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Strengthening the counter-fraud community

Source: PSE June/July 15

The head of the Chartered Institute of Public Finance and Accountancy’s Counter Fraud Centre, Rachael Tiffen, discusses how a new specialist qualification aims to help strengthen the counter fraud and corruption community in public services.

The first cohort of the Chartered Institute of Public Finance and Accountancy’s (CIPFA) Counter Fraud Centre (CCFC) has completed a specialist qualification in countering fraud and corruption in public services. 

The CIPFA Accredited Counter Fraud Specialist (CACFS) qualification, which has been developed to help meet the constant and ever-growing challenge of fraud, is specifically designed for practitioners in the public services whose work roles are concerned with counter fraud and anti-corruption activities, including investigators, investigator managers and supervisors and internal audit staff. 

During the qualification’s pilot, a cohort of eight people took part on the course from a mix of backgrounds, from central government agencies through to councils, with job roles ranging from head of fraud down to those starting their careers in the fraud area. 

Rachael Tiffen, head of CIPFA’s CCFC, told PSE: “I am delighted that the first cohort has completed the qualification with such success.” 

The CACFS qualification has four modules – principles of legislation for the counter fraud specialist investigator; building the anti-fraud culture; investigation process and case management; and investigative interviewing and courtroom skills – which are run over 18 days. 

“It is a four-week course, but the idea is that the whole course can be done over one year,” said Tiffen. “For testing our course on all the different types of people we might get on it, the pilot was a really good study. 

“We have tried to put things into the course that make it real. For instance, we have a section about how you create an anti-fraud culture. But to make that ‘live’, we get delegates to go away and do some research in their own organisation. They have a reflective diary throughout the course, so they can see how their behaviour is changing, and they have to think about the implications of the actions they are taking.” 

On top of this, throughout the course there are a number of talking heads, including subject matter experts, from different parts of the counter-fraud community who talk to the trainees about the ‘big picture’. 

“We also have someone who comes from Public Concern at Work, the whistleblowing charity, and they talk about the importance of having a transparent culture where there is no recrimination about whistleblowing and the importance of creating that culture so people know they are not going to get punished for raising concerns,” said Tiffen. “As a by-product, you might also increase your anti-fraud referrals.” 

PSE was told that the qualification is not just about people getting a case and learning how to investigate it and developing an anti-fraud culture, but is about individuals becoming part of a profession. 

People are assessed via exams and written assignments, as well as practical role-play exercises and their ability to conduct a real-time investigation. “On week three of four, there are sessions on doing interviews under caution, where trainees get filmed and watched to make sure they are doing those interviews within the law,” said Tiffen. 

In the final week, the trainees have to give evidence in a fake court set-up on the case that they have taken all the way through from the start of the course. Tiffen said: “We turn the training room into a courtroom and have a real barrister come along and cross-question the trainees, which they then get marked on.”

When participants successfully complete the qualification they become accredited by CIPFA and by the University of Portsmouth’s Counter Fraud Professional Accreditation Board. 

“You are awarded the title of ‘Accredited Counter Fraud Specialist’ and can become a CIPFA Affiliate member,” said Tiffen. “On completion, you will be included on the Professional Register of Counter Fraud Specialists held by the University of Portsmouth’s Counter Fraud Professional Accreditation Board. To maintain your professional status, you will need to complete 90 hours of CPD training over three years.” 

Due to the CACFS qualification being quite intensive, and there being a lot of individual learning, Tiffen said that no more than 10 people will be enrolled on a course at a time. 

“I’m really keen that we get a good group of people trained up who can then work together across the sector,” she said. “And we at CCFC want to make a difference to the counter-fraud community and this is a really good offering that is public sector focused.” 

Tiffen added that while many local authorities have lost staff to the Single Fraud Investigation Service, part of the Department for Work and Pensions, the new course can help educate people with varying levels of skill – as demonstrated by the initial cohort. 

Asked about the frequency and availability of courses, Tiffen said that CCFC runs them across the country and if people say they have enough people to fill a course then she is always interested to hear from them.

Tell us what you think – have your say below or email [email protected]


John Fleming   19/06/2015 at 21:08

Isn't this a case of 'after the horse has bolted'? CIPFA have been 'banging on' about fraud for years but never 'grasped the nettle' until now. I can remember going to any number of events, organised by CIPFA, where fraud was the feature subject, there were interesting, experienced & knowledgeable speakers with an audience of senior people from all over the country, but nothing ever got moving until this, lagging behind quite a few organisations who put together good training programmes that were widely taken up by local authorities, I myself worked for a Council & did my Counter Fraud training with the NHS. Is this just a money making exercise for CIPFA and what can the trainee expect that is different from other training that is available?

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