Role of forensic investigations in Africa

July 24, 2017

Fraud and corruption is an ongoing risk for most organisations in Africa just like other parts of the world.No doubt fraud results in financial loss, impairs brand reputation and goodwill, alienates valued customers and suppliers and diminishes market confidence and trust. Increasingly, organisations in Africa are taking a proactive approach to prevent fraud and corruption, and mitigate its consequences.Gone are the days when criminals would get away with crimes, thanks to forensic science, few if any can get away with it. Forensics is a highly specialised profession and there are only a few employment opportunities in the occupation available in Africa.The main employers of forensic scientists are government agencies like security organs. Most forensic scientists have had extensive experience specialising in a particular scientific field such as microbiology, chemistry or physics, before moving into the forensic area.In Africa, governments employs forensic scientists in the disciplines of crime scene examinations, fingerprint identification, firearms and ammunition identification, document examination, forensic biology, forensic chemistry and applied physics.To become a forensic scientist usually requires the completion of a degree specialising in forensic science. Those interested have to consider a range of other degrees in relevant areas of specialisation which may provide entry into various areas of forensic science and in most cases are offered in a good number of universities in Africa. Relevant areas include biology, botany, chemistry, physics, dentistry or medicine.Various companies specializing in forensic investigations helps clients achieve their fraud prevention and mitigation objectives by assisting them to assess the nature of their fraud and misconduct risk exposures, design effective ethics and compliance programs and related anti-fraud controls, assign responsibilities and deploy resources for these programs and evaluate program and control effectiveness.Without question, the field of forensic science has come a very long way from use of chemistry to analyse myriad inks, drugs and minerals and the more recent discovery of DNA which has become a mainstay tool for identifying perpetrators in crimes across Africa and excluding the innocent.

Fraud risk management professionals offer insights gained from extensive experience in conducting high-profile fraud, corruption and misconduct investigations.Most of them have worked with many leading organisations in and outside Africa to establish strong fraud prevention programs and controls. They are thoroughly familiar with relevant control frameworks, African countries government enforcement policies and industry best practice. They deploy methodologies, tools and technologies which have been developed and tested by forensic professionals.They also work with clients on fraud and misconduct risk assessments through to the design of compliance programs and use technology to enable continuous transaction monitoring.When a crime is committed and the forensic team is called in, there are many experts who cover their specialised fields. Although all these people could be considered forensic scientists, they have different skills and focuses.The minimum requirements for a criminal investigation in Africa are field officers, the technicians who visit the crime scene and collect physical evidence that may be related to the crime.In countries with advanced hardware and enough resources like South Africa, they also document and record the scene by taking photographs and videos.In addition, there are lab officers, mostly of whom are technicians who analyse and complete tests on the evidence collected by field officers. According to an active forensic investigator working with a security think tank whom i spoke to recently, observational skills are important for all forensic scientists same as the ability to be methodical and accurate at all times.In his own words, doubting is an important quality, particularly when investigating crimes because there are a couple of key things to consider including the fact that everyone is a suspect until something concrete proves otherwise, and witness accounts aren’t always accurate and when referring to memories most people have trouble getting all details correct and perceptions can be influenced by their personal lives and values. It is a fact that the crime rate within every African country is evolving very fast. That’s why, forensic science is crucial within handling with criminal investigations within order towards assistance solve crimes faster.

Contador Harrison