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Wednesday, June 4, 2014

An Abney Associates Fraud Awareness Program on Nine tips for councils on tackling fraud

As fraud gets harder to detect, what can councils do to protect themselves?

1. Fraud is getting harder to detect – so be vigilant
Technology means fraud has become more sophisticated and harder to detect. Awareness and vigilance must be key to protecting ourselves and the economy from these organised criminals.

– Lee Ormandy is intelligence and legal manager at Surrey county council

2. Beware of corruption growing in local government
We think that the corruption risk for local government in the England has increased, and that – as a result – corruption in UK local government is likely to increase. We may not see the consequences for a decade. Many changes, such as those to the audit regime and ethical standards, are recent, and the precise consequences are not possible to predict. However, a lesson Transparency International has learnt across the world is that it is better to take notice of emerging risks and to act early, because once corruption takes root it can be very hard to eradicate. Relatively few cases of fraud and corruption can have high impact, and this affects trust in local government and in politics more generally.

– Nick Maxwell works for Transparency International UK

3. Invest, invest, invest
We have a concern that local authorities will lose their fraud investigators due to the welfare reform, and when they do realise that they need investigators they will have to go out and re-recruit. Local government needs to make it a duty on each council to ensure that fraud is investigated and that there is zero tolerance to fraud. Share out the £16.6m given to the Department for Communities and Local Government. Investing in fraud protection will mean local government is up-to-date on any threats and gets rewarded for identifying and prosecuting fraud.

– Andrew Williams is a member of the Local Authority Investigation Officers Group

4. Make young people aware of the dangers of fraud online
An increasing worry is young people not appreciating the dangers of online fraud. People growing up treating the internet as a given before they're old enough to have a bank account are often less likely to realise that fraudsters are targeting them through pop-ups or other scams.

– Lee Ormandy is intelligence and legal manager at Surrey county council

5. Make sure the loss of the Audit Commission doesn't cause problems
The Audit Commission used to also play a role in offering protection to external auditors, which empowered them to pursue investigations without fear of being sued or losing future contracts. In the new arrangements, there is no supportive role for an auditor to look at corruption risks and there will be no duty for auditors to consider corruption.

– Maxwell

6. Learn from central government
What is the difference in this area between central and local government? Is one better than the other at tackling corruption? Is there good practice that could be shared?

– Rachael Tiffen is head of the counterfraud centre at the Chartered Institute of Public Finance and Accountancy

7. Learn from other councils
Stoke developed its own anti-fraud awareness campaignStop the Cheater (complete with an image of a cheetah) and concentrated on tenancy, benefits, and blue badge fraud. They increased referrals by 22% and recovered about 100 properties.

– Tiffen

8. Watch out for electoral fraud
There are lots of opportunities, from impersonating voters, postal votes, spending more than you declare etc. There is no proactive investigation or development of prevention-related strategies. The police have little interest in this. This is a classic area of fraud: because there are few detected cases it is thought that there is not a problem.

– Mark Button is director of the Centre for Counter Fraud Studies

9. Use data to plan services
Are councils communicating the benefits of using the personal data they hold to help plan the right fraud services? The care data, for example, being put on hold is due to lack of communication but it can only benefit everyone. We need to educate the public.

– Katrina Wakefield is head of public sector marketing at SAS UK


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