x Abu Dhabi, UAESunday 21 January 2018

UAE to conduct recruitment checks in bid to beat wasta

Take our poll: UAE Internal Audit Association says the practice of hiring based on personal connections or favourtism must be rooted out.

DUBAI // Auditors are checking recruitment procedures to ensure that government bodies and businesses are not offering jobs to people who benefit from the form of favouritism known as wasta.

The Arabic word wasta refers to the practice of gaining advantages because of one's influence or connections rather than through merit, and is similar to the western concept of "who you know".

Recruitment is one of the areas examined by internal auditors, specialists employed to check all aspects of how an organisation is run.

"People think auditors are attached to finance," said Abdulqader Obaid Ali, president of the board of the UAE Internal Audit Association. "That is not the case with internal auditors; finance is only 20 per cent of our work. We look from A to Z in the organisation, we look into all different processes and we audit them.

"One of the things we prevent is wasta," he added. "There is a process you have to look into. If you know him and just because you know him you give him a job - no. If he has the right qualifications there's no problem, but he must meet the criteria of the job. We ensure there is no wasta."

The UAE Internal Audit Association, a non-profit professional body, was formed in 1995 and provides members with support, training and other benefits. It has more than 1,700 members across the Emirates and is affiliated to the Institute of Internal Auditors, a global body with members in 165 countries.

Nearly 10 per cent of the association's members are Emiratis, and an initiative is about to be launched to attract more to the profession.

"We as an association have the know-how to train and certify nationals, and we know where they can go to work as well," said Mr Ali. "There is a big gap, almost all audit departments are looking for nationals.

"The idea is we're going to take some national graduates who have the right attitude for audit work, we're going to put them through six to nine months of intensive training - theoretical and practical.

"When they finish they'll be placed into a position. We're looking at putting 40 nationals into this programme - 20 men and 20 women - and we're hoping to launch it by September."

Unlike external auditors, who are brought in to inspect the books, internal auditors are employed by the company or government department concerned, and their remit goes beyond financial matters.

"We look into recruiting, we ensure there is good governance in recruiting," said Mr Ali. "Something we've learnt is, please, please recruit the right person for the right job. What makes a company is the people in it, and how you recruit these people is pivotal to your success. It's up to you as a company to bring in the right calibre to make sure you can excel and compete in this world. To me this is vitally important."

One of the key roles of internal auditors is to report cases of fraud and corruption. "Wherever you have people, unfortunately you're going to have fraud, it's there. It's in our mandate to raise the alarm when we detect it."

Information provided by whistle-blowers is an important element in the war on corruption, and Mr Ali said an increasing number of UAE companies were introducing schemes to encourage employees to come forward.

"We've seen a lot of whistle-blower systems coming up, a lot of companies have started installing them. People [who notice fraud] are saying, 'What do I do about this guy?' One of the best ways is to put in a good whistle-blowing scheme. There is some work to be done on protection for whistle-blowers and all that, but things are moving in the right direction, which is very positive."

The association will host the 14th Annual Regional Audit Conference in Abu Dhabi from April 15 to 17.