Inaction is aiding and abetting society’s ills

It’s the second lockdown in some places. In my city in the north of France that shares borders with Belgium, Germany and Luxembourg, the streets are almost empty. Although the authorities allowed shops to reopen three days ago, local businesses find customers hard to come by. Residents who go out for work reasons are at home before dusk. Hence, I was not surprised when I read that the number of reported street crimes has declined.

Meanwhile, we know that every crisis provides an opportunity for people to be resourceful; as well, not all crimes happen in the streets. Since the first lockdown in March, there have been reports on the rise in domestic violence, sale of fake medicine and treatment, consumption of exorbitant coronavirus-recommended cleaning and health products, and solicitation of donations for charities that either do not exist or do not deliver what they promise.

Recently, I heard about the UK’s COVID Fraud Hotline (0800 587 5030) encouraging people to phone anonymously and free of charge any suspected fraudulent activity. If you knew someone who has been claiming support illegally or abusing government schemes, would you call the hotline? It takes a long time for fraud to be discovered, and governments need a helping hand. Should we extend this to them?

Fraud against the public purse, wherever you are, limits or even denies access to vital funds that benefit society as a whole. This money should be used to help the poorest: contract workers, market stallholders, casual service providers and carers, struggling small businesses and independent earners, and those who are ineligible for unemployment benefit and do not have the means to feed and shelter themselves and their families; not double-dippers.

Will you tell the authorities about your colleague who is on paid parental leave but still continues freelancing? Will you refuse your employer’s directive to deal with clients’ queries or respond to work emails when you are on furlough? How about companies that get subsidy or funding to keep employees but do the opposite and pocket the money?

Fraud, whether big or small, affects all of us. The article ''Most Common Workplace Frauds That Employer Should Know About'' mentions, among other things, “Bogus supply of goods and services” and “Manipulation of bank reconciliations and cash books”. Those found guilty of these crimes are punished by fines, restitution, dismissal from work, or imprisonment.

Some common frauds in the workplace are hidden and unlikely to come to the attention of the authority. These include claiming for unworked hours, malingering, stealing office supplies, staging accidents, and faking injuries. It will be interesting to research on fraud in the workplace pre, during and post-pandemic.

“I’m not an informer”, “I hate workplace spies”, “I can’t be a whistleblower”, “I don’t want to be responsible for someone’s scuppered life”, so forth. Inaction is aiding and abetting our society’s ills, and it’s the elephant in the room.

(This article also appears in my website Rolade Societal Blog - roladesocietalblog.com)

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