Action is taken to prevent, detect and investigate all types of fraud to ensure that public funds are used for those in genuine need. Action including prosecution is taken against those committing fraud. Steps are also taken to recover any losses and where appropriate, case receives maximum publicity to deter potential fraudsters.
What is fraud?
For the Council's purpose fraud is commonly used to describe a wide variety of dishonest behaviours such as deception, forgery, false accounting, misrepresentation, theft, embezzlement, bribery and corruption, money laundering, identity theft and concealment of material facts. Fraud can be perpetrated by people outside as well as inside the Council and can also involve collusion. Examples of fraudulent activities include:
- Offering, giving, soliciting or acceptance of an inducement or reward that may influence the actions taken by the authority, its members or officers
- Destroying, defacing, concealing or falsifying any account, record or document required for an accounting purpose, with a view to personal gain or gain for another (including falsifying expenses claims and time records)
- Theft of cash and Council assets or property
The Fraud Act 2006 identifies five main ways that fraud can be committed for more details and examples of frauds please follow this link.
How fraud occurs
At least one of the four following elements are usually found to be present when fraud occurs:
- people are involved, this can be individuals or groups
- Council assets are at risk of misuse or theft
- intent/motive to commit the fraud is present
- opportunity exists as weaknesses in controls are exploited
The Council has a responsibility to ensure that the opportunities for fraud to occur are minimised. While some people would never contemplate fraud, others may if they thought they could get away with it. A high chance of being caught will deter them. Opportunities to commit fraud will be reduced by ensuring that effective controls have been established and are functioning as intended.
Who commits fraud?
The nature of the services delivered by the Council, provide the potential for any type of fraud to be committed by customers, contractors, employees or Members. Anyone who becomes aware that a fraud may be taking place should immediately report their concern to the Council, confident in the knowledge that it will be taken seriously.
How is fraud identified?
The Council has systems that are designed to minimise the risk of a fraud being committed. However, the nature of the many varied services provided by the Council means that a small risk of fraud is still present. The Council monitors its systems to identify potential frauds Data matching exercises are also used, such as the National Fraud Initiative which is run by Cabinet Office and compares data provided by public bodies to identify potential fraudsters.
Members of the public are also very important in the fight against fraud. If anyone believes that someone is obtaining services, from the Council, to which they are not entitled, it is very important that they report it to the Council. Please click below to find out the various ways that you can use to report any instance of fraud you suspect is being committed against the Council. When reporting a fraud please be as specific as possible, the more detail we receive the greater the chance of a successful outcome.
What action is taken when fraud is identified?
The Council takes seriously any allegation that indicates that a fraud may be taking place. An investigation will be conducted to establish the facts and to gather any available evidence. If fraud is detected appropriate civil, criminal or disciplinary action is taken. Action is also taken to recover any losses from the fraudster. The systems that allowed the fraud to take place are reviewed and controls improved to reduce the risk that the same fraud will occur again.
Types of Frauds
The council has a Counter Fraud Team which investigates allegations of fraud and irregularities. Find out about common types of frauds.
Why everyone needs to play their part in preventing frauds
The Council spends money which it receives from the public. This money is known as the public purse and is an attractive target for fraudsters. The council like all public sector organisations is at risk of, or is affected by, fraudulent or corrupt activity. Fraud has a direct impact on the level of tax we all pay. Everyone, from members of the public to employees, have a key role to play in deterring and tackling such abuse. Apart from costing all of us as taxpayers millions of pounds each year, the reasons you should not ignore fraud and corruption are that it:
- encourages others to behave in the same way
- diverts precious resources from those who need it
- undermines public and political confidence in public services
The Council's commitment to prevent fraud
Wolverhampton City Council is committed to creating and maintaining an environment where fraud, corruption and bribery are not tolerated.
The Council spends money which it receives from the public and like all public sector organisations are at risk of, or is affected by, fraudulent or corrupt activity.
For the Council's purpose, fraud is dishonest behaviour such as deception, forgery, false accounting, misrepresentation, theft, embezzlement, bribery and corruption, money laundering, identity theft and concealment of material facts.
The council has effective processes and controls in place which are designed to minimise the risk of all types of fraud. However, a small risk of fraud remains and everyone has a key role to play in deterring and tackling such abuse to ensure precious resources are available for those who need them.
The Council's successes in tackling fraud
The Council is constantly checking, monitoring and improving its systems. A technique used successfully is for the council to match information and data from its own systems, in addition, it also participates in local and national data matching exercises. This includes the National Fraud Initiative which is run by Cabinet Office and compares data provided by public bodies to identify potential fraudsters. These exercises have been successful in identifying potential frauds and also in providing assurance that the risk of fraud is minimised.
The council has been successful in removing single person discount from Council Tax accounts where more than one person is found to be living at a property.
Insurance claims made against the council are scrutinised to identify and reject any exaggerated or false claims. Where claims have been challenged in court the council has successfully proven that the claims were false.
Until recently the council investigated Housing Benefit claimants for providing false information or failing to notify changes in their circumstances, which meant they were not eligible to receive some or all of their benefit. In these cases, the person was either issued with a penalty, caution or in the more serious cases prosecuted. Responsibility for Housing Benefit Fraud investigation work has now moved to the Department of Works and Pensions.
Wolverhampton Homes is responsible for managing the council's social housing stock and is also responsible for investigating tenancy fraud. They identify properties which have been illegally sub-let or where the tenant is not living at the property. They have been successful in recovering many properties and re-letting them to people with a genuine need. In addition, they ensure that only people who qualify for a right to buy discount are allowed to buy their property. Wolverhampton Homes also monitor housing waiting lists to ensure only those with a genuine need are allocated a property. In a number of instances, legal action has been successfully taken against the individual.
Where council employees have taken advantage of their position or have committed fraud they have been disciplined. In a number of cases the employees have lost their jobs and in the more serious cases, they have received penalties handed down by the courts. These cases have also received considerable local and national media coverage.