Local authorities detect or prevent frauds worth £302 million in 2017/18

The CIPFA “Fraud and corruption tracker” summary report, based on responses from 144 local authorities, estimates that approximately 80,000 frauds have been detected by local authorities in 2017/18 with a value of £302 million.

71.4% of that figure is under the heading of ‘housing fraud’ (though the number of cases represents only 5.7% of the total, the largest number of cases being with regard to council tax):

– 1518 Right to buy cases at a value of £92m

– 1051 unlawful sub-letting cases at a value of £55.8m

– 2164 other cases (e.g. wrongful assignments and tenancy successions, false applications) at a value of £68.3m

CIPFA recommends:

1. Public sector organisations need to remain vigilant and determined in identifying and preventing fraud in their procurement processes. Our survey showed this to be one of the prime risk areas and practitioners believe this fraud to be widely underreported.

2. Effective practices on detecting and preventing adult social care fraud should be shared and adopted across the sector. Data matching is being used by some authorities with positive results.

3. All organisations should ensure that they have a strong counter-fraud leadership at the heart of the senior decision-making teams. Fraud teams and practitioners should be supported in presenting business cases to resource their work effectively.

4. Public sector organisations should continue to maximise opportunities to share data and to explore innovative use of data, including sharing with law enforcement.

5. The importance of the work of the fraud team should be built into both internal and external communication plans. Councils can improve their budget position and reputations by having a zero- tolerance approach.

CIPFA’s chief executive, Rob Whiteman, said in a recent article for “Public Finance”:

“…the number of serious and organised crimes detected and prevented by councils has doubled this year to 56, highlighting the seriousness of the issues faced – and the effectiveness of councils’ efforts. Overall, 636 prosecutions were completed in 2017-18, up from 614 the previous year.

However, these successes were owing not to increased resources but increased capability and collaboration. The number of in-house qualified financial investigators appears to have dipped slightly, but shared services structures have risen from 9% to 14% of authorities. Fraud is a crime that crosses organisational and geographic boundaries. By collaborating, sharing data and jointly investing in new technologies, councils can improve resilience and cost-effectiveness.

The London Counter Fraud Hub, a data-sharing and analytics solution led by Ealing Council and London Councils and run by CIPFA and other partners, is an example. About to go live, it forms a part of CIPFA’s enhanced counter fraud services, which seek to drive a collective change in councils’ approach to fraud.

It’s important to maximise opportunities to share and explore innovative use of data, including working with law enforcement. Fraud is not a victimless crime. It inevitably diverts resources away from those who need it most. With local government running on empty, councils must preserve every drop.”

 

Postcript:

See the earlier blog article on the National Fraud Initiative Report 2018

 

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