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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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.