9. Detection and investigation
The array of preventative systems, particularly internal control systems within the council, has been designed to provide indicators of any fraudulent activity, although generally they should be sufficient in themselves to deter fraud. It is often the alertness of staff, councillors and the public to indicators of fraud, theft or corruption that enables detection to occur and the appropriate action to take place when there is evidence that fraud or corruption may be in progress.
Despite best efforts of managers and auditors, many frauds and thefts are discovered by chance or by a tip-off and the council has in place arrangements to enable such information to be properly dealt with.
Our employees are required by our financial regulations to report (verbally or in writing) all suspected irregularities to their manager.
Reporting is essential and:
- ensures consistent treatment of information on fraud, theft and corruption
- facilitates proper investigation
- ensures the proper implementation of a fraud response investigation plan
The fraud forum (section 151 officer, monitoring officer, deputy monitoring officer, corporate managers – organisational development and ICT, any other officer deemed appropriate, for example, the head of service originally notified) will meet to discuss any relevant issue raised by a head of service. Their decision will depend on the nature and anticipated extent of the allegations, and where necessary, SWAP will work closely with either the section 151 officer or monitoring officer to ensure that a proper investigation is undertaken and a report with supporting evidence is produced.
Our disciplinary procedures will be used where the outcome of any Audit Investigation indicates improper behaviour.
The council will normally contact the police where financial impropriety is discovered.
Detection and investigation of benefit fraud
Our aim is to:
- take all reasonable steps to deter, prevent, and detect fraudulent claims for benefit/conduct investigations fairly, tactfully and consistently
- take appropriate and justifiable action in cases where fraud is found
- defend the finances of the council by maximisation of subsidy through sanction action and appropriate recovery of overpayments
Benefit fraud — prosecutions and sanctions
Where fraud is proven we will prosecute offenders where appropriate taking into account the:
- severity of the offence
- public interest
- social factors such as the age/state of health of the offender and possibly his/her family/amount stolen
- co-operation and explanation of the offender
- strength of evidence
No single factor will determine whether or not a prosecution will be pursued, but officers will strive to apply consistency when reaching a decision. A separate prosecution policy sets out our approach in more detail.