Ola hires top auditor to probe recruitment fraud by HR head Yugantar Saikia

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SoftBank-backed ride hailing company Ola has roped in one of the ‘Big Four’ auditing firms to investigate potential recruitment fraud committed by its head of human resources Yugantar Saikia.A source told Business Standard that Saikia’s laptop and email were seized as part of the investigation due to which he has also been kept on the company’s rolls. He added that Saikia had handed in his papers a while ago and was due to quit Ola on February 18.While Ola confirmed that there was an ongoing investigation, it did not divulge any further details. “There is an internal investigation which is currently on and one cannot give further details at the moment,” said an Ola spokesperson.Online publication FactorDaily, which first reported about the investigation, said that the fraud could be in the tune of a ‘few million dollars’. The publication said that when it contacted Saikia, he said that he had not been notified of any such action by Ola.Saikia had allegedly colluded with recruitment agencies, accepting kickbacks in order to favour them.

The audit firm that has been brought in to investigate the fraud could review the employment of upwards of 1,000 people who were recruited from such external agencies in question.Prior to joining Ola as Senior Vice President and Chief Administrative Officer, Saikia worked with FICO as a Senior Director for the Asia Pacific Region. Before that, he had worked at American Express as Service Delivery Leader for the Global Infrastructure Optimisation division.The unearthing of the potential scam comes soon after the company closed a $1.1 billion round which saw participation from investors Tencent, Softbank and Ratan Tata-backed UC-RNT fund. Ola’s valuation had dropped from a peak of $5 billion to $3.5 billion during the latest funding round.Ola is engaged in a high-stakes battle for the leadership in India’s ride hailing space with Uber, a company that is recovering from a slew of governance and leadership issues. Uber too has had its fair share of troubles from India after Eric Alexander, a senior executive, illegally obtained the medical records of a rape victim.Global publications have said that the handling of the Delhi rape case by Uber executives is one of the major reasons why founder Travis Kalanick was ousted from his position of CEO last year.