‘Tackling public sector fraud requires a culture change’

11 Jul 19

A change of culture is necessary to tackle public sector fraud and corruption, counter fraud experts have urged. 

The problem can be addressed through better data sharing and supporting whistleblowers, speakers at CIPFA’s annual conference said yesterday .

Laura Hough, CIPFA’s head of research and development for counter fraud, told delegates that government departments must work together to tackle the issue. 

“Culture is really the key to tackling fraud,” she said. 

Hough called for more data sharing between government departments to tackle the issue. 

“We rely an awful lot on whistleblowers,” she added and suggested these were key to fighting fraud. 

Hough explained that the UK government does not have a specific definition of corruption, which she said was not helpful.

“We need to have a definition of corruption across the UK government,” she added.

She also questioned whether local authorities and other public bodies have the right relationship with law enforcement when it comes to fighting fraud and corruption. 

Also speaking were Davina Teeluck and Oliver Stopnitzky from the NHS Counter Fraud Authority, who agreed with Hough on the importance of culture change.  

They noted that fraud costs the NHS £1.27bn each year. This total is equivalent to salaries of 55,000 junior doctors or 22,000 new GPs, Teeluck said.

Peter Lees and Mike Harrington of HMRC, who won this year’s Excellence in Fraud Prevention award at the Government Counter Fraud Awards, highlighted the problem with alcohol fraud. This costs the UK government £1.3bn a year in excise duty and VAT, they said. 

Responding to a question from the audience, Lees suggested any type of Brexit could increase cases of fraud at the border. 

“Any change at all increases the risk,” he told delegates. 

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