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Continuing to protect the public purse

Source: PSE Jun/Jul 17

Following on from the success of the 2015 report, the European Institute for Combatting Corruption and Fraud (TEICCAF) published the Protecting the English Public Purse 2016 earlier this year. The report once again highlighted the excellent work that is being undertaken by counter fraud professionals across the country, explains Mark Grimley from the organisation's advisory board.

The latest TEICCAF report highlighted some of the key changes to fraud investigation and detection that many local authorities are tackling head-on. As many people know, the effect of the Single Fraud Investigation Service (SFIS) has been dramatic. The closure of some local authority investigation services, along with the loss of highly-experienced investigators, has left some areas of the country without any corporate investigative resources. These councils are now vulnerable and at risk in relation to financial irregularities and fraud.     

With the backing of chief financial officers and members, corporate teams are being implemented around the country, establishing potential growth within their own rights. Risk is being drilled down, financial irregularities mitigated. We have seen numerous business modules, shared service, joint working and lone investigators expanding into different areas. The highlight has seen authorities generate a significant revenue stream, producing real cashable returns on investment. The increased revenue and savings have allowed councils to consider commercialisation, which does not just confine them to the fraud arena. 

TEICCAF’s report and dialogue with our members has convinced us that no matter what is thrown at local authorities, some will always see opportunity where there is threat, enabling them to reinvent themselves. Many teams are now looking at all areas of risk and financial irregularity, thus ensuring the public purse is truly protected. The whole country may not have followed suit, but a small rumble has now started and we believe TEICCAF has helped to create this change. 

The focus for our innovative local authorities is ‘cashable savings’. We all know how crucial it is to have ‘real money’, and this year’s report highlighted areas where cashable savings can occur: business rates evasion and avoidance, insurance, procurement, direct payments, to name but a few. 

Data sharing hubs 

One key area of growth over the past year has been in the number of data sharing hubs that have been created across the country. More and more local authorities are beginning to realise the power of the data they hold in the fight against fraud. TEICCAF has been instrumental in helping these move forward with the implementation of our national data hub meetings, where we invite the leading data hubs from around the country to meet and share best practice. 

The meetings bring together a wide variety of attendees from single authority hubs, to regional data hubs representing entire counties. We also invite the leading suppliers of the data hub software, so they can offer advice and guidance on any technical queries and discuss the way forward and emerging threats that have been highlighted. 

There are still considerable efforts working towards social housing, Right to buy fraud and council tax, with the survey showing that: 

  • 69% of all local authorities investigate social housing fraud at an estimated value of £50m
  • The amount of Right to Buy detected fraud is higher than ever and has now become a category in its own right, the estimated value being just over £46m
  • Council tax investigations became one of the main growth areas with an estimated value of £31.4m, an increase of over 68% 

Moving forward, with the change in business rates retention, many authorities are starting to look at this area of investigations. However, business rates evasion and avoidance is unlike any type of investigation that many counter fraud professionals have encountered before. First and foremost is the discussion around, ‘Is this actually fraud?’ 

With legislation the way it is, currently there are companies who offer their professional services to organisations in your area on how to avoid or discount their business rates. In many cases these are legally trained professionals who specialise in business rate law. 

However, with the support of TEICCAF and the IRRV (Institute of Revenues Rating & Valuation) there are a number of support measures being implemented. TEICCAF is continuing to support the investigators on a local level, offering a wide range of tailored training courses, and the IRRV has just launched its brand new advisory service. 

The BREACH Advisory Service is exclusive to billing authorities and will include: 

  • Resource Centres for business rates evasion and avoidance which includes circulars, case law and the latest information
  • A regular alert that brings members’ attention to latest developments in the profession on this important issue
  • Access to an enhanced Technical Enquiry Service on evasion and avoidance and an interactive bulletin board
  • Webinars updating you on the latest happenings within business rates avoidance and evasion; employees can participate without leaving the office.





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