To consider the attached report.
Martin Crowe, the Corporate Fraud Team Manager introduced the report on the focus of the Corporate Fraud Team for the year 2019/2020. This strategy summarised the key principles for the Corporate Fraud Team for the forthcoming 2019 / 20 period along with some longer term aims.
The Corporate Fraud Team sat alongside the Internal Audit team and therefore both together supported and contributed to the achievement of the Council’s 2018-23 strategic aims. These had been taken into account when developing the Corporate Fraud Strategy and Plan. The Fraud Team had adopted the familiar dual approach of proactive and reactive work.
The proactive work consisted of the process of vetting 100% of Right to Buy applications; reviewing areas of high fraud risk within the Council, targeting Revenue such as non-domestic rates fraud and fraud within Council tax discounts; the Team would continue with its good working relationship with the Housing Department; they would continue engaging other key stakeholders across the Council to raise awareness and encourage reporting of suspicions; and would further implement a rolling fraud awareness programme.
The reactive work would consist of reviewing and risk assessing 100% of the referrals it received; continuing their programme of engaging with other council teams, providing advice, training and support; they would continue with the “Know a Cheat in your Street” advertising campaign for the forthcoming year; and would also continue to publicise their work including successful prosecutions.
Going forward, the new National Fraud Initiative exercise had just come in with well over a thousand data matches that needed to be looked at in conjunction with Internal Audit and other council departments.
The formal and informal joint and shared working arrangements would continue into the forthcoming year. Also the Corporate Fraud Team were now expected to undertake a set number of hours of Continued Professional Development (CPD) to keep their existing knowledge and skills up to date and to develop new skills.
Longer term projects being considered included exploring pre-employment vetting and an ongoing process looking at all documents and processes that gave access to the Council’s public services to ensure that they were as fraud proof as possible.
Councillor Jennings said that this was an impressive programme and noted that they had joint working arrangements with Brentwood and Chelmsford councils; was there any reason it was those councils in particular. He also positively commended the start of officer development and CPDs. The Corporate Fraud Team Manager replied saying that the opportunity at Brentwood was the Corporate Fraud Team was in the right place at the right time. Brentwood had recently lost all their anti-fraud resources and we saw this as an opportunity to help as well as a commercial opportunity to take this on in a more formal basis. As for Chelmsford and Harlow, this was a more informal arrangement. There is an investigator in Chelmsford who used to work for us and had kept this link. Harlow was a shared service with Audit. This had all just happened this way with our closer neighbours.
Councillor Lion noted that the fraud team was very successful and paid for itself. He then asked if we had thought about carrying out DBS checks for officers. He was told that we did have a policy for checking on positions for people working with vulnerable children and adults. Other post may warrant other sorts of checks. A lot of posts must have the appropriate qualifications criteria and the Council did all the normal checks on recruits.
That the Committee noted and approved the Corporate Fraud Team Strategy for 2019 / 20.