Praise for Sandwell's counter fraud team
Published 8th September 2017
Sandwell Council’s highly successful counter fraud team has been praised for making huge savings after a series of investigations into benefits, house sales and financial dealings.
The team – which has been shortlisted in the Government’s Counter Fraud Awards scheme, Fraud Team of the Year category – works with a wide range of council departments and partner organisations to seek out possible frauds and other finance-based problems in the borough.
A special counter fraud report highlights its many successes – achieving almost £10 million in actual and notional savings after a range of inquiries in the last 12 months.
Councillor Steve Trow, cabinet member for core council services, said: “This is an excellent report which highlights the many successes of the unit and emphasises that the council is committed to operating a zero tolerance on fraud, corruption and bribery.
“The work by the counter fraud unit shows that the team thoroughly investigates in a wide variety of areas involving suspected or reported fraudulent activities and has come up with excellent results and huge savings.
“All matters will be fully investigated and appropriate action will be taken to recover money stolen from the council and deter future instances, whether it be by penalties or, if necessary and in the public interest, by prosecution.”
The team helped the council to save more than £500,000 after investigating incorrect and potentially fraudulent claims for the 25 per cent Single Person Discount on council tax. On top of that, there were 73 cases where people were issued with a penalty charge of £70, leading to £5,110 being collected by the council. Penalties have been introduced by the council to deter incorrect or fraudulent claims, and to encourage people to promptly report changes in circumstances.
Work by the team also led to big savings in housing benefits and council tax reduction, with £78,000 in overpayments being identified.
Their work in social housing fraud led to huge notional savings for the council. The Cabinet Office calculates the cost of social housing tenancy fraud as a notional £93,000 per property. In Sandwell, 73 properties were recovered, which, using the Cabinet Office’s calculation, amounts to a notional £6,789,000 saving.
The team also stopped 67 fraudulent applications, before keys were handed over, achieving an estimated £36,000 notional saving per application, or £2,412,000 in total. This all amounts to a total notional saving of £9.2 million in relation to social housing tenancy fraud.
Investigations continue into the Right to Buy frauds where five applications, worth a total value of £206,000 in discount, were removed as a direct result of the team’s inquiries.