Donal O'Hagan
Parking Consultant & Auditor
Parking Business Services

Where were you born and raised? 

I was born in Dublin and lived all my ‘single’ life in our family home on the grounds of Dublin Airport at Collinstown.This unique venue meant that almost all our large family were influenced by the airport and spent at least some of our working lives employed there.  It was as an employee of Aer Rianta (the airport authority) that I gained most of my formative business experience and qualifications.

 

How did you become passionate about fighting fraud? 

During my 21 years employed by Aer Rianta at Dublin Airport I held a number of roles which gave me an insight into how important fraud deterrence is for an organisation.The most obvious experience relating to fraud was during the six years spent as Internal Audit Officer.The role involved the constant evaluation of existing procedures for both effectiveness and compliance, covering all of the company’s many departments and divisions.The human carnage among colleagues and friends, resulting from the discovery of a major ‘asset misappropriation’ fraud, during my time in Internal Audit, made a lasting impression and was a significant factor in my becoming interested in the reasons why fraud occurs in organisations.

 

A management role in one of the major ‘cash’ businesses operated at the airport, gave me an alternative view, from the ‘other side of the fence’, when it became my responsibility for ensuring the tightest possible fraud deterrence and compliance controls were adopted and operated.

The path is never straight and may not lead where you expect, but start out with determination and willingness to learn, and it’s likely you won’t be disappointed when you get there! 

What steps led you to your current position and what does that role entail?  

The second major part of my career involved 15 years of selling high value capital equipment to car parking property owners and operators.Having involvement in all stages of both the ‘consultative’ selling and after-sales processes gave an insight into how some owners struggled with putting in place the necessary anti-fraud controls.A combination of my past experiences as an auditor and a forensic knowledge of the workings of the cash systems used in the car parks, led to the identification of an opportunity to create a new business service for the parking industry.

 

This opportunity was grasped in 2014 when I founded my consultancy business, Parking Business Services.

What is one thing you wish someone would have told you before you began your professional career? 

“The path is never straight and may not lead where you expect, but start out with determination and willingness to learn, and it’s likely you won’t be disappointed when you get there!”While I did not have many pre-conceived ideas about where a career should go, I can now see how fear of failure may have dampened some of the entrepreneurial spirit which should have flourished along the way.

 

If I was asked what I would tell first time managers it would be “honest people deserve to be protected from temptation”.Maybe it’s because recent weeks and months have forced me to think a lot more about how easy it can be to ruin both a career and life by succumbing to the temptations offered as opportunities for fraud, that I now feel that much more emphasis should be placed on keeping honest people honest.

 

During my career I’ve seen the damage caused to the lives of respected employees who either had an ‘non-shareable’ financial need or an ‘irresistible’ opportunity, and who, by committing a fraud, irreparably damaged their career and private lives.Employers should emphasise with their staff that the reason for tight controls and regular audits is to ensure that ‘good’ people do not get tempted and ‘bad’ people go elsewhere or get caught!

Why did you decide to start your company?

As explained earlier I identified a niche in the market whereby the unique mix of experience and knowledge I could offer would be of value to the many owners and operators who lie awake at night worrying about their systems and procedures (and their cash!).

What value do you see in mentorship, and what advice do you have for someone looking for a mentor?

For any person starting out on their career path I do see a huge value in mentorship. When we look back on our own careers we can see where key decisions either did or didn’t work out as we expected.The lessons learned and experience gained is of value and should be shared.There is no doubt that those who are further down the path can offer a helping hand to those coming behind.

How do you think your CFE credential has helped you in your role? 

 

 

What is a memorable case or project that you have worked on – one that made you feel especially proud?

The most memorable case involved a major fraud in a busy shopping centre car park.My initial involvement was to carry out a routine audit of the procedures and controls on behalf of the owners of the centre. The car park was operated by a property management company, who had little understanding of the audit controls required to protect the large volumes of cash handled by the manager and staff.The initial audit findings included a significant gap between the system’s reported cash takings versus the bank lodgements. Further examination and forensic system analysis allowed the owner to recover significant damages in lieu of cash differences which were discovered to have existed over several years.

What activities or hobbies do you like to do outside of work?  

I like to stay fit by cycling the roads of North County Dublin, walking and doing some gym work.My main hobby is golf and I try to play regularly at my club, Donabate Golf Club.

 

What are some of the unique challenges you face in the parking/property holdings industry that other CFEs might not know about?

The parking and property markets are facing into a difficult time as an outcome of the COVID-19 pandemic.Office accommodation requirements will, undoubtedly, be changed dramatically due to the new ‘working from home’ philosophy adopted by many of the large technology companies.City centres car parks and on-street spaces will face different pressures, if those returning workers are reluctant to use public transport and instead use their car as a safer alternative.

Achieving the CFE credential has been a huge help in terms of the type of service we can now offer. The title Certified Fraud Examiner will open up many more markets as opportunities, as will the knowledge gained achieving the credential.

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