9. Procedure for reporting and investigating suspected fraud and corruption
The Council relies on its staff to help prevent and detect fraud. It is often members of staff who are in a position to identify potential cases of fraud and corruption at an early stage.
Staff are encouraged to report any suspected fraud or corruption and the means for reporting confidentially is detailed in the Employee Code of Conduct. That requires any suspected fraud to be reported initially to the Strategic Lead. If this is not appropriate, for example, if they may be involved, then you should contact either the Section 151 Officer or Monitoring Officer instead. The process is also set out in Chart 1 in Appendix 2.
The actions that are taken at the early stages when fraud is suspected can affect the success of any investigation. There is a need for coordinated action which should be clear, prompt and appropriate to the circumstances.
Our response will be coordinated by the Fraud Forum – comprising the Section 151 Officer, Monitoring Officer, Deputy Monitoring Officer, Strategic Lead (Organisational Development and Transformation) and any other officer deemed appropriate, for example the Strategic Lead originally notified.
The Forum will agree next steps for example:
- allocate responsibility for the investigation to a lead officer (who does not need to be from the Council and could be from SWAP) and decide on the extent of their powers and remit
- decide whether it is appropriate to involve other agencies such as the Police
- decide on the frequency of reports, meetings and communication/publicity
If the Police are called, for example, if a burglary is discovered out of normal working hours, the member of staff must alert the Section 151 Officer or Monitoring Officer as soon as is practicable.
The Forum or lead officer investigating will need to consider whether suspending an individual is appropriate and get appropriate HR advice. Any officer or employee of a company working for the Council who is suspended must be asked to hand back their security pass, office keys, council laptop and any other council assets in their possession.
The lead officer investigating will ensure that only fully qualified staff who are fully aware of the implications of the Police and Criminal Evidence Act are involved in the investigation.
Specialist recording equipment may be used in interviews and should the situation warrant it, the lead officer investigating may make arrangements with the local Police to have the member of staff arrested and interviewed in a custody suite at the local Police station.
All interviews must be conducted with more than one person present (usually this will be the lead officer investigating and one other person). The persons interviewing must advise the member of staff of their right to legal advice and permit them to have a representative present.
The lead officer investigating will liaise with HR staff so that disciplinary matters can be discussed.
The Fraud Forum or the lead officer investigating will prepare a report detailing the findings of any investigation that has been carried out and which make recommendations on the next steps. The Fraud Forum shall meet to consider the report and recommendations and thereafter determine the next steps to be taken.
The investigation should only be closed once the Fraud Forum on behalf of the Council are satisfied that the matter can successfully be concluded and that the legal advisers have all the information they need to undertake a prosecution – should that be the recommendation.