Absolutely. Vendor background checks are a moral and legal necessity. We live in a world where outsourcing has become a common practice. For many organizations, outsourcing functions like payroll, cleaning services, food services, transportation and IT saves money and provides better quality. A real win win. However, the more we outsource the less control we have over who gains physical or virtual access to our organizations. Vendors are given access to our employees, customers, volunteers, children and/or sensitive data and financial statements.
In 2009, a contractor was arrested for molesting 4 girls at a San Gabriel, CA elementary school while making a presentation. Though he was acquitted of the charges, he had two 1996 felony convictions for lewd conduct while parked in front of a playground and possession of a controlled substance for resale which resulted in a 2 year prison sentence.
The contractor had affirmed to the school district that they had completed a background check and the presenter had a clear criminal history.
How could this happen? Simple, the school acquiesced and relied on their contractor to provide the criminal background checks. Unfortunately, the contractor was using cheap background checks that did not flag the felony convictions.
Do not assume that your vendors are conducing quality background checks. Very few organizations understand the low standards of the background screening industry unless they have had problems. And a background check could be defined as a simple reference check, cheap local search or a comprehensive national search.
Take Control of Vendor Background Checks
There is no way we can accept a vendor’s declaration that they have completed background checks on their employees. We have no idea what that means.
We need to know the answers to these questions:
- How far back did they search?
- How do they define background check? Reference checks? Criminal? Motor vehicle?
- Did they use only a criminal database? If so, which one? Local, state, national?
- Did they use a Federal Criminal Search?
- Did they use county criminal searches? One? Or all counties of current and past residence?
- Does the report include felony AND misdemeanors?
- How did they identify the applicant?
- Did they search alias and other names?
- How long ago was the report completed?
Ultimately it is your organization at risk, so criminal background screening should be an “in-house” function that is defined and conducted based on your policies and procedures. Don’t place the safety and security of your organization in unknown hands.
OK, I have shared the risks of not conducting background checks on vendors. I really want to hear from you. Why have you not implemented a vendor screening program? Maybe it is something we need to explore in future blog posts? If you have a question, I am guessing many others have the same questions or concerns so kick start the discussion.