Wednesday, 2 July 2014

Preventing and Reducing Fraud and Error

After the National Fraud Authority’s June 2013 report found fraud and error is costing the UK public sector £20.6 billion and the Government’s calls for a zero tolerance approach to fraud and error, there has been renewed pressure placed on both national and local governments to prevent and reduce fraud and error. With this in mind the Fraud and Error Conference 2014 took place on Thursday 15th May at One Great George Street, London – attendees joined to explore new methods, technologies and software that can assist the public sector in improving methods used to identify, detect and prevent fraud and error. 
Over the course of the days discussions influential speakers focused on how public sector initiatives can save £22.4billion between 2014/15 and how new counter-fraud strategies can be used to mitigate future threats. Key questions considered by those in attendance included:

-          How to increase workforce capability and recover more debt
-          How to target resources effectively to tackle social housing and tenancy fraud
-          How to develop greater strategies to assist in the investigation, prosecution and prevention of fraud
The conference was opened with a keynote address from the Cabinet Office, Lesley Hume, Executive Director – Fraud, Error, Debt & Grants and Mark Cheeseman, Head of Fraud and Error Policy joined the event to offer updates on the Fraud, Error and Debt Taskforce, paint a picture of the evolving fraud and error landscape and discuss the real cost to government. They highlighted the fact that exposure to F&E could equal half of government borrowing but distribution of losses was uneven – 80% of known losses from HMRC and DWP. Lesley and Mark’s presentation was followed by a session lead by Coactiva (Andrew Davis and James Rawlins) which focused on the practicalities of tackling F&E with case studies on tax credits and housing tenancy fraud.

Mark Babington, Director, Regulation & Fraud and Money Laundering Reporting Officer, National Audit Office and Member, Cabinet Office Fraud, Error and Debt Task Force closed the first morning sessions with a speech on the methods being used to identity, detect and prevent fraud through process auditing.

Next Alan Bryce, Head of Counter Fraud, Audit Commission offered his thoughts on the ways local and central government can prevent fraud and ‘Protect the Public Purse’ – his presentation highlighted the following:

-          Greater transparency in the national approach to fraud detection
-          Significant media coverage required nationally
-          Local approach should focus on tailored briefings for different councils
Next Cllr Sharon Taylor OBE, Leader, Stevenage Borough Council, Deputy Chair, Local Government Association provided her insights in to the £845million tenancy fraud issue and the ways local authorities can tackle social housing and tenancy fraud.

Councillor Lindsey Hall, Anti-Fraud ‘Tsar’, Westminster City Council offered practical solutions and suggestions to reform F&E:
  • An LA Political Fraud “Tsar” to act as conduit across departments and from ‘coal face’ to lawmakers!
  • WCC Published ‘Cutting the Cost of Fraud’; LAs need not be frightened of reputational damage.
  • Co-operate with the media; fair coverage serves to remind us this is not about politics but about crime.
  • Popular with public & taxpayers to know public purse protected and managed “with ownership”
  • If we expect honesty from tax-payers – they deserve honesty and respect for the way we spend their money
  • UNIVERSAL CREDIT; huge ambition to reform 51 different benefits, so much at stake, failure not an option
  • SIFIS? An obvious, sensible solution but must be in conjunction with LA – politically and practically. A challenging time for LAs.
A panel of expert speakers also joined the conference to discuss the importance of collaborative working to tackle fraud, they included:

-          Justin Freebairn, Counter Fraud Champion, Crown Prosecution Service
-          Donald Toon, Director, Economic Crime Command, National Crime Agency
-          Graeme Thomson, Programme Manager (Counter Fraud and Error), Cabinet Office  
-          Tom Smith, Benefits and Credits Director, HMRC  

The Fraud and Error conference was closed by Mark Astley, Head, National Anti-Fraud Network (NAFN) who offered a presentation on counter fraud strategies to mitigate future threats.

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