The security and transparency of Scotland’s public finances have been strengthened after a national data-sharing exercise found nearly £17million of fraud and error across services.
More than 100 public bodies participated in the latest National Fraud Initiative (NFI), a counter-fraud exercise that is coordinated by Audit Scotland every two years. The initiative matches electronic data within and between bodies to detect and prevent fraud and error.
Since the last NFI reported in 2014, a total of £16.8million worth of outcomes has been recorded. This brings the total cumulative outcomes since NFI began to £110.6million in Scotland, and £1.39billion across the UK.
The latest exercise in Scotland has led to:
- 5,939 overpayments being recovered to date worth approximately £4.6million;
- 4,846 council tax discounts reduced or removed;
- 194 occupational pensions stopped;
- 3,073 blue badges stopped or flagged for future checks;
- 868 housing benefit payments stopped or reduced;
- £2.1million in further savings from the NFI 2012/13
The matches which generated the most outcomes were council tax discounts, pensions, blue badges and housing benefits. Today's report also highlights nine detailed case studies which show the positive impact of the NFI on public finances.
Russell Frith, Assistant Auditor General, said:
"The National Fraud Initiative makes a significant contribution to the security and transparency of public finances by checking that services are provided to the correct people and therefore helping to reduce fraud and error. It also acts as a powerful deterrent against persons who might be planning to commit fraud.
"It's important that public bodies take full advantage of the support that the Initiative can provide to their detection work, and the increasing opportunities the technology creates for strengthening the fight against fraud."
Audit Scotland has also reported on the performance of bodies which participate in the NFI. There is strong evidence that most bodies take the NFI seriously by putting adequate arrangements in place. However, there are still areas which some bodies could improve in, including scope for bodies to investigate matches more quickly once they have been identified.
The report makes a number of recommendations to support further improvement by participating bodies in the NFI.