Presentation - Counter Fraud
Dave Warren (SWAP) addressed the committee and introduced himself as the Principal Investigations Officer in the Counter Fraud Investigations Team. He explained a base line assessment for Fraud Maturity at SSDC had taken place in March 2021 and that members had already received a copy of the findings in a report earlier this year.
He proceeded to give some background and the next steps to tackling fraud, including that fraud had now become a huge issue in society and costing the public sector over £40 billion per year. It was therefore the objective of SWAP to provide a coordinated and proactive service to support this explaining the counter fraud investigations service set up in July 2020 and which forms part of the business plan and commitment going forward.
He continued to give a detailed presentation including the following:
· SSDC took part in and completed a baseline assessment, created mainly using the Fighting Fraud Locally Strategy 2020.
· The Assessment itself consisted of 27 elements – each assessed as red, amber or green and split into deemed areas. He referred to a document already circulated to members and explained the traffic light system and key findings. These details were considered to be confidential but should members wish he would be happy to speak to them offline.
· Highlighted the Committee Related Theme that had been scored ‘amber ‘which indicates ‘partially in place requires improvement’.
· Explained the role of the Audit committee and drew attention to the following:
o Currently SSDC have no portfolio holder for fraud.
o Little evidence to support member training in counter fraud and corruption.
o Little evidence that members are regularly briefed on counter fraud or progress and recommend that this should be actioned by year end.
o Lack of challenge regarding counter fraud activity.
· Referred to the action plan and the attention to revisit the assessment in the first quarter of the next financial year and ultimately be a vehicle to improve assessment in the future.
· Gave an update of where SSDC are at present following the assessment that took place earlier this year. This included that:
o The Monitoring Officer agreed to take on operational responsible for actions within this report.
o A Full risk assessment had now been undertaken by SWAP, which had now been shared with the SLT and Monitoring officer.
o Assign a portfolio holder for fraud – yet to be completed.
The Monitoring Officer then proceeded to give members an update on the anti-fraud and corruption policies, including whistle blowing and money laundering policy. Priorities included providing training sessions for everyone to help raise awareness for staff and make these policies much more visible, as it was important to ensure this was a key issue to be considered and highlighted for the new authority going forward.
Dave Warren also wished to convey how vitally important it was that SWAP work closely with the Council to support implementation of these actions, the need to keep a close eye with the Local Government Reorganisation going forward and with the objective to report back progress to this committee on a regular basis. He concluded by referring to the cross partner report and how SSDC had faired with the other 11 local authorities who had taken part.
In response to questions, he advised members of the following:
· Largely found across all authorities that there weren’t many appointed portfolio holders for fraud.
· An Amber assessment had been scored in the committee role across all authorities who had taken part.
· Believed the two red areas identified with SSDC can be fixed quite quickly.
· Acknowledged SSDC had discussed fraud in the past but this was more specific to counter fraud and regular reporting and updates.
During members’ discussion it was highlighted that regular updates regarding counter fraud were required for future meetings of the Audit Committee and that the roles of both the Audit Committee and Scrutiny Committee were clearly set out.
It was therefore agreed that an additional meeting be scheduled for the New Year to discuss counter fraud issues in more detail. It was also agreed to hold a confidential briefing for members of the committee to discuss an ongoing matter at the close of the meeting.