Agenda item

Corporate Anti-Fraud Progress Report

Minutes:

The Head of Internal Audit, Anti-Fraud and Assurance submitted a report providing an update of the work of the Corporate Anti-Fraud Team for the period 1st April 2020 to 28th February, 2021.

 

Mrs J Race (Principal Auditor), who presented the report, indicated that whilst there were three members of the Team, for the vast majority of the year there had only been two officers as one member of the Team had been redeployed to work on Covid related issues.

 

The majority of the work during the period had been in relation to Business Support Grants undertaking post event assurance work and to date it had been confirmed that 99.5% of grants had been satisfactory and eligible with only 9 applications being ineligible.

 

Work was to commence on the local restriction support grant but assistance was being given to the Business Rates Team as and when needed.  The scheme closed at the end of the month with final payments being due by the end of April and it was intended to present a further report to this Committee with the results of the post assurance work once this was complete.

 

Other investigations had been undertaken and details of these were outlined in a table within the report together preventative work, work undertaken in relation to the National Fraud Initiative (NFI) as well as other preventative and counter fraud work.  It was pleasing to note, however, that there was nothing of significance to report.

 

The report also outlined the current position with regard to the 2021/22 operational work programme further details of which would be provided for the June meeting.  The Team also continued to offer a counter fraud service to Internal Audit external clients.  Such work was only undertaken where it was in the best interests of both the external client and the Council in respect of competing priorities and resources.

 

Written responses to questions asked by Members of the Committee were provided as follows:

 

·         In relation to Small Business Grants and the checking of banking details it was reported that Government guidance did not specify that the bank account had to be a commercial bank account i.e. some small businesses used their personal bank account for business use too.  The guidance specified that the businesses had to be trading at a specific date to qualify for the grant (11th March 2020).  The Council’s bank verified that the destination bank account matched the details provided i.e. the name matched the bank account number at the time of payment.  The NFI/Experian checks confirmed that the company was trading at the eligible date, whether the bank account was commercial or personal and if the bank account details matched the name of the business.  Recent communication from BEIS had indicated that HMRC would be undertaking checks of businesses which had received the grants, possibly, to verify that those businesses were registered/paying tax. 

·         A question was asked about who was responsible for contacting the 9 businesses that were ineligible for the small business rate grants, what the situation was with regard to the recovery of money and whether the checks had highlighted any other businesses that were ineligible for rent payments.  It was reported that the figures detailed were those last reported to the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS) as at 6th March, 2021.  The Corporate Anti Fraud Team was still conducting post payment checks and there was a possibility that other ineligible payments may be identified. The 9 identified as being ineligible represented 0.03% of the 2,892 grants checked to date.  The nature of these cases was such that the processing team could not have been expected to detect their ineligibility at the time.  The 9 ineligible payments were still to be recovered but the Governments guidance would be followed on the recovery of ineligible payments

 

RESOLVED:

 

(i)            That the progress report on the work of the Corporate Anti-Fraud Team for the period 1st April, 2020 to 28th February, 2021 be noted; and

 

(ii)          That regular progress reports continue to be submitted on the internal and external fraud investigated by the Corporate Anti-Fraud Team.

Supporting documents: