NORTH East Lincolnshire Council’s ongoing fight against fraud has once again been documented in its annual fraud report.
Covering the period from April 2011 to March 2012, the report sets out the council’s policy on dealing with those who try to steal public money, both from inside and outside of the organisation.
In those 12 months, the council’s benefit fraud team investigated 356 alleged cases of benefit fraud. The team identified overpayments amounting to £765,987.79, including benefits administered by the Department for Work and Pensions. This is an increase of about nine per cent on 2010/11.
Internally, 12 investigations were conducted by the council’s human resources team service, following breaches of the code of conduct relating to fraud. These included theft, misuse of council email, falsification of time recording documentation and timesheets, fraudulent claiming sickness, misuse of council resources, unauthorised absence, breach of building regulations and failing to work contracted hours.
The investigations resulted in six dismissals and two resignations. In addition, in four cases where there was no evidence of fraudulent intent, staff were reminded of their responsibilities. Similarly, internal audit investigations into financial irregularity led to one dismissal, and one staff member being subject to a warning.
The report also highlights proactive reviews undertaken inside the council. These have included spot checks on portable equipment and the use of petty cash, although in these instances, no fraudulent activity was detected.
Councillor Chris Shaw, leader of the council, said: “The risk of fraud can be substantial to a large and complex organisation such as a local council, so we have to be thorough in our anti-fraud measures.
“Although there are some people who do try to get something to which they are not entitled, this report shows that they are in the minority and that when they are discovered, they are brought to justice. Crime doesn’t pay, and this annual fraud report clearly demonstrates that.”
If you suspect someone is committing benefit or council tax fraud, call the fraud hotline on (01472) 323334. Callers do not have to leave their name and all information received will be treated in confidence.
The report can be read in full on the council’s website at www.nelincs.gov.uk/council/the-council-as-an-organisation/council-departments/fraud-whistleblowing/