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Francis Maude throws focus on fighting fraud



Cabinet Office minister claims progress, but provides no figures

Outgoing Cabinet Office minister Francis Maude has claimed the government has made significant progress in combatting fraud and error in its spending.
In a speech to the Fraud, Error and Debt Conference he said that when in 2010 it estimated annual losses to fraud at £17bn, has since put a number of mechanisms in place to reduce fraud, error and debt in the past five years. He did not, however, provide any estimate of how much the measures have saved.
The measures include: setting up a Fraud, Error and Debt Taskforce; creating the role of counter fraud champions across departments; establishing common recording and reporting mechanisms to make it possible to compare like-for-like data across government; creating Integrated Debt Services, to provide a single point of access to a range of debt management and collecting services.
He said the creation of the Real Time Information System at HM Revenue &Customs (HMRC) is also contributing to the cause, helping the Department for Work & Pensions (DWP) spot when benefits recipients begin to receive earnings or a pension.

Check first, pay later

The next steps will be to train civil servants in fraud awareness, promote a culture of "check first, pay later", and taking a zero tolerance approach to internal fraud. In addition, the Cabinet Office is working on standards for keeping track of government grants, and designing a Counter Fraud Checking Service to share information on known frauds with banks and insurance companies.
"Fraudsters do not confine their activities to convenient organisational boundaries, and nor should we" Maude said. "For too long our defences have been fragmented.
"This work is complex and it takes time, but my message today is that government is committed to working with the private sector to develop a really strong united front."
His speech came on the day the DWP reported it had won an award for a project it expects to save £114m a year from benefit fraud. It matches the details of benefits recipients against real time data from HMRC to reduce fraud and error.
The project won the Prevention category of the annual Fighting Fraud Awards.

Pictured: Francis Maude by Paul Clarke © |

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