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In 2015/16, an estimated 77,000 fraud cases worth £271m were detected or prevented by local authorities, new figures released by CIPFA (Chartered Institute of Public Finance and Accountancy) reveal today.
The CIPFA Counter Fraud Center and Corruption Tracker suggests that many authorities have recruited more counter fraud specialists to tackle complex high-value offences such as illegal sub-letting of council houses. Housing scams in 2015/16 amounted to the highestvalue fraud type with 3,842 totaling £148.4m. Council tax fraud, such as falsely claiming the single occupancy discount, was the most common fraud type with 47,747 cases detected with a total value of £22.4m.
The average value of each fraud detected in 2015/16 was £3,500 compared to £2,500 in 2014/15. This suggests local authorities are taking more strategic approaches to tackle more complex, high-value cases.
Rachael Tiffen, Head of the CIPFA Counter Fraud Centre, said:
“Fraudsters beware – local authorities are getting smarter and more effective. This is saving taxpayers’ money and helping to get council houses, disabled parking badges and other vital services to the people who really need them. However, more needs to be done. At least 10% of authorities still don’t have a dedicated counter fraud team and there remain many barriers to data sharing that could help to expose fraudsters. We recommend that local authorities work together to pool resources and information. The first step will be to agree a common approach to recording and measuring fraud.”
The report highlights a number of emerging risks. The number of fraud cases involving right to buy increased from 526 in 2014/15 to 870 in 2015/16. This risk is set to increase as the scheme is rolled out to housing associations in the coming year.
Procurement fraud, such as overcharging and falsely billing for goods and services, was also highlighted as a growing threat. The number of reported cases saw a dramatic increase from 114 cases in 2014/15 to 623 cases in 2015/16.
The CIPFA Fraud and Corruption Tracker 2016 is available online.
The CIPFA Fraud and Corruption Tracker is based on survey responses from 211 local authorities, including councils, police and crime commissioners, transport authorities, fire and rescue authorities, waste authorities and public agencies. Survey data has been used to generate estimates of fraud nationally. The tracker is designed to help local authorities identify fraud risks and improve detection rates and is supported by the National Audit Office, the National Crime Agency and the Local Government Association.
The CIPFA Counter Fraud Centre was launched in 2014 to lead and co-ordinate the fight against fraud and corruption across local and central government, and the health, education and charity sectors. Working in partnership with City of London Police, the Department for Communities and Local Government (DCLG), the National Crime Agency (NCA), Cabinet Office, NHS Protect, the National Audit Office (NAO) and other agencies, it offers training and services to help organisations detect, prevent and recover fraud losses.