Counter Fraud Update and Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act 2000 Update
- Meeting of Audit, Compliance and Governance Committee, Wednesday, 18th April, 2018 6.00 pm (Item 12.)
The Counter Fraud Manager introduced the Counter Fraud Unit Report and Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act 2000 (RIPA) update, as circulated with the agenda. She first talked through the work plan and results, noting that at the end of the first year there was an underspend and as such £2248 would be returned to Cheltenham Borough Council. In addition to working directly for the partner Council’s, the unit had grown and now provided support to other public sector bodies including: Cheltenham Borough Homes, Gloucester City Homes, Places for People, Bromford Housing and Ubico, as well as Publica. The work plan for 2018-19 was still being developed and would be circulated in due course, but the unit would be drawing on some of the objectives within the Home Office Anti Corruption Strategy, concentrating on promoting integrity across the public sector and reducing corruption within procurement.
Paragraph 1.7 of the report outlined how the team had supported the Council between October 2017 and March 2018, in undertaking the investigation of alleged fraud and abuse in relation to the Council Tax Reduction Scheme (Council Tax Support), National Non-Domestic Rates (Business rates) and Council Tax liabilities and detailed some of the results that had been achieved. She noted that, in recognition that it was more beneficial to join up as a county: county-wide bids had been submitted for pilot schemes for joint benefit investigations with DWP and business rates pilot work with NFI. It was also noted that work relating to empty residential properties was more to do with prevention and that the review of holiday lets had generated £1400, which had paid for the cost of the work, which was a positive result. CBC enforcement teams were proactive but the unit were offering support and expertise in terms of criminal cases. The unit were also currently running staff awareness sessions across the partner authorities and would be circulating the slides to members in due course.
Counter Fraud Manager gave the following responses to member questions:
· Much of the data matching that the unit undertook had exemptions applied relating to the prevention of crime and this would continue to be the case. Privacy Impact Assessments were being undertaken when necessary and because it was a newly formed team, a retention schedule was being currently being developed which should be easy to implement.
· The number of individuals on the housing waiting list had reduced because the more robust checks had identified individuals that should not have been on the list, which in turn, mean that CBH were able to house those that were legitimately on the list, more quickly. Making false statements on a housing application did constitute fraud but there was a decision to be made about the cost and reputational risk of pursuing all of these. The initial check had removed approximately 50 individuals.
· Licensing was a consideration in relation to feedback or checking where investigation cases warranted it.
· Right to Buy prevention checks were robust and necessary as successful RTBs resulted in the loss of properties, as well as income.
Moving on to RIPA, the Counter Fraud Manager explained that there had been no change to the policy but that it was currently being reviewed as a result of the new legislation. A new RIPA Social Media policy had been drafted, which covered the use of social media as surveillance tool. This was currently out for consultation with officers from across the partnership and could be tabled for consideration by this committee in July if members so wished. Once adopted the Counter Fraud Team would work with Officers to whom RIPA may apply.
In response to a member question regarding test purchasing, the Counter Fraud Manager indicated that her team could support test purchasing of not just unlicensed taxis and drivers during race week (March 2019) but also of those licensed vehicles and drivers, who were not operating as they should. The team would raise this with the Licensing Team Leader to establish if their help was required. This could also include test purchasing for drivers who refuse guide dogs and wheelchairs.
There were no further questions or comments.
Upon a vote it was unanimously
RESOLVED that the report and update be noted.