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Data matching saved Scotland £16.8 million in a year



Latest Audit Scotland report on National Fraud Initiative shows cumulative savings of £110 million for public sector

Public authorities in Scotland have detected £16.8 million in fraud and error over 2014-15 by sharing data under the National Fraud Initiative, the country’s official auditor has revealed.

Audit Scotland has included the figure in its new report, The National Fraud Initiative (NFI) in Scotland, which says the ‘outcomes’ – which includes the amount of fraud and error detected along with an estimate of savings by preventing future losses – rose from £16 million the previous year and brought the total to £110.6 million since the launch of the initiative in 2012.

Among the achievements listed by the report are that more 5,900 overpayments were recovered, saving approximately £4.6 million, over 4,800 council tax discounts were reduced or removed, 868 housing benefits stopped or reduced, and 194 occupational pensions stopped.

The NFI works through matching data from central and local government and NHS organisations – with 104 authorities taking part – to identify any inconsistencies or dubious circumstances. A match flags up the need for the relevant authorities to look more closely to see if there has been an instance or fraud or error.

The matches that produced the most outcomes were on council tax discounts, pensions, blue badges for disabled parking and housing benefits.

Powerful deterrent

Russell Frith, assistant auditor general, said: "The National Fraud Initiative makes a significant contribution to the security and transparency of public finances by checking that services are provided to the correct people and therefore helping to reduce fraud and error. It also acts as a powerful deterrent against persons who might be planning to commit fraud.

"It's important that public bodies take full advantage of the support that the Initiative can provide to their detection work, and the increasing opportunities the technology creates for strengthening the fight against fraud."

Among the case studies included in the report are City of Edinburgh Council spotting a pension fraud worth more £15,000 per year that had been going on for 13 years, and Renfrewshire Council identifying a dishonest housing benefit and council tax claim that amounted to £120,000.

It also makes the point that it is impossible to estimate how much is saved through the NFI as a deterrent to potential fraudsters, but says it should be regarded as a significant factor.

Image: Howard Lake, CC BY-SA 2.0 through flickr

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