4 Great Reasons to Record Investigation Interviews

The UN is changing the way it does investigations. By recording interviews, the organization improves accuracy, accountability, efficiency and oversight.

Posted by Dawn Lomer in Corporate Security on February 2nd, 2012

If horror stories of interviews gone wrong haven’t convinced you that all investigation interviews should be recorded, maybe Carman Lapointe, Under-Secretary-General for Internal Oversight Services at the United Nations, can help finish the job. When I interviewed Lapointe about internal investigations at the ACFE Canadian Fraud Conference in November, she spoke about the positive impact that recorded interviews (either audio or both audio and video) can have on a case.

Lapointe’s office reports to the Secretary-General and the Assembly on protecting the UN’s assets, and conducts audits of UN operations worldwide, overseeing monitoring, inspection, evaluation and investigation services. The OIOS promotes responsible administration of resources, a culture of accountability and transparency, and improved program performance.


Part of this involves overseeing the integrity of investigations in areas where the rule of law may be the rule of wherever the investigation takes place, unless it’s an internal UN investigation, in which case UN rules apply. As the OIOS strives to improve the UN’s processes, it is changing the way the UN conducts investigations.

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“In the past we didn’t record the interviews but now we’re moving to a system where we’re recording all of the critical witness interviews and subject interviews, so that no-one can dispute what was said,” says Lapointe. “Up until now we’ve basically provided them with a written account of our version of what was said in the interview [which gives the suspects] an opportunity to change their story, whereas if you have it on tape, it’s on tape,” she says. When a subject then changes his or her story, there’s an indisputable record of what was originally said.


Recording interviews boosts the accountability of everyone involved, not just the person answering the questions. Investigators who aren’t good at interviewing, who don’t follow protocol, who lead witnesses and suspects with unfair questions or who don’t respect the rights of the subject, are quickly discovered.

“We’ll have to look at proper training for investigators who can’t stand up to the task and make sure we have people who know that everyone deserves respect in the context of an interview,” says Lapointe.


A recorded interview is faster and easier to transcribe, says Lapointe.

“The turnaround time for transcribing what you thought you heard from notes to an actual record, and getting the witness or subject to sign off on it… that gets eliminated,” she says.

“You can have those [taped interviews] officially transcribed and you’ve got an official record of word-for-word what was actually said. I think that will make our investigation process a lot more efficient and we can get results out a lot more quickly,” says Lapointe.

And transcription can be carried out by anyone with the skills. The investigator doesn’t need to spend valuable investigation time poring over investigation notes to recreate the conversation.


The most value, however, comes in the transparency that taped interviews allow. No matter which role you play in an investigation, recorded interviews ensure that everyone is accountable for their part in the process. Any missteps by the investigator, suspect or witness are forever a matter of record.

Dawn Lomer
Dawn Lomer

Managing Editor

Dawn Lomer is the managing editor at i-Sight Software and a Certified Fraud Examiner (CFE). She writes about topics related to workplace investigations, ethics and compliance, data security and e-discovery, and hosts i-Sight webinars.