Wirral Council reveals it identified £1,256,823 of fraud and £409,311 of "irregularity" in the last year

Wirral Council reveals it identified £1,256,823 of fraud and £409,311 of “irregularity” in the last year

Wirral Council reveals it identified £1,256,823 of fraud and £409,311 of “irregularity” in the last year

                                        

One of the advantages to the new transparency regime imposed on Wirral Council by national government regulations is that they’re being forced to publish more information about their activities by the deadline of 31st December 2014.

For example the information below is on their fraud investigating efforts. As I’m obliged to do so under the terms of the licence I will state “This contains public sector information licensed under the Open Government Licence v3.0.”

Here are the statistics published about Wirral Council for fraud in 2013/14 on the data.gov.uk website. My comments are added in italics.

Number of occasions powers under the Prevention of Social Housing Fraud (Power to Require Information)(England) Regulations 2014, or similar powers used 2.

The regulations explicitly referred to came into effect until 6th April 2014, therefore couldn’t have actually been used at all by Wirral Council in the 13/14 financial year. Looking at the new regulations it’s about requesting information from such as banks on people suspected of housing fraud.

Total number (absolute and full-time equivalent) of employees undertaking investigations and prosecutions of fraud 7

Total number (absolute and full-time equivalent) of professionally accredited counter fraud specialists 7

Not quite sure whether these are a total of 14 employees or the same 7 in both categories.

Amount spent by the authority on the investigation and prosecution of fraud £159,000

Probably a combination of employee time, legal costs and external costs

Number of fraud cases investigated 507

So split between 7 FT employees, that’s an average of 72 each a year or 26 hours per a case.

Total number of occasions on which fraud was identified 71

Well I’d expect this number to be less than 507.

Total number of occasions on which irregularity was identified 436

In other words in every fraud case investigated where fraud wasn’t found, it was put down as irregularity.

Total monetary value of the fraud that was detected £1,256,823

Well I expected it would be something, but £1.2 million in a year (compared to the size of Wirral Council’s budget and financial transactions isn’t too bad I suppose. So each fraud was on average for an amount of £17,701, but cost on average £2,239 per identified fraud case to investigate.

Total monetary value of the irregularity that was detected £409,311

I still don’t fully understand what irregularity means but there you go! Maybe someone can leave a comment and explain that!

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Government asks councils in England to bid for £16 million of money to tackle fraud

Government asks councils in England to bid for £16 million of money to tackle fraud

Government asks councils in England to bid for £16 million of money to tackle fraud

 

Last month, the Department for Communities and Local Government invited local councils to make bids to it (closing deadline is 5th September 2014) for £16 million of money to help with counter fraud. This is not for the purpose of tackling benefit fraud (which is a different issue) but would be for projects to reduce the risk of for example the £45,779.46 Wirral Council lost in a care home fraud last year.

Certainly Wirral Council’s counter-fraud team (considering the size of the organisation and complexity of its finances) isn’t very big. The last time somebody asked how big it was I think the answer was two. Since then I think at least one person has left who I assume was in counter fraud (although whether the post has been filled or left vacant as a way to save money I’m not sure). So as fraud is losing Wirral Council money and if they made a successful bid the money would not have to come out their existing budgets I hope Wirral Council does bid (although who knows)?

I know counter-fraud is at times a rather dull back office function and I doubt on the doorstep people are saying to political parties “You must do something about improving your counter fraud activities!”. However it is important, because although the risk of fraud may be small, the amounts can be large (some authorities have lost far larger amounts in frauds). Admittedly with the fraud referred to above Wirral Council admitted that the fraud was sophisticated and convincing but that staff hadn’t followed their internal rules to prevent this sort of thing happening. I think the staff involved were “subjected to disciplinary measures”.

However to make it as easy as I can for Wirral Council, here is a link to the application form and is a link to the nine pages as to what it is about and when they will get the money if their bid is approved. So, if you have any juicy tips about Wirral Council losing money to fraudsters (recently) or have some suggestions as to what they could do better to reduce the risk of fraud please leave a comment (even if it has to be anonymous)!

In the interests of open reporting here is a link to the DCLG press release about this.

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