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Fraud taskforce

In April the National Fraud Authority and Cabinet Office will set out the design for a counter-fraud checking service as the first step to improving the Government’s intelligence sharing architecture. This will for the first time join up fraud data across the public and private sector, according to Cabinet Office minister Francis Maude.

Across Government Mr Maude said, the Coalition will continue to pilot work to facilitate the exchange of fraud data with the police and the private sector. “We have seen that timely sharing of intelligence across organisational boundaries is the only way to understand the true extent of criminal activity affecting the UK.”

In February the Coalition published what it hailed as a first cross-government strategy to, in Francis Maude’s words, ‘drive changes in culture and behaviours across all government departments to tackle fraud and error’.

In a February 6 speech he claimed that too often waste was tolerated, and fraud was ignored. He said that there was much more to do and clamping down on the huge loss of public money through fraud, error and debt is a priority. He spoke also of embedding ‘a culture of zero tolerance’ whereby government will train every public sector employee to understand the risks of fraud and know how to prevent, detect and report it. Summing up, he said: “It is extraordinary that there has not been a cross-Government approach to fraud, debt and error in the past.” But, he added, the tide was turning. In a 37-page report, the ‘Taskforce on Fraud, Error and Debt’ spoke of how fraud and error would be ‘designed out’ of major Government projects by use of ‘independent fraud expert panels’. All civil servants will be required to take a fraud awareness e-learning course. Also planned are better vetting processes in place to help prevent staff and insider-enabled fraud.

Mr Maude said:

“Over a year ago, at the prime minister’s request, we set up a Taskforce on Fraud, Error and Debt.  I’m delighted to be supported by colleagues from DWP, the Treasury and the Home Office.  David Freud and David Gauke play a key role as ministers responsible for these matters in DWP and HMRC; and James Brokenshire has responsibility for the important work of the National Fraud Authority.

This Taskforce has taken significant steps to get a handle on the nature and scale of financial loss in the public sector, as well as piloting tools and techniques to pinpoint where we can get better.

And it became very clear, very soon that we could get a lot better.

The public sector loses £21billion a year to benefit fraudsters, tax cheats, dishonest employees.

That’s the equivalent of building 800 secondary schools, or employing over 615,000 nurses.

On top of this we estimate that we are losing nearly £10billion from payments made in error – made by customers, suppliers and officials.

We have started to make progress.  The taskforce has supported a series of pilots including:

 -The use of application screening processes by HMRC in regards to tax credit applications;

-The implementation of spend-recovery audits to detect over-payments to suppliers;

-And the use of Credit Reference Agency data to verify the circumstances of benefit and tax credit claimants.

As a result we have already saved over £70 million already for taxpayers. But that is just the start, from a handful of pilots to see what works and what doesn’t.

And today we are publishing the first cross-government strategy that will drive changes in culture and behaviours across all government departments to tackle fraud and error.”

He stressed also a much more collaborative approach to preventing, catching and reporting fraud, debt and error.

He said that Government simply had not been joined up on tackling this – even within departments. “There’s been a senseless refusal to take advantage of our shared resources, techniques and knowledge that I find hard to understand.”

He said: “It’s astonishing how oblivious Departments have been to each other’s crucial intelligence. Fraudsters make multiple attacks across government departments and across the public and private sectors – but our defences have always been fragmented. It’s impossible to fight fraud by taking a series of pot shots in the dark. Criminals who attack us do not operate in silos and nor should we. We need to take off our collective blindfold and share our intelligence on known fraud and fraudsters and make this the basis of a common defence.”


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