Maariya Hussain - a solid foundation

Maariya Hussain, Trainee Counter Fraud Officer, Counter Fraud and Investigation, Government Internal Audit Agency.

Photo of Maariya HussainMaariya's story

Maariya Hussain began her career as a Trainee Counter Fraud Officer with the Government Internal Audit Agency (GIAA) in October 2022, enrolling for the CIPFA Level 4 Counter Fraud Apprenticeship as part of the agency’s training programme.

Having gained a Master of Pharmacy (MPharm) degree from the University of Huddersfield, Maariya decided to pursue a career in the public sector and spent two years working for the Department for Work and Pensions before successfully applying for the counter fraud trainee role.

Making a difference was a key motivation underpinning her decision to move into counter fraud, Maariya explains: ‘It’s about helping the community by contributing to bettering the country,’ she says. ‘Our successes feel more rewarding because I feel our work goes towards improving people’s lives. Taxpayers fund our positions, and this instils a clear sense of community – and responsibility to that community – in everything we do.’

Working at the GIAA in counter fraud investigation presented a new experience for Maariya and with it, challenges of working within a multi-faceted discipline. As an executive agency of HM Treasury, the GIAA currently supports more than 160 government  departments, agencies, arm’s-length bodies, non-departmental public bodies, and devolved administrations. It delivers a wide variety of counter fraud services across government, including investigations, fraud risk assessments, fraud awareness, advice &  guidance, strategy development support, functional standard assessment and tailored counter fraud support.

‘The world of counter fraud and investigation was new to me, coming from a pharmacy background,’ Maariya says. ‘The apprenticeship is challenging, but the structure of the programme keeps it exciting. Because it starts from the basics and keeps building on the new knowledge with more advanced layers of technical and practical learning, it is creating a solid foundation for a future in counter fraud.’


GIAA investigator Sandra Simms is Maariya’s apprenticeship supervisor and line manager. She believes that as well as providing a valuable learning programme for trainee counter fraud officers, the CIPFA apprenticeship also opens up an avenue for bringing in more diversity in terms of talent and experiences. She explains: ‘Choosing to recruit and train via the apprenticeship route is about investing in future talent, succession planning and attracting people from groups who wouldn’t normally have been able to apply for our vacancies, but who potentially had other skills – from different roles – that would benefit the wider team.’

For Maariya, the apprenticeship programme has had a positive impact in developing various attributes vital to her role, from analytical skills, critical thinking and public speaking, to time management, organisational and listening skills. ‘The data analytics module we’ve covered, for example, helped me address a subject I would previously have been unsure about. The way the module was set out, the way it was explained, and the guided tasks we had to carry out made the subject accessible and engaging. Data analysis is essential in counter fraud investigation and evidence gathering, and the course was able to give me real confidence through developing my knowledge base and analytical skills.’

Sharing the learning journey with other apprentices is another important part of the programme that Maariya enjoys. ‘The CIPFA class days are the best part of the programme. I get to catch up with fellow apprentices – sharing learning styles, getting insights into what each other do in their jobs, and keeping up to date with fraud in the news. We are tasked with being prepared to present fraud news stories to the cohort – which has certainly helped mould me into a confident presenter.’

As well as fellow apprentices, Maariya values the support and encouragement offered by CIPFA mentors and tutors in helping to deliver the tools she needs to equip her for her future career. ‘We are really supported by CIPFA. It’s not just on class days – we have their contact details, so we can ask them anytime for advice or if there’s anything we don’t understand. They’re so passionate about what they do that whenever we need something they’ll make sure they are available to help us.’

Team benefits

As Maariya’s apprenticeship supervisor, Sandra says that her own involvement has been personally rewarding, and she highlights the impact of the course not just on the apprentice’s capabilities but also on the wider team. ‘It’s been a really good experience for me – and I have also learned a lot from them, checking their workbooks,’ she says. ‘Maariya is progressing well, and her ability to support other investigators has been a real benefit. She has developed a good relationship with the data analytics team, for example, and helped others understand the benefit of using them.’

Having experienced first-hand the value it brings to her organisation, Sandra is a keen advocate of the apprenticeship route. ‘I would definitely recommend the CIPFA Counter Fraud Apprenticeship to others – the range of the syllabus is excellent, while the coaches are positive and inspire the apprentices to want to learn,’ she says. ‘I really feel it lays the groundwork to develop an educated and professional investigator.’

She advises that those considering recruiting counter fraud apprentices should try to attract as wide a range of applicants as possible, to be inclusive and develop the right environment for them to flourish. ‘To get the best from your apprentices, make sure you build a strong network of people who can provide different types of support along the way. Don’t underestimate how long the programme is, and ensure you provide varied opportunities for apprentices to learn and feel valued.’

Looking ahead, after qualifying as an accredited counter fraud investigator, Maariya is determined to keep developing her professional skills to counter new and evolving threats. ‘I’m really passionate about protecting the public purse,’ she says. ‘With the emergence of AI only the start of a digitally dominated world, it’s increasingly important to stay on top of technology – to fight fraud, we must first understand it.’

As a person who came from a background that had nothing to do with fraud, Maariya believes the CIPFA apprenticeship has helped prepare her for that challenge. ‘You may start off as a mere seed, but I can guarantee that you will flourish fast and grow. It really does set you up strongly for the future.’