Adam Wilkinson talks about the challenges of fighting Fraud in UK Local Government:
What's the problem?
At a time when local Councils are under an unprecedented amount of pressure to deliver core services to their residents, significant fraud is an increasing and ever-present risk. Keeping staff aware of the latest risks and what they should do about them is critical to enabling losses to be minimised and reputations to be secured.
Recent statistics highlight the extent of these risks:
64% of local government professionals believe fraud is a major risk in their authorities.
Source: CIPFA March 2020
Government review calls for Councils to make some fraud awareness training mandatory.
Source: Public Finance magazine June 2020
UK local authorities lose an estimated £7.8bn to fraud each year.
Source: Annual Fraud Indicator 2017
Could it get worse?
It certainly could. These stark headlines take no account of the wider impact of COVID-19 which is resulting in a huge spike in fraud and in cybercrime. Fraudsters are increasingly taking advantage of the increased responsibilities allocated to authorities e.g. for assessment and payment of COVID-19 grants; the inevitable relaxation (at least temporarily) of some controls; and the enforced, new ways of working by staff - mostly from home.
What else is happening?
With councils providing such a wide and diverse range of services, it is of little surprise that there are an equally wide range of opportunities for fraudsters to try and exploit these services. Recruitment, creditor payment, procurement and expense fraud are just some examples of the types of fraud that councils are losing millions of pounds to each year.
Adult Social Care Fraud
One service where there is a worrying spike in cases of fraud is Adult Social Care where losses arise, for example, from false claims and the fraudulent use of personal budgets by "trustees". With personal budgets currently exceeding £900m pa, it is estimated that over £6m of this is lost to fraud every year.
What can be done?
Unfortunately, there is no silver bullet that an authority can use to eliminate the risk of falling victim to some type of fraud. However, providing staff with the opportunity to access up-to-date, digital learning on fraud is proven as one of the most effective ways to prevent and detect it. Check out Meritec's "Focus On... Fraud Awareness" – it’s an award-winning product that provides staff with a broad understanding of fraud and what they can do about it in just 45 minutes.: more information can be found on our Focus on Fraud Awareness website page.