By Angela Canning, Audit Director
Public bodies are responsible for the spending of billions of pounds of taxpayers’ money every year on services ranging from benefit payments, to the services we all use every day, including schools, hospitals, refuse collection and maintaining our roads. Councils, health boards and other public bodies are responsible for making sure they have effective arrangements in place to prevent, detect and investigate fraud and error. Audit Scotland has an important role to play too, checking these systems are working effectively and reporting to the public when they are not.
Given the complexity and range of services delivered across the public sector, the systems underlying this are also complex. The demands on staff involved in checking payments and people’s eligibility for services are high. As public finances continue to tighten and the number of people working in the public sector reduces, there is a risk that controls set up in public bodies to combat fraudulent activity, corruption and error are compromised, which can result in the loss of public money and affect public services. It can also mean some people are claiming for services they’re not entitled to.
With this in mind we work with other public organisations, including the Cabinet Office, the Scottish Government, the police and the NHS to raise awareness of fraud and counter-fraud measures. This includes our work on the National Fraud Initiative (NFI), an exercise carried out every two years across the UK public sector with the aim of both detecting and preventing fraud. It’s overseen by the Cabinet Office and Audit Scotland leads the exercise north of the border. The latest NFI identified nearly £19 million of fraud and error across the public sector in Scotland, demonstrating the importance of this area of work.
This week is International Fraud Awareness Week, and it comes as we launch a new counter-fraud hub on our website. It captures the range of work we do on counter-fraud, our latest reports, more on the partners we work with and what you should do if you believe there is fraudulent activity going on in a Scottish public body. Please visit the hub to find out more.