The incidents occurred between April 2006 and December 2009, and from August 2010 to April 2016.
Adding insult to injury, Sally Woodall's offending was only uncovered after she had resigned from the company.
She’s not someone you might expect to commit payroll fraud, according to Tracy Angwin, CEO of Australian Payroll Association.
For one, her resume looked good, having worked in high profile organisations including Hassell, and having experience in a wide variety of payroll technology.
However, this is an example of a corporate function that has not paid attention to any risk management strategy or embedded rigorous processes and controls in their payroll operation, according to Angwin.
She added that it is high time that boards and CEOs started to get serious about the management of the payroll function.
“The best friend of a potential payroll fraudster is mediocre payroll processes and governance,” she said.
“With a focus on processes and governance, having trained staff signing off on payroll who actually understand what they are checking and automated systems where possible, the risk of fraud can be practically eliminated.”
Angwin said that this is especially critical for organisations with a sole charge payroll operation.
“As well as the financial loss to employers due to payroll fraud, the brand damage caused by negative media reports can be devastating,” said Angwin.
“Both Sally Woodall and Sonya Causer, who stole over $19 million from Clive Peeters, were able to get payroll or accounting roles following their fraudulent activity.”
Angwin said that employers need to take much more care when recruiting payroll managers.
This should include mandatory police checks just as you might conduct a payroll knowledge assessment on potential candidates.
“To mitigate the risk of payroll errors and fraud, along with pre-employment checks, employers need to ensure their payroll team is qualified in payroll or outsource their payroll operation to an organisation with qualified staff,” said Angwin.
Large companies are making on average $3,950,000 of errors annually, and these are just the ones the employers find out about, according to Australian Payroll Association’s 2017 Payroll Benchmarking Survey of more than 2000 employers.
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Worker who stole $347k from employer sentenced to jail
A former payroll manager from multinational design and architecture Hassell has been sentenced to jail for three years for systematically defrauding her employer of $737,000.