Counter Fraud Unit report (inc RIPA/IPA update)
- Meeting of Audit, Compliance and Governance Committee, Wednesday, 19th April, 2023 6.00 pm (Item 9.)
Report of Emma Cathcart, Head of Service, Counter-Fraud and Enforcement Unit
The Head of Service, Counter Fraud and Enforcement Unit, introduced the report on the activities from her team. She apologised for not providing the work plan for 2023-24, which was currently being finalised. The report made reference to the additional work to be included, such as reviews relating to the single-person council tax discount and small business rates relief across the wider partnership. She highlighted the following:
- a multi-agency approach to fraud group has been created in Gloucestershire, recognising fraud as one of the most prevalent crimes facing everyone. The group is set up to improve prevention activities and raise awareness. This will include a session at CBC for all borough and parish councillors with the police PROTECT officer on 17 May 2023;
- the partnership fraud awareness leaflet for staff is complete, including information on high-risk areas and details regarding whistle-blowing;
- the team is nearing the end of the work regarding business grants, with the focus now on transferring the debt to BEIS;
- regarding NFI matches, the latest set of matches has been reviewed, mostly relating to single person discounts. Further work was being completed to better inform the lections team about any declarations of overseas voters;
- a webpage for the unit is under development, providing information about the unit, partnership and how it works;
- the annual update was referred to, relating to surveillance activities and IPA requests. The majority of the activity relates to overt activities by the licensing team during race week;
- a Q and A quick reference document has been created for Members and staff on RIPA, which will be less onerous to wade through.
A Member said he spoke for all councillors in congratulating the team on the work they do, in particular the vital revenue recoup work, and wondered if an increase in scam activity had been noticed and if so in what areas. The officer replied that in anything which involved giving out money or using data, there is a scam – fraud is prevalent in everything that we do, and it is important to make people aware of how it can affect them. The CFEU is working to make it relatable, and educate people in how to recognise and resist it, and how the process can be disrupted.
Regarding the assurance work in relation to the DWP’s Test and Trace payments, which resulted in more than 50% of the sample requiring further investigation, the officer said that the demographic had to be taken into account, and anomalies due to error, not just fraud. She will consult with colleagues as to whether it is in the public interest or worthwhile to pursue further cases.
No vote was required on this item.
The Chair reminded Members about the seminar on 17 May, open to all councillors and the community voluntary sector, saying the more awareness of scams the better. For anyone who cannot attend on this date, the same seminar is being presented at different boroughs and districts across Gloucestershire which they are welcome to join.
- Counter-Fraud and Enforcement Unit - officer report, item 9. PDF 327 KB
- Appendix 2 - CFEU Workplan 2022-23, item 9. PDF 26 KB