Investigators and corruption agencies can cost-effectively generate deep insights from data

At the Nov 2018 National Investigations Symposium (NIS) in Sydney, we spoke about harnessing data to identify reputational and regulatory risk “hot spots”, and to help speed up and deepen investigations.

A surprising takeaway for many attendees was that you don’t have to invest in larger data infrastructure at the outset.

With the right frameworks, and a process that is scientific and defensible, you can harness your existing data to deliver insightful results that both illuminate and withstand query from senior executives, parliamentary oversight and the court of public opinion.

Since then, we have fielded many questions from attendees, curious to learn more about the case studies and how to conduct similar data analysis.

Here are some of the more frequently posed queries:

Q1. If we can avoid investing in expensive data infrastructure and still get real benefits from our data, how do we get executive buy-in to become a data insights-led function?

A. Quick successes are the key. Focus on use specific cases – small, targeted data analysis projects with a clear impact. Then follow a simple analytics process e.g., for the procurement fraud example:

  • Consider the tricky questions that data can help with

    e.g. can we profile procurement activity for a certain individual / business unit? Can we geocode purchase activity?

  • Identify relevant data sources that might prove useful

    e.g. financial delegations registers, vendor master data file, accounts payable databases

  • Cleanse, blend and then analyse the data – domain / content experience is critical; machine learning can assist investigators to reduce false positives.


Q2. All the case studies in the presentation related to open data. Where can we find such open data?

A. For the procurement data case study, we extracted, combined and analysed 4 years’ financial data from here.


Q3. Are regulators/integrity bodies publishing the results of their data analysis?

A. Some have started. For example, the Crime and Corruption Commission (Qld) has developed a useful corruption allegations dashboard that distils information about allegations received over the past three years. There is great opportunity for other integrity agencies to follow this approach.


The core challenges in delivering a successful investigation include:

  • reducing delays to finalisation
  • achieving completeness and coverage of evidence
  • meeting stakeholder expectations.

Data analysis can really help here, but it is only a tool (albeit a very useful one).

As Chief Commissioner Hall from ICAC reminded us during the Symposium

‘an investigator’s skills, experience and judgement will always be essential’.

However, the right data, analysed using the right frameworks can significantly elevate an investigator’s capabilities, augment the exploratory potential of the investigation and accelerate its delivery.

A compelling proposition to any senior executive.