The SAFS Officer presented the SAFS annual update for 2019/20. He explained the broad purposes of SAFS, including deterring fraud, delivering relevant training to staff, managing internal and external communications and prosecuting fraud when other defences were bypassed. He explained the work of the SAFS since March 2020 had been somewhat disrupted by the COVID-19 pandemic, although adaptions had been made where possible.
It was noted that SAFS had been supporting the Revenue Team in their work making grant payments to businesses due to the pandemic. Only five applications out of around 1600 had been deemed to be fraudulent. He explained that work had also been done to identify phishing emails and other cyber scams seeking to exploit the pandemic, and this information had been shared with national anti-fraud organisations.
The SAFS Officer said that SAFS had been awarded the highest rating during the Joint Review Audit and positive feedback had been given. He summarised the content of the Appendices attached to the report.
Councillor Alder congratulated Officers on their hard work and, in particular, managing the payment of grants to businesses during the pandemic. She asked how much the Council had lost on the five fraudulent grant applications.
Whilst the SAFS Officer believed none of these applications were successful, it was agreed he would follow up on this via an email to Members.
Councillor Stowe, commented that in referring to Table 3 that it seemed that the Council generally received a fairly steady number of fraud referrals each year, of just fewer than 100. He asked why in 2016/17 this number jumped to 143. He also made reference to the mention of the additional £100,000 in council tax.
The SAFS Officer clarified the £100,000 was additional income for the Council, and said that in 2016/17 SAFS had also included some historic referrals which would not usually be included in the annual statistics.
The Chairman, referred to KPI 4 (fraud training given to staff and Members). He referred to the Council’s anti-bribery and whistle-blowing policy and procedures, and asked who was responsible for their review.
The SAFS Officer said the Section 151 or Monitoring Officer would take responsibility for these policies, with SAFS checking whether they fell within a coherent overall strategy.
The Chairman suggested it would be beneficial for the Committee to look at such policies.
The Scrutiny Officer said that the Head of Human Resources and Organisational Development was responsible for review of these policies, but that she would raise this matter with the Head of Legal and Democratic Services.
It was moved by Councillor Corpe and seconded by Councillor Ward-Booth that the recommendations, as detailed, be approved. After being put to the meeting and a vote taken, the motion was declared CARRIED.
RESOLVED – that (A) the Committee reviewed the Council’s work
to combat fraud in 2019/20 be noted; and
(B) the review of the performance of SAFS in meeting its KPIs in 2019/20 be noted.