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Waverley Borough Council Committee System - Committee Document

Meeting of the Council held on 17/12/2001
Anti-Fraud Strategy



WAVERLEY BOROUGH COUNCIL

ANTI-FRAUD STRATEGY

INTRODUCTION:

Waverley Borough Council currently administer approximately 16m in Housing Benefit and Council Tax Benefit every year.

The Council is fully committed to taking every reasonable measure to ensure that all persons living in the Borough who make a claim are awarded all the Benefit to which they are entitled. All claims will be dealt with fairly in accordance with the regulations and with respect for the confidentiality and privacy of the claimant’s circumstances. At the same time, we recognise that certain people may well attempt to claim benefit to which they are not entitled. Waverley Borough Council will take every possible measure to prevent and detect any fraudulent claims that may be made.

Our Strategy will be:-

To ensure that every perpetrator of benefit fraud is identified and prevented from carrying out their criminal activities. In accordance with our prosecution policy we reserve the right to prosecute offenders where there is sufficient evidence and the circumstances justify and necessitate this.

That when a fraud is identified, we will ensure that all overpayments are calculated and every possible effort will be taken to recover the money overpaid.

To investigate all types of fraud by following up and encouraging referrals from all sources.

To maintain an Investigations Section which will pursue both pro-active and re-active investigations. (The Section currently comprises the Investigations Manager and two Investigations Officers. The staffing of this Section will be reviewed as part of the implementation strategy for the Verification Framework).

To ensure that the Investigation Team are sufficiently trained and competent to conduct investigations by encouraging and supporting our investigators in pursuing nationally accredited training through the Professionalism in Security (PINS) qualification. (Two members of staff are currently undergoing this accreditation and the third member of staff will follow as soon as the two members staff have been accredited.)

To appoint Investigations Officers who have undertaken the appropriate module of the ‘Professionalism in Security’ course as Authorised Officers under Section 110A of the Social Security Administration Act 1992. (Two members of staff have completed this module of the course.) The appointment, made by the Chief Executive, will confer the power of entry and inspection of business premises and the right to interview persons who may hold information of relevance to Housing Benefit and Council Tax Benefit claims. This power is subject to the consent of the individual and the Authorised Officer must have reasonable grounds to request information.
The Authorised Officer will have access to the following premises:-

Premises where persons are employed.
Premises where a trade or business is being conducted.
Premises where records relating to a trade or business are kept.

To develop an anti-fraud culture amongst staff and the public to deter fraud.

To undertake specific anti-fraud drives by working in partnership with the Benefits Agency, the Police and other recognised organisations and will seek to develop links with these and other agencies. Waverley is committed to the exchange of information and will act in accordance with the Data Protection Act 1998 and the Human Rights Act 1998.

To continue to participate in the Housing Benefit Matching Service which is undertaken quarterly by the Department of Works and Pensions (DWP). The initiative allows the Council to compare its records for inconsistencies with the various national databases held by the DWP.

To participate in the Annual National Fraud Initiative that is offered as part of the external audit programme to match and compare data.

To continue using the Royal Mail’s ‘Do not Redirect’ Scheme which makes sure that important benefit payments cannot be sent to other addressees or other people not known to the Council.

To adopt a policy of paying all Housing Benefit payments in respect of rent allowances by non-negotiable crossed cheques.

To continue to adapt our policies in the light of developing Government legislation.

To actively prepare our benefits service to fully introduce the Government’s Verification Framework by 31st March 2002.

To maintain written working and security procedures for the Investigations staff and to ensure that all staff adhere to Waverley’s Code of Conduct. As part of the Benefit Section, the Investigations Section consider ways of making sure all the staff uphold the code of conduct and maintain public confidence in our service.

WAVERLEY BOROUGH COUNCIL

PROSECUTION STATEMENT

The Authority is fully committed to the use of legal proceedings against claimants who have committed a fraud against the Council in their claim for Housing Benefit and/or Council Tax Benefit and where there is sufficient evidence to sustain a prosecution provided that it is in the public interest to do so. In some cases, an administrative penalty might be a sufficient deterrent or a formal caution could be administered to the individual instead of commencing criminal proceedings.

The aims of the policy are to aid and improve current working practices and to ensure consistency of decision making by the implementation of agreed procedures. Each case of Benefit Fraud is unique and must be considered on its own merits. Each case must be reviewed objectively and both the evidential test and public interest test must be applied to the relevant case before a prosecution proceeds.

EVIDENTIAL TEST

The evidence must be collected according to local procedures and in accordance with the Police and Criminal Evidence Act 1984 (PACE), The Criminal Procedures Investigations Act 1996 (CIPA), The Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act 2000 (RIPA) and all other relevant legislation and legal rules.
The Authority must be satisfied that sufficient evidence has been collated to secure a conviction.

PUBLIC INTEREST TEST

In considering cases that would be appropriate for prosecution, the Council must have regard as to whether it would be in the public interest to prosecute in any particular case. The Council will have regard to the amount of the overpayment that has to be recovered in each case compared with the cost and time involved in pursuing such action. However, other factors that must be taken into account, as well as the value of the overpayment, are:


The amount of money obtained and how long the offence lasted.
The circumstances in which the offences occurred.
The number of people involved.
Whether the offence was premeditated.
Whether the offence was disclosed voluntarily.
Previous convictions of the offender(s), particularly those of like offences.
The age, physical and mental condition of offenders.
The quality of the evidence obtained i.e. direct, rather than circumstantial is preferred.
The costs involved of taking proceedings.
Any mitigating factors that might prevent the Council from prosecuting.
If there was any failure in the way that the Housing Benefit was administered.
Was the defendant in a position of trust?
Is the defendant likely to perpetrate the same offences again?
The publicity that will be gained.
Any relevant legislation or legal rules.