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Apr 24, 2019

Rachael Tiffen, Local Government Director at Cifas, and Essex CC Head of Assurance Paula Clowes, discuss why fraud isn’t a higher priority for councils and why it should be

In 2013, the National Fraud Authority estimated that local authority fraud cost the taxpayer £2.1bn. That's a lot of money, but when it comes to individual councils, fraud may not make in onto the corporate risk register because fraud losses known to individual departments are seldom aggregated at corporate level.

Were councils to add up total losses from fraud across all areas, they would be better able to see the size of the problem and allocate resources to tackling it, focusing on areas like housing, schools, social care, and procurement where the biggest problems are likely to be found.

And the cost is not just financial: as we hear in this discussion, the impact is also on members of the public, who may miss out on homes, school places and other services, and on council staff, who may be affected in all sorts of ways by the actions of a dishonest colleague.

This programme takes a high level look at fraud prevention and discovery as a curtain-raiser to a series CLGdotTV and Cifas will be rolling out over coming weeks, looking at different aspects of fraud in more detail, and presenting some case studies.

Rachael and Paula’s conversation includes information about some recent frauds, including one in which a finance officer siphoned off £2m from Barnet Council to fund a gambling habit and another in which a headteacher was funding a lavish lifestyle while pupils shivered in their coats because there was no money to heat the classrooms.