There is increasing international concern about the escalation of fraud and, in particular, financial statement fraud. Detecting financial statement fraud and proving such fraud remains an elusive goal. Red flagging is an early warning system that has been used by auditors to determine the probability of financial statement fraud.
The purpose of this research project was to survey investors and lenders in South Africa on their use of red flags and to obtain their opinions on the relative importance of individual red flags. A questionnaire was sent to banks that are registered with the Registrar of Banks (representative of lenders) and to portfolio managers registered with the Financial Services Board (representative of investors).
The research findings indicate that lenders and investors in South Africa appear to be aware of the benefits of red flagging as an early warning system. A structured approach (questionnaires / checklists) in using them is to be lacking at present. Respondents rated all red flags in the questionnaire as being important. No distinction was discernable among the different categories that were based on the nature of red flags.