6. 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, Members 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.
Employees of the Council are required by its 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 (see paragraph 11.5 for who the forum comprises) will meet to discuss any relevant issue raised by a Strategic Lead. Their decision will depend on the nature and anticipated extent of the allegations, and where necessary, anybody appointed to carry out an investigation will work closely with either the S151 Officer or Monitoring Officer (or both) to ensure that a proper investigation is undertaken and a report with supporting evidence is produced.
The Council’s Disciplinary Procedures will be used where the outcome of any Investigation indicates improper behaviour.
The Council will normally contact the Police where financial impropriety is discovered.
Detection and investigation of fraud
East Devon District Council’s aim is to:
- take all reasonable steps to deter, prevent, and detect fraudulent claims
- 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.
Fraud — Prosecutions and sanctions
Where fraud is proven the Council 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 / illegally claimed
- 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 in more detail the Council’s approach.