By Heidi Loren de Sousa, CIPFA Counter Fraud Apprenticeship Manager
The pandemic has presented opportunities for fraud that could never have been imagined before. While measures such as the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme have been vital to safeguarding jobs and businesses impacted by the pandemic, fraudsters have unfortunately used this moment in history as an opportunity to take advantage of the chaos and confusion.
Fraud in the public sector is nothing new. According to CIPFA's 2019 Fraud and Corruption Tracker survey, instances of council tax fraud amounted to over £30m in 2018/19. The increased public spending on coronavirus grants has created new opportunities for fraud, but also presents an opportunity for the public sector to come together to find ways to tackle this ongoing problem.
In our report released last year, Tackling Fraud in the Public Sector, it was revealed that 49% of local government professionals felt they lacked fraud awareness training. This was cited as a key reason that local authorities are vulnerable to external fraud.
CIPFA's focus has always been on prevention, and a crucial way to prevent fraud before it occurs is by investing in the relevant training for public finance professionals. Our new Counter Fraud Investigator Apprenticeship introduces a levy-funded way for local authorities and any other relevant organisations to access the necessary training for its fraud investigators.
This programme is different to anything that has been available before. During the 24 month programme apprentices will gain all the valuable skills needed for counter fraud professionals working in the field. CIPFA apprentices will be given the opportunity to gain the highly regarded and widely recognised Accredited Counter Fraud Specialist (ACFS) designation, in addition to their apprenticeship.
Classroom sessions are delivered online, fully supported by a set of digital learning resources and professional coaching by mentors with industry experience. Apprentices study key themes that are relevant for the pandemic and beyond: the UK fraud landscape and judicial system, cybercrime, digital evidence, forensics, case file preparation, and more. Upon completion, apprentices working in the public sector will be eligible for entry into the government counter fraud profession. The apprenticeship is aimed at all organisations with a counter fraud function.
The apprenticeship also seeks to develop valuable workplace skills and behaviours – including the adoption of an investigative mindset, ethics, integrity and impartiality – which are crucial for future leaders in the public sector.
The programme is open to all eligible candidates from apprenticeship levy-paying organisations. Non-levy paying organisations can also access government top-up funding to assist with the costs.
CIPFA's Counter Fraud Investigator Apprenticeship programme is the best choice for those seeking to make a significant impact on the post-pandemic world by helping to negate the presence of fraud in the public sector. Learning new skills that are relevant for the future will continue to be of profound importance to the sector as the recovery process moves forward.
An updated version of the CIPFA Fraud and Corruption Tracker is now available. To find out more about the Counter Fraud Investigator Apprenticeship, contact: email@example.com
This article first appeared in Public Finance.