Agenda item

Anti-Fraud Report 2021/2022


The Counter Fraud Manager introduced the report. He explained how the Shared Anti-Fraud Service (SAFS) was a shared service of which East Herts was a founding member of in 2015, and how it provided a counter fraud function for the council and six others across Hertfordshire and Bedfordshire.


The Counter Fraud Manager advised that the report gave details of the work of both the council and SAFS in 2021/22. He provided Members with some background on SAFS, and explained how it provided a variety of functions for the council to help develop policies and processes to deter fraud.


The Counter Fraud Manager said that SAFS helped to design an anti-fraud plan for the council each year, and directed Members to  Appendix A of the report which provided a copy of the 2021/22 Anti-Fraud Plan for the council, which was approved by the Committee in March 2021.


The Counter Fraud Manager said that as usual SAFS had deployed one Counter Fraud Officer to work exclusively for the council in 2021-2022. He explained how this Officer was managed by SAFS and had access to SAFS intelligence, data analytics and financial investigation expertise at all times.


He said that during 2021-22 SAFS worked closely with East Herts Officers on a review of Anti-Fraud polices for publication, and were also working with the council’s Human Resources Team to update a number of Fraud related e training packages.


The Counter Fraud Manager said that the effects of Covid continued to impact on SAFS work throughout the year, and although the service was well placed in its working practices to be able to minimise this impact there were some areas which were out their control, as detailed at page 21 of the report.


The Committee heard how SAFS resources were deployed, including the support given to the council with the administration of various Covid grant schemes, and the twenty fraud and cyber alerts issued to Council Officers in 2021/22.


The Counter Fraud Manager said that the reporting of fraud had declined in 2021/22 compared to previous years, and that it was thought that staff working from home may have resulted in some loss of ‘visibility’ for SAFS and fraud. In response to this he said that the service was working hard to improve their presence across all council services, and continued to build on the council’s anti-fraud culture, including in respect of housing fraud.


The Counter Fraud Manager gave Members an overview of the results achieved by SAFS for 2021/2022, and was pleased to advise the Committee that all but one of the Key Performance Indicators agreed as part of the Plan for 2021/22 had been achieved or exceeded. He concluded by saying that an update of work to date for the first quarter of the year, including the work on revised policies could be seen at page 29 of the report.


The Chairman referred to page 24 of the report and asked if the number of ‘failed’ referrals by outcome was a typical number. The Counter Fraud Manager said that this was typical, and explained how the service received a lot of referrals which could not be developed due to the sparse information given, or by virtue that they need to be passed onto a different team.


Councillor Bell referred to paragraph 4.3 on page 29 of the report, and asked if the estimated fraud loss attributed to the allegations received by the service was proportionate to a council similar in size to East Herts. The Counter Fraud Manager said that it was comparable, and explained that the use of estimates was a good way for SAFS to identify the differences in the types of fraud being suffered by councils and therefore the areas which required work.


Councillor Fernando asked for clarification of paragraph 2.33 on page 27 of the report. The Counter Fraud Manager apologised for a typing error in this paragraph, and confirmed that the word ‘good’ needed to be removed from the first sentence. He said that East Herts had not used the Council Tax Review Framework in 2021/2022 and so would not to be charged for this.


The Chairman asked about the Council’s money laundering policy. The Counter Fraud Manager said that this was one of the policies being worked on. He explained that councils do not have to have a money laundering officer, but that this was best practice. He said that the use for such an Officer was minimal but the training overwhelming, and that SAFS were to take over this function. The Counter Fraud Manager gave examples of scenarios where the council may encounter potential money laundering situations.   


The Chairman congratulated the Counter Fraud Manager for his report. He summarised that Members had had an opportunity to examine and comment on the work done in 2021/2022 to combat fraud, and to review the performance of SAFS in meeting its key performance indicators.  


RESOLVED – that the report be considered and received. 


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