The security and transparency of Scotland’s public finances have been strengthened after a national data-sharing exercise found nearly £17m of fraud and error across services.
More than 100 public bodies participated in the latest National Fraud Initiative (NFI), a counter-fraud exercise that is coordinated by Audit Scotland every two years. The initiative matches electronic data within and between bodies to detect and prevent fraud and error.
Since the last NFI reported in 2014, a total of £16.8m worth of outcomes has been recorded. This brings the total cumulative outcomes since NFI began to £110.6m in Scotland, and £1.39bn across the UK.
The latest exercise in Scotland has led to:
- 5,939 overpayments being recovered to date worth approximately £4.6million;
- 4,846 council tax discounts reduced or removed;
- 194 occupational pensions stopped;
- 3,073 blue badges stopped or flagged for future checks;
- 868 housing benefit payments stopped or reduced;
- £2.1m in further savings from the NFI 2012/13
The matches which generated the most outcomes were council tax discounts, pensions, blue badges and housing benefits. The report also highlights nine detailed case studies which show the positive impact of the NFI on public finances.
Russell Frith, Assistant Auditor General, said: “The National Fraud Initiative makes a significant contribution to the security and transparency of public finances by checking that services are provided to the correct people and therefore helping to reduce fraud and error. It also acts as a powerful deterrent against persons who might be planning to commit fraud.
“It’s important that public bodies take full advantage of the support that the Initiative can provide to their detection work, and the increasing opportunities the technology creates for strengthening the fight against fraud.”
Audit Scotland has also reported on the performance of bodies which participate in the NFI. There is strong evidence that most bodies take the NFI seriously by putting adequate arrangements in place. However, there are still areas which some bodies could improve in, including scope for bodies to investigate matches more quickly once they have been identified.
Value of public funds “cannot be underestimated by Local Authorities”
Ian Biggadike, business development director at Agilisys, said that the value of public funds that can be recovered or saved at source by the effective use of internal and externally available data “cannot be underestimated by Local Authorities”.
“Many authorities have realised this and actively embrace the use of data to prevent financial loss through fraudulent activity or from citizens who simply forget to report their changes in personal circumstances.
“At Agilisys, we combine knowledge and customer insight to drive all of our Revenue Collection strategies, and have seen some real successes based on our background knowledge of the customers that we transact with,” continued Biggadike, whose 2015 IRRV Excellence in Debt Management Award win recognised its Revenue Collection product for the “proactive use of data, not only to recover monies that were owed, but to also guide those that we already knew were in financial difficulty”.
The report – which can be downloaded here –makes a number of recommendations to support further improvement by participating bodies in the NFI.
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