Whitehall 'should join fraud fight'

First published in Business Daily

© Press Association 2011

A SPENDING watchdog has hit out at the failure of Whitehall departments to join a major anti-fraud initiative which has uncovered £275 million of scams, overpayment and errors in the past two years.

Audit Commission chairman Michael O'Higgins called on the head of the civil service to force them to participate - claiming there was "no defensible case" for their absence.

His appeal - in a letter to Sir Bob Kerslake expressing serious frustration - came as the body released the latest results of the National Fraud Initiative (NFI).

It continually compares data held by 1,300 public and private-sector organisations from across the UK, including the commission's equivalents in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland.

Figures for the last two years show pensions (£98 million), council tax discount for single occupiers (£50 million) and housing benefit (£31 million) are the biggest problem areas.

It also rooted out 164 illegal foreign workers and 321 fake council house applications, and led to the cancellation of tens of thousands of wrongly-held disabled parking badges and travel passes.

The commission said it resulted in 731 prosecutions - 636 for housing benefit fraud.

Mr O'Higgins said the scheme was "well on its way to returning a landmark £1 billion to the public purse, money that would otherwise have been lost to fraud, over-payment or human error".

But he complained that despite championing anti-fraud measures, including data matching, central government was "still not sharing in the benefits" despite regular appeals.

He praised Sir Bob for ensuring the department he heads - communities and local government - was one of only two central government bodies, with the Highways Agency, to be directly involved.

Send us your news, pictures and videos

Most read stories

Local Info

Enter your postcode, town or place name

About cookies

We want you to enjoy your visit to our website. That's why we use cookies to enhance your experience. By staying on our website you agree to our use of cookies. Find out more about the cookies we use.

I agree