The Capital and Coast District Health Board remains confident in its employee screening process despite allowing a fraudster to take up a role as payroll manager.
Jason Brown was employed by the health board in late 2016, less than a year after he left his previous role at NZ Bus when it was discovered he had fleeced the company out of more than $128,000.
Brown then promptly began defrauding the health board, conning it out of more than $42,000 by paying employees’ money into his own account.
He was sentenced in October to two years’ jail for the first offending. Another judge last week added a further six months to his sentence for the health board fraud.
Despite the fraudster seemingly slipping through the cracks to take up the payroll position, the health board saw no flaws in its screening system.
“We remain confident in our screening processes,” corporate services general manager Thomas Davis said.
“We will continue to reference check and utilize Ministry of Justice or police checks, and have no plan to make changes.”
Davis said the board could not comment on individual cases for privacy reasons, but it would not “knowingly” employ someone with a criminal history that would impact on their role.
“During the recruitment process, candidates are required to declare any criminal convictions including those that are pending,” he said.
“All new staff are screened. This includes reference-checking, a police or Ministry of Justice check, and depending on the role, may include a credit check or safety check in terms of the Vulnerable Children’s Act 2014.”
Davis confirmed there were no plans to review the current screening system.
Brown committed the fraud by paying employees’ money into his own account and organizing any overtime payments to come to him.
Ten employees were affected. He pleaded guilty to 10 charges of theft and obtaining money by deception.
Jane Bryson, an associate professor in human resource management at Victoria University’s Business School, said she was surprised Brown’s history was not revealed during the health board’s background checks, assuming it spoke directly with NZ Bus.
Prospective employees sometimes asked companies not to contact their current employer because they did not want it known they were looking for a new job, she said.
But Brown had resigned before looking for the health board role.
“In New Zealand, most reference checks are done by phone. If you’re doing a phone interview and asking enough questions, that sort of thing should come up, even if they don’t reveal it directly.”
Aside from reference checks, employers could carry out criminal checks on job applicants, although that was rare, or ask them to disclose any recent convictions or investigations of which they were the subject.
“If they don’t disclose that and it comes to light they have a conviction, then the employer has pretty good grounds for dismissal.”
The system was not perfect, and it was not uncommon for applicants to lie on their CVs in order to land a job, Brown said.
“That can be quite hard to pick up unless you’re doing a very thorough reference check.”
Published 26 February 2018, DAMIAN GEORGE