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26.11.18

Storytelling is important when it comes to busting fraud

Marc McAuley, CIPFA’s counter-fraud manager, invites everyone to get involved in next year’s Government Counter Fraud Awards before nominations close this Friday.

Fraud is not a new offence in the UK, having been written into the First Statute of Westminster in 1275. While the language was slightly different – referring to serjeants, deceit and collusion in the King’s Court – the spirit is much the same, but how fraud occurs has evolved. Complex systems and digital technology have created new opportunities for counter-fraud professionals and fraudsters.

CIPFA has spoken in the past on the importance of sharing data, which can help us achieve more than ever before by joining up services and better identifying fraudulent transactions. However, we believe when it comes to sharing, our counter-fraud stories and anecdotes can be just as powerful as the data. This is why we partner with the Cabinet Office, the National Crime Agency, and City of London Police on the Government Counter Fraud Awards.

Winners from last year have provided strong examples of best practice in counter-fraud, having literally led to hundreds of arrests, prevented millions in losses to fraud, and helped to protect hundreds of thousands of UK citizens. From each of these stories there are unique learnings.

Some of the highlights include the implementation of the National Banking Protocol. This took localised efforts and turned them into a nationwide initiative between financial institutions, police and Trading Standards. All 45 police forces in the UK are now using it, and since the initiative went live 336 arrests have been made and £37m worth of fraud has been prevented.

Nick Branigan of HMRC, 2017 Counter Fraud Professional of the Year, showed what can be achieved by working across international borders when he turned a regional inspection into tax fraud in fish stocks into an extensive, multi-agency, cross border anti-fraud undertaking that touched on illegal fishing, and even incidents of modern slavery.

Another great example came from Leeds City Council, whose robust systems and audit techniques allowed it to uncover a £178,000 procurement fraud after identifying two fictitious creditors being paid by a partner organisation. The team themselves attributed their success to looking beyond the data with follow-up procedures and rigorous investigation. It’s about the hidden story.

The awards really are a showcase for the extraordinary work being done to protect public funds. From HM Land Registry, whose Property Alert campaign led to 100,000 more houses being better protected against fraud, to the efforts of the Government Internal Audit Agency Counter Fraud and Investigation, and the Alcohol Intelligence Coordination Centre, each winning entry showed impressive creativity.

Through each of these stories we are able to share best practice and help counteract the damage fraud continues to inflict in the UK. You can see the importance of this work in the latest CIPFA Fraud and Corruption Tracker report, which found 80,000 frauds, worth £302m, were detected by councils in 2017-18 – a slight increase on 75,000 in the previous year.

Following last year’s success, I look forward to hearing more great examples of counter-fraud work, as teams and individuals submit their nominations for the eight award categories. If you have a story to tell, make sure you enter by 30 November, when nominations close.

Not only are these highly innovative cases, projects and initiatives good for the taxpayer, ensuring funds are being directed towards the right place, they also make an impact on corruption. Transparency International’s Corruption Perceptions Index currently ranks the UK eighth, noting that perceptions of corruption in the UK’s public sector are falling. And we can do even better.

When it comes to tackling fraud and corruption, sharing not only our data but our ‘war stories’ is one of the best things we can do as counter-fraud professionals. Please go to counterfraudawards.com for more information, and to enter your nomination.

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