To receive a report from Gemma Young, Head of Internal Audit and Risk Management.
This was introduced by Gemma Young, Head of Internal Audit and Risk Management
1. This report is presented yearly to the Committee and is best practise which Members a chance to review it and for their feedback.
2. The strategy includes the section’s Counter Fraud Bribery, Corruption and Policy statements which confirms their zero-tolerance stance that is taken across the Council.
3. There haven’t been any significant changes to the policy other than to cross reference it to the sanction and prosecution policy which was heard at the committee meeting in March 2021.
4. The teams’ work is outlined in the Counter Fraud operating plan which is appended to the strategy from page 35 of the report.
5. The teams key activities include reactively investigating referrals made to the team, supporting the neighbourhood and Right to Buy teams, verifying applications made by persons with No Recourse to Public Funds, looking pre and post payment verification for Covid related business grants, raising awareness through the Council and externally and undertaking pro-active projects based on risks identified in the teams fraud register.
Detailed discussions took place including:
· In response to examples to show if the strategy works and successful deployment, it was clarified that the strategy is not something that is deployed when necessary, it is on a daily basis i.e. Right to buy, tenancy fraud, verification checks around Covid grants, etc. The team does network and compares itself with other London Boroughs’ including policies. It was hard to spot weaknesses in the strategy/plan especially with collusive fraud and by people in senior positions. All areas are foreseen, and the Council has a very strategy/plan and its outcomes are very good. The team had been shortlisted for a Public Finance Award for outstanding fraud prevention and recovery.
· The team send all reports for implications and the team had not made any considerations regarding environmental and climate change in the report for waste recovery/contractual fraud. The Head of Internal Audit would feedback to the Environmental team who provide those implications for the team’s reports.
· There had been a major change to the prosecutions which had been heard at the March 2021 committee meeting policy, to link strategy to plan regarding prosecutions.
· The teams 2 Heads of Service (Gemma Young is also Head of Internal Audit & Risk Management at the London Borough of Waltham Forest) have shared service team meetings looking at other Local Authorities and their policies/strategies to ensure the Council are comparable.
· In response to the frequency of staff training on fraud awareness, it was advised that there is e-learning and this year the Council had made fraud awareness a mandatory part of the induction for new staff. There is also International fraud awareness week in November, which have been well attended with good feedback.
· As detailed in the Council report, 6 people had used the whistleblowing policy last year. The whistleblowing register is strictly confidential and people’s names or ID details would only be checked with other agencies if the team needed to. There is very tight legislation around the treatment of whistle-blowers and the team is aware of that.
AGREED to endorse the Counter Fraud Strategy and associated Operating Plan.