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Press release

6 May 2020

Weak governance and lack of due diligence pose a grave risk to CSR programs: EY survey

India, Mumbai, 6 May 2020: Lack of due diligence on implementation partners, weak governance and limited management involvement are contributing to ethical lapses and fraud in corporate social responsibility (CSR) programs, states EY Forensic & Integrity Services’.

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EY India

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  • 65% respondents did not have a defined due diligence policy for CSR implementation partners
  • 75% respondents did not have a governance structure or policy to address ethical lapses or fraud in CSR programs
  • 20% respondents said investigating a CSR fraud was a key challenge

India, Mumbai, 6 May 2020: Lack of due diligence on implementation partners, weak governance and limited management involvement are contributing to ethical lapses and fraud in corporate social responsibility (CSR) programs, states EY Forensic & Integrity Services’ report, Corporate social responsibility in India: re-engineering compliance and fraud mitigation strategies. The report highlights that although there is a high dependence on third parties to execute CSR programs, 65% of the respondents did not have a clear due diligence policy and only 45% admitted to checking the past record of implementation partners.

As CSR spends to aid communities in need during the COVID19 pandemic increases, the integrity, efficacy and success of these programs may be uncertain due to inadequate controls, governance and monitoring. The report further highlights that 40% of the respondents shared that regular monitoring and evaluation of CSR projects was a key challenge.

Arpinder Singh, Partner and Head – India and Emerging Markets, Forensic & Integrity Services, EY said, CSR programs can be a powerful force for organizations to create a positive impact on society, transform communities and deliver long term value to stakeholders. Any gaps, inadequacies or compliance lapses in the CSR efforts defeat its true purpose and significance, particularly during times of crises which can have far-reaching implications. Organizations and their leaders need to ingrain integrity within CSR programs, strengthen governance and enhance monitoring efforts to impede fraud and unethical practices.”

Saguna Sodhi, Partner, Forensic & Integrity Services, EY said, “The key to success for CSR committees will be maintaining compliance with the law, managing checks and balances, and seeking guidance from senior management. Safeguarding the veracity of CSR programs, the implementation process, partners and procedures to minimize risks would be critical.

The objective of EY Forensic & Integrity Services’ report was to assess the incidence of fraud and unethical practices in CSR programs, gaps observed and organizations’ preparedness to manage these risks through anti-fraud and integrity mechanisms. Key findings of the report include:

Lack of transparency around the implementation partner’s background

Only 45% of the respondents had taken any steps to check the past record while 65% did not have a defined third-party due diligence policy that covered execution partners. External specialists can bring precision, discipline and efficiency when running an organization’s CSR project. However, omitting adequate due diligence and an opaque background may lead to ethical or integrity-related concerns, regulatory scrutiny and expose the company to financial and reputational risk.

Fraudulent practices during the lifecycle of the CSR implementation process

Financial misrepresentation of CSR funds (33%), fraud in procurement of goods & services (34%) and diversion of funds (30%) were some of the unethical practices demonstrated by implementation partners. Investigating a CSR fraud was a key challenge for 20% of the respondents. Organizations need to make sure that the process of execution during the entire lifecycle of the CSR program is conducted with integrity.

Limited governance and monitoring

56% of the respondents said that there was no board involvement and only 22% said their CSR committee included the CEO. 50% admitted their organization did not have a case management workflow or governance structure for reported or identified violations related to CSR projects. Less than half (46%) admitted to conducting reviews and monitoring CSR activities. Limited leadership involvement, absence of monitoring and the impact measurement of projects may lead to adverse repercussions for organizations, augmented exposure to a wide-ranging set of risks.

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Note to Editors

About the survey

EY Forensic & Integrity Services conducted a survey with over 100 CSR executives across mid and senior management based in India, representing a mix of Indian enterprises as well as the Indian subsidiaries of multi-national companies. The respondents operate across a wide range of industries including banking and financial services, manufacturing, infrastructure, media and entertainment, IT/ITeS, life sciences, automotive, retail and consumer products.

About EY

EY is a global leader in assurance, tax, transaction and advisory services. The insights and quality services we deliver help build trust and confidence in the capital markets and in economies the world over. We develop outstanding leaders who team to deliver on our promises to all of our stakeholders. In so doing, we play a critical role in building a better working world for our people, for our clients and for our communities.

EY refers to the global organization, and may refer to one or more, of the member firms of Ernst & Young Global Limited, each of which is a separate legal entity. Ernst & Young Global Limited, a UK company limited by guarantee, does not provide services to clients. For more information about our organization, please visit ey.com.

This news release has been issued by EY Services Limited, a member of the global EY organization that also does not provide any services to clients.

About EY Forensic & Integrity Services

Embedding integrity into an organization’s strategic vision and day-to-day operations is critical when managing complex issues of fraud, regulatory compliance, investigations and business disputes. Our international team of more than 4,000 forensic and technology professionals helps leaders balance business objectives and risks, build data-centric ethics and compliance programs, and ultimately develop a culture of integrity. We consider your distinct circumstances and needs to assemble the right multidisciplinary and culturally aligned team for you and your legal advisors. We strive to bring you the benefits of our leading technology, deep subject-matter knowledge and broad global sector experience.