The report of the Chief Officer Financial Services includes information on the counter fraud activities undertaken by the Internal Audit service between the period October 2021 and March 2022.
The report of the Chief Officer Financial Services provided information on the counter fraud activities undertaken by the Internal Audit Service between the period October 2021 and March 2022.
The Committee were informed of the following points:
· The Counter Fraud report was made up of two main sections Reactive and Proactive. Reactive work in relation to concerns raised by staff and members of the public and Proactive work ensuring controls are in place to stop fraud occurring. The proactive work also includes awareness raising of new and emerging fraud risks and to promote counter fraud training.
· Paragraph 5 showed the channels in which staff and members of the public can raise concerns of wrong doing. The table showed referrals received by directorate and type of concern raised between October 2021 and March 2022. It was noted that 23 referrals had been received in this period.
· It was noted that 21 referrals were being investigated as at, 1 April 2021. Investigations are undertaken by Internal Audit, Human Resources, staff within directorates or a combination of all of these. Internal Audit undertake a risk assessment and determine the most appropriate route for investigation. 13 referrals were closed in this period.
· As part of the proactive work the National Fraud Initiative (NFI) is an exercise conducted by the Cabinet Office every two years that matches electronic data within and between public and private sector bodies to prevent and detect fraud and error. Relevant teams within the Council, Internal Audit, Benefits, Housing and Tenancy Fraud have been working through the matches on a risk basis. It was noted that 19 errors had been identified resulting in the recovery of £35k.
· Members were advised that the service continued to undertake post payment assurance on Covid business grants. A separate paper had been produced on this work and circulated to Members.
· A review of the controls within the Direct Payment Audit Team had been undertaken and found fraud and prevention controls to be robust and operating well in practice.
· Included in counter fraud arrangements are to raise awareness to staff of current fraud risks, and the signposting of where to report any concerns. As part of Fraud Awareness Week in November staff were reminded of the counter fraud policies via Insite which included the updated Whistleblowing Policy and the Counter Fraud and Corruption Strategy.
· A training package had been uploaded to the training system for staff to complete this had been communicated through the Best Council Leadership Team and the Manager communications email. It was noted that 240 people had undertaken the training.
· Part of the role of the service is to review and refresh counter fraud polices and they are currently reviewing the Anti-Money Laundering Policy, which will be included in the next update to the Committee.
· It was noted that there had been no applications for directed surveillance, or covert human intelligence source authorisations in the period.
Responding to questions from the Members the Committee were provided with the following information:
· It was noted that referrals come to the team in the forms of telephone conversations and emails. These are sometimes from people who are unsure of where to raise the concern and the team are used as a conduit to get the concern raised with the most appropriate directorate or person.
· In relation to the table on page 46 of the submitted report the number of referrals can be broken down to show the number of referrals received from staff and those received from members of the public in future reports.
· It is proposed that in future the report would look to include more information in relation to direct payments fraud and frauds within the remit of other teams to provide reassurance to Members that all areas of the Council are being reported.
· It was noted that the Legal officer would look at the use of the Regulatory Investigatory Powers Act.
· Members were advised that in relation to referrals where an investigation has taken place a report was produced at the closure of the referral to Directorates with recommendations for improvements where appropriate.
· Members were advised that most of the money recovered as part of the National Fraud Initiative was related to Housing Benefit and Council Tax Reduction Scheme overpayments and was income that was coming back to the Council.
· It was noted that currently no comparison is undertaken with other Councils due to way different Councils are structured.
RESOLVED – To consider and note the assurances set out in the submitted report.