How have you continued your research from the previous summer? If not, what new project are you working on? What difficulties have you encountered thus far? What do you hope to find?
This summer, I conducted a literature review of fraud within the not-for-profit sector as part of the McKearn research experience. As part of that experience, I learned a lot about how to analyze data and documents to put together an overall report and analysis of various documents and their data in order to form a larger overall picture. While I will be the first to admit that my research was not groundbreaking in any means, it did set me up to consider other research topics and how might my research be used to further another project. At the beginning of the year last year, Dr. Lee and I talked about the possibility of looking into governmental fraud as well as not-for-profit fraud. These two areas are areas that have not had a lot of literature written in these fields, so it seemed promising. This semester, I decided to research governmental fraud with the support of the Student Engagement Fund.
One of the difficulties I encountered right off the bat was the fact that I did not know much about accounting, fraud, or the business world in general. I had only the very basic understanding and did not know the first place to start. I couldn’t think of a question to ask because I didn’t know if it had already been asked or even if it was a question in the right field. I had no idea where to find data or articles since this field had not been examined as closely as corporate or even not-for-profit organizations. Another difficulty I encountered was the fact that every governmental system is different—a township’s governance and their local officials (and equivalent positions) are not always the same as the next township’s. There is no standardization or anything, so I decided to compare local and state officials and fraudulent activities. The problem was that I could not find data for these, and I could not ask official agencies such as the Illinois Public Integrity Bureau for more data until I had data to support a question and justify asking for more data. I have been trawling through articles and journals trying to piece together something and so far have not come up with much.
Once I have found enough data and am able to move forward with my project, I expect to have a much easier time analyzing and compiling data once these first stages are over. I hope to find that local officials have more opportunities to commit fraud than state officials, simply because state officials are more likely to be subjected to background checks, internal controls, and the public scrutiny than local officials. I also expect to find that local officials are more likely to steal more than state officials as a result of more opportunities and fewer internal controls.
This research project has not gone nearly as smoothly as my last one, but I remain hopeful that this research will turn up something that is promising and something that I can work on for the remainder of my years at NIU.