Personal financial pressure has edged out greed as the number one motivation among perpetrators of fraud in New Zealand, according to a survey.

KPMG's Fraud, Bribery and Corruption Survey shows $18.26 million was lost to fraud between February 2010 and January 2012, based on the responses of 140 businesses.

Past surveys have found greed and the desire to maintain lifestyle were the strongest drivers behind fraud, but that has now changed.

Of the private and public sector organisations to complete the survey, 42 per cent said personal financial pressure was the number one motivator, ahead of 39 per cent who blamed greed and lifestyle.


"We think the reason why personal financial pressure has jumped a few places to number one has something to do with the global financial crisis," said Blair Bulloch, senior manager of forensics at KPMG.

"These are times where a number of people are finding it more difficult to pay their mortgages and debts because they or a spouse have lost their job."

Trevor Bradley, a lecturer at the Institute of Criminology, Victoria University, said it was difficult to know exactly why people committed fraud but the recession had played a part.

"Prior to 2007/2008 we had executives and senior managers enjoying very good lifestyles.

"But as the pressure's come on a question mark's arisen around 'how do I to maintain some sort of status or lifestyle?'"

Just over 7 per cent of respondents reported financial pressure on a company as the main motivator of fraud.

The total value lost to fraud has increased by almost 8 per cent since the 2008 survey, KPMG says.

The Serious Fraud Office estimates the total amount lost to fraud annually in New Zealand is between $2 billion and $8 billion.

Respondents believed, on average, that only 50 per cent of all fraud losses are being detected.

Only 17 per cent of perpetrators were already working in the victim organisation, and half of those were earning less than $50,000.

The average period of time taken to detect a major fraud was 202 days.

The survey also showed New Zealand businesses are too complacent about the growing risk of bribery and corruption, KPMG said.

Around 38 per cent of respondents did not have clear anti-bribery and corruption policies and procedures in place.

The Fraud, Bribery and Corruption Survey is carried out every two years and is designed to provide specific insight into fraud in New Zealand.

This year's survey was carried out in partnership with the Institute of Criminology, Victoria University of Wellington.