investigator.

Appointment of an investigator

The appointment of an investigator is not necessarily a straight forward process, but equally it shouldn’t be laborious. Ideally the investigator skillset should ideally resonate with the allegation. It may simply mean you will require several investigators, with different skillsets. Investigators come from a variety of backgrounds, these may be ‘in-house’ or external to your business. They may be HR professionals, or investigators who have experience in law enforcement, audit, law, accountancy, ethics. I can’t recall anytime I have needed a DI Gene Hunt, Life on Mars persona to compliment an investigation.

Independence is a key factor to consider when appointing an investigator. Although this can vary by organisation, the more serious the allegation, or the seniority of those allegedly involved may increase the rationale for an independent appointment. It’s of equal importance that the appointment process does not appoint an individual with a vested interest in the outcome, or simply appoint an investigator ‘in-house’ without any assessment of their experience, or qualifications (if required) as this could leave you exposed or open to challenge.

As a reminder, if your greatest asset is under suspicion, it’s your responsibility to ensure you receive the best available information or evidence from an investigation to make an informed decision. To ensure this, the appointment of an investigating officer is a key element of the decision-making process. 

Need further assistance?

For further information please contact us on 0800 298 3899 or email: Email Allan Maund.

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