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Agenda item

Compliance Team Annual Report 2013 / 2014

To receive, consider and endorse the annual report on the investigation of fraud and irregularities for the year ended 31 March 2014.

 

Minutes:

The Compliance Manager introduced a report to the Committee, which provided an overview of the Council's approach to combating fraud, and its delivery over the period April 2013 - March 2014. Members were also advised of the forthcoming migration of the benefit fraud services to the Department of Work and Pensions (DWP) in December 2014. 

 

The following key points highlighted included:

 

·      Cross Keys had continued to work with the Compliance Team to address housing/tenancy fraud;

·      There had been a lower number of investigations, however higher term and longer value benefit frauds had been identified;

·      The single fraud investigation service set up by the government, would affect staff involved in the housing benefit and historical council tax benefit transfer although not the local council tax support scheme. The date for transfer into this service would be 1 December 2014. This would mean that the Council would be responsible for paying but not investigating council tax fraud;

·      The team continued to investigate blue badges misuse; and

·      Data protection and security of information was being progressed.

 

The Compliance Manager responded to comments and questions raised by Members.  In summary responses included:

 

·      The reference to positive outcomes within the report had referred to instances of benefit fraud, administrative error or a misunderstanding by the claimant. In terms of recovering the money, Shared Transactional Services would administer the function;

·      In terms of low value overpayments, the cost of prosecution was not financially feasible and in these instances a caution was sometimes preferable;

·      The Council would apply for court costs but the recovery had been at the magistrates’ discretion, which was generally based on the means of the defendant;

·      It was only possible for the team to investigate viable cases of fraud and in some cases, it may be appropriate for an issue to be referred to the Department of Work and Pensions (DWP). Instances where there were no investigations may include malicious referrals or instances where there had been insufficient obvious evidence. However, an investigation that had not been launched did not necessarily mean that the issue was not considered;

·      Positive outcomes referenced within the report had also included prosecutions and sanctions;

·      The findings of further overpayments was a result of the work of the team, however there were other variable factors which could affect the figure.  The findings had not necessarily represented a widespread increase in fraudulent claims;

·      Allegations of electoral fraud were investigated in a timely manner by the police however these were low in numbers and there had been no further action required;        

·      Investigations into corporate fraud and partner relationships may arise from any source;

·      The Council had been assured that there was no evidence of fraud by  strategic partner practices in terms of charges for provision of local authority services;

·      Where possible it was anticipated that cases of benefit fraud would be investigated with the DWP, however, there were laws in place, which prevented the DWP being involved in the investigation of council tax support schemes; and

·      Funding for investigation of housing benefit fraud would not be affected until after 2014/2015.

 

The Committee:

 

Agreed to endorse the annual report on the investigation of fraud and other issues for the year ended 31 March 2014.

 

Supporting documents: