Planning An Investigation
A properly conducted investigation will improve management by identifying unacceptable business practices or administrative operations. The objective of any investigation is to remove staff who have committed serious acts of misconduct which affects the reputation of the Organization. The investigation objectives are to recover organizational assets and protect the Organization’s public image and reputation. Before an investigation can begin, the investigator needs a plan. Careful planning results in an effective, expedient and productive investigation.
The first step is to prepare an outline of the Investigation Plan. Who will be interviewed? What questions will need to be asked? The Organization will need to inform the staff member’s supervisor that an investigation will be undertaken and the staff member will need to be interviewed. The staff members who will be interviewed need an official letter introducing the investigator and a generic statement as to the purpose of the investigation. The location of the interview should be away from the occurrence of the incident or worksite. The purpose of the interview is to acquire knowledge of the specific act(s) of misconduct.
Prior to the interview of the first witness, the investigator must review all documents to create an evidentiary record of the case. It is the oral interviews which will give the investigator the relevant facts and insights into the incident. If the investigation was initiated based upon a complaint submitted by a staff member, the complainant should be the first person interviewed. The investigator should interview the manager of the staff member who allegedly committed the act of misconduct. Other interviews should be taken of any staff member who may have witnessed the incident, witnesses who may have relevant information about the incident, and staff members who can interpret the application of the relevant regulations and policies. Not everyone with an interest in the case needs to be interviewed and the perimeters of the number of interviews should be limited.
The order of interviews is realistically determined by time availability of the witness. It would be in the interest of the investigation to speak with a staff member who can give a general background of the case like a manager or Director. Interviews can then be conducted of other witnesses to corroborate facts or may have been mentioned during an interview. The subject of the investigation should be interviewed last. At this point facts and supporting documentation which may implicate the subject would have been discovered.
In adherence to due process and to prevent any legal challenges if the case should be litigated, the subject should be given information about the report of misconduct and an opportunity to explain and defend against the allegations.
The investigator should ask open-ended, short simple questions. The majority of the interview should consist of responses from the interviewee.
An accurate record is essential to an investigation. The investigator should record the interview simultaneously or draft a record of the interview after its completion. The Final Report will be created at the end of the investigation. The Final Report will include a summary of facts and conclusions based upon the facts but should not include a directive as to the final action of the final action of the Organization. It is the Organization’s management that will review the Investigation Report and decide as to what action, if any, should be taken should be to resolve the matter.