Zero tolerance approach to fraud from Powys County Council

A zero tolerance approach will be taken to instances of fraud at Powys County Council – the chief executive, Dr Caroline Turner has said.

Dr Caroline Turner At The 2021 Senedd Elections Count - picture by Elgan Hearn
Dr Caroline Turner At The 2021 Senedd Elections Count - picture by Elgan Hearn

A new report looking at how the council is dealing with “fraud and error” was discussed at a meeting of the Governance and Audit committee on Thursday, June 24.

Dr Turner said: “We pay a lot of attention to fraud in the past two years in particular.

“We identified potential fraud in one particular service just under two years ago and an incredible amount of work has gone into this by the team and working with the police as well.”

“We’ve revised our policies and made it clear that we have a zero-tolerance approach and the reason for that we’ve identified with the police that small amounts can grow to significant amounts.”

Dr Turner added that online training modules would be taken by staff and that dialogue within the council was to stress the need for vigilance against fraud.

Earlier the committee were told that the “fraud and error” team have started 60 investigations across a number of areas including staff fraud and various issues around council tax: such as falsely claiming for an exemption or discount.

Other investigations include housing benefit and business rates.

Of these investigations 30 are still ongoing, 21 have been closed and nine have had “fraud proven.”

Rather than waiting for fraud tip offs from the public, the team are now proactively looking at and comparing data sets to try and find fraudsters before their scams take hold.

Senior investigator Yvonne Kottaun said: “We are starting to see a few aspects of better-quality data coming through and we can spot frauds earlier.”

Ms Kottaun gave an example of how looking at data had shown that a woman claiming a single person’s council tax reduction was actually living with her partner and their children.

The partner and children were found from looking at another data source.

Ms Kottaun said that usually the team would have needed someone to ring in and inform them of the situation before being able to investigate.

It is estimated that the team can make or save £206,000 for the council in a year.

Committee chairman and lay member, Lynn Hamilton said “Thanks for the paper – this is a new report for the committee and it’s incredibly helpful.

“This is an area of particular interest that we can develop as we go forward.”

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