Celebrating success: winners set the pace

13 May 19

From unveiling money laundering and alcohol fraud to deploying nudge psychology and boosting international collaboration, there’s much to learn from our award winners, writes CIPFA’s Marc McAuley. 

Fraud HMRC Getty


Fraud is a blight on all areas of the public sector. The government estimates that between £31bn and £49bn of taxpayers’ money is lost to fraud and error each year. This figure goes beyond benefits cheats and tax evasion – it occurs at all levels of the sector and interferes with a number of different processes.

This is clearly unacceptable, when public services are already operating with reduced resources and restricted budgets. It is essential that every penny in the public purse is put into delivering for UK citizens. The annual Government Counter Fraud Awards represents an opportunity to learn from the successes of others and develop a community of practice in the counter fraud profession.

From busting UK crime lords to getting inside the heads of potential fraudsters, this year’s winners were examples of the resourcefulness and creativity that exists across the public sector.

HMRC: innovative approach to sanctions and redress

Operation Octopod had all the makings of a prime-time crime drama. Using a mix of skills, the HMRC team uncovered fraudulent goings-on in one of the UK’s most prominent crime families. The investigation brought to light the activities of a network headed by Tommy and Micky Adams. During an investigation into an unsolved murder, it became clear that senior members of the family were laundering money. Sentences were in excess of 45 years.

NHS Scotland: counter fraud team of the year

This team of six used behavioural psychology to nudge people towards better decisions, driving down instances of fraud and error in Scottish health services and saving £740,000. Initiatives included informing individuals claiming exemptions for dental treatment that their information would be subject to verification. Amplifying the likelihood of discovery deterred potential fraudsters and resulted in a 10% decrease in the number of exemption claims from the previous year.

The Charity Commission for England and Wales: outstanding international collaboration

The Charity Commission for England and Wales ran a joint worldwide campaign with the Fraud Advisory Panel to mark the Charity Fraud Awareness Week 2018. The campaign brought together international partners stretching as far as the US, Australia and New Zealand to promote fraud awareness and share good practice in tackling fraud and financial crime. Using a mixture of events, free online resources and social media, the campaign reached influencers across the sector and the world, with half of all US states participating.

HMRC: excellence in fraud prevention

Alcohol fraud costs the UK government an estimated £1.3bn every year. Goods are bought and sold through complex networks of international businesses and can often move between several countries before being diverted to the UK. That’s why a team in HMRC launched the Tackling Alcohol Fraud at Source education campaign. It focused on brands of beer and wine featuring regularly in seizures. These were traced to market-leading producers, which were then shown how to improve supply chain integrity to reduce supply to the illicit market. A new tool was also created to show producers the big picture around illicit alcohol movements, allowing them to understand the importance of managing supply chains.

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