Agenda item

SAFS Annual Report 2021/22 - SAFS



To review the Councils work to combat fraud in 2021/22



RESOLVED: That the Committee:


(1)   Note the Councils work to combat fraud in 2021/22


(2)   Note the performance of SAFS in meeting its KPIs in 2021/22


(3)   Note the progress with delivering the Anti-Fraud Plan for 2022/23




Audio recording – 17:14


Nick Jennings, Shared Anti-Fraud Service, presented the SAFS Annual Report 2021/22 and highlighted points including:


  • This report is to reflect on the previous year activity looking at anti-fraud arrangements at the Council and working with SAFS.
  • This report is based on the delivery of the 21/22 anti-fraud plan which was approved by this Committee in March 2021.
  • The report looks at how we structure the plan in line with current best practice, especially the guidance provided by the Fighting Fraud and Corruption Locally Strategy that was developed in partnership with the LGA and a number of other organisations. This is focused on how local authorities can deal with the risk and threat of fraud
  • We look at SAFS performance and KPIs and how we have done against KPIs agreed with officers and the anti-fraud activity for the current year
  • We have included transparency code data. This is data the authority is required to provide around its anti-fraud arrangements and the outcome of that activity and how much money has been spent on it
  • This report is based on recommendations from the Fighting Fraud and Corruption Locally Strategy, particularly the five pillars: protect, govern, acknowledge, prevent, and pursue. It was also based on the Councils policies on anti-fraud and corruption and very closely reflects the guidance on best practice for local authorities including the use of checklists and identifying responsibility for particular activity across the authority by officers
  • We deployed one officer to the Council in 21/22. They were supported by the SAFS support team including data analysts, financial investigators, and intelligence officer.
  • The officer is the first point of contact for any officers working with the authority on undertaking any initial investigations that arise
  • The Council has a place on its website for people to report fraud, this is linked into the SAFS website. This allows us to collate all the information and can report back to the Council on the volume type of fraud that is seen to be affecting the North Herts Council
  • The e-learning that is provided via the Councils e-learning platform is currently being updated and a new version will be released soon. The version officers are using at presently is still valid and covers fraud, corruption, bribery and money laundering. We provide additional training for officers to support the e-learning training
  • The ongoing impact in 21/22 from covid-19 has changed how we deliver our service slightly, particularly the use of sanctions and financial penalties. We are looking at prevention work at the front end and the impact on some of the investigations of conducting where we work with partners such as the Department for Work and Pensions
  • We are continuing to assist officers with grants and provide additional support around data cleansing and we work closely with the National Anti-Fraud Network, Cifas, and the Cabinet Office to ensure there is pre and post payment checks against all the grants that the Council paid under the various schemes the government introduced during the pandemic
  • We provided more frequent and enhanced alerts. This network provides the authority with a huge access to organisations and information about new and emerging fraud threats
  • We detail the number of allegations we have received via the authority and how they are broken down by service areas and who is reporting these to the authorities. Not every allegation is correct or needs to be investigated fully, so how we have dealt with these individual allegations is broken down in the report
  • The outcomes of some of the cases and investigations and financial savings and prevention work is detailed and the value of this has been identified for the authority.
  • There is also detail of outstanding work that is being carried forward into this year
  • The repot shows the volume of referrals and how this reflects back on previous years. This can vary year to year as it follows trends and we saw a spike in 2020.
  • We have broken down the work officers done around the National Anti-Fraud Initiative. Worked with officers from the authority to ensure the matches were resolved in accordance with the requirements for the Council to comply with the National Fraud Initiative. The outcome of the financial value in savings to the Council is tiny but it is work that needs to be undertaken every two years
  • All the KPIs for last year were met or exceeded with the exception of one. We didn’t manage to achieve 10 training events that were promised in the KPIs, however in the North Herts plan we offered 5 training events and we provided this but didn’t amend the KPIs.
  • The work we are currently undertaking shows we have a significant number of cases being investigated at the moment, but the fraud losses identified are not significant.
  • We work with settle Housing. This is important work for the Council as the Council doesn’t have its own housing stock and settle Housing manages the majority of the social housing across the district.
  • Working with settle Housing allows us to undertake fraud investigations on their behalf where there are suspicions of tenancy fraud. The advantage for the authority is we are able to bring properties back into stock and the Council is able to allocate people from its housing waiting list.
  • This relationship with settle Housing only started in the fourth quarter of last year, and we have recovered three properties so far


The following Members asked questions:


  • Councillor Clare Billing
  • Councillor Terry Hone


In response to these questions, Nick Jennings advised:


  • The training that SAFS provide is part of the mandatory training for all officers.
  • We have many Councils as part of the partnership and the types of fraud we see across them is similar. It is often linked to housing, housing applications, benefits and council tax. During the pandemic we saw more direct fraud attempts, both opportunists and more organised crime. We worked with officers during the pandemic to ensure there were measures, processes and checks in place to reduce the level of fraud around the grants that were issued. Some got through, but only small numbers compared to other authorities. The fraud is comparable in types and numbers between other Councils.


Ian Couper also responded to questions:


·         I will have to check how many people have completed it but think it is and check that it is mandatory.


Ian Couper suggested providing more training in advance of the FAR meetings. Nick would come before the meeting in December to offer some training to Members on fraud.


Councillor Terry Tyler agreed this would be helpful and there was a general consensus that Members agreed to this training offer.


Councillor Terry Hone proposed and Councillor Clare Billing seconded and, following a vote it was:


RESOLVED: That the Committee:


(1)  Note the Councils work to combat fraud in 2021/22


(2)  Note the performance of SAFS in meeting its KPIs in 2021/22


(3)  Note the progress with delivering the Anti-Fraud Plan for 2022/23



Supporting documents: