Council targets fraudsters
An on-going campaign to tackle people and businesses attempting to defraud the public purse led to Nottinghamshire County Council uncovering £227,924 of attempted fraud in 2017/18.
The amount is similar to the £230,520 in attempted fraud identified during 2016/17 but remains significantly higher than the previous four years.
These figures, along with details about the service areas being targeted and the initiatives to combat them form part of the annual fraud report, to be considered by the council's governance and ethics committee on 13 June 2018.
The most frequently attempted fraud against the council last year, both in terms of the amount of money and number of cases, related to 'deprivation of assets'. This is when someone deliberately reduces or hides their wealth - such as money, property or income - to increase the chances of the taxpayer funding the costs of their social care. The County Council detected 91 deprivation of assets cases in 2017/18, worth £94,188.
For the first time, the council now has a professionally qualified fraud investigator based within its internal audit team who works with teams across the council. Other measures used to counter fraud over the last year have included:
• A 48-point checklist used by the risk and insurance team to identify fraudulent claims, which has identified five instances of suspected fraud in the last 12 months, worth £35,000
• A crackdown on blue badge and concessionary travel fraud through participation in the National Fraud Initiative to identify forged passes
• Ramping up cyber security to combat specialist, sophisticated cyber-attacks or hacking
• Closer working with Nottinghamshire Police, especially the serious and organised crime team to share data on active criminal groups.
Councillor Bruce Laughton, chairman of the governance and ethics committee, said: “It is well known that funding for local authorities has been reducing in recent years, while the demand for our services - particularly social care for children, older people and people with disabilities - continues to increase. So it's more vital than ever that we do everything to protect the money we have available to direct at frontline services.
"Anyone committing fraud against the council is committing fraud against every resident of Nottinghamshire because, ultimately, it deprives us of the public services we all pay for. It is something we take extremely seriously and local people should feel reassured that we are constantly striving to prevent, detect and confront fraud head-on.
“The £230,000 of fraud is a tiny proportion of the £1bn the council spends in providing services every year, but we will not be complacent. Every pound taken away fraudulently from providing important services is a pound too many and we will continue to take a zero tolerance stance against it.”
The Annual Fraud Report 2017/18 and governance and ethics committee agenda is available to view on the County Council's website.
Nottinghamshire County Council is keen to hear from anyone when they suspect fraudulent activity affecting Council services is taking place. This could include false claims for compensation, bogus blue badge disabled parking permits or misleading applications for social care support and school places.
If you suspect an individual or business of fraud against the County Council, call the internal audit team on 0115 977 2224.