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Counter-fraud operation could save public purse £19m

18 July 2018

SCOTLAND'S PUBLIC finances have been boosted after a data-sharing exercise identified nearly £19 million of fraud and error across the public sector.

Almost 100 public bodies participated in the latest National Fraud Initiative (NFI), which is coordinated by Audit Scotland every two years.

The NFI compares electronic data about individuals held by different public bodies, such as councils and NHS boards, to help identify fraud or error.

Matches resulted in an estimated £18.6 million of outcomes since the last report in 2016. This figure includes future losses prevented by the work.

The latest exercise in Scotland has led to:

  • £4.8 million of overpayments being recovered to date;
  • 4,802 council tax discounts reduced or removed;
  • 280 occupational pensions stopped or reduced;
  • 4,505 blue badges stopped or flagged for future checks;
  • 710 housing benefit payments stopped or reduced;
  • £1.8million in further savings from the NFI 2014/15

The matches which generated the most results were pensions (£6.3m), council tax discounts (£4.4m), blue badges (£2.6m) and benefits (£2.1m).

Director of Audit Services Fiona Kordiak said, "Systems underpinning public spending are complex and errors can happen.

"There are also some individuals who seek to exploit the systems and fraudulently obtain services to which they are not entitled.

"What these latest results demonstrate is the value of data matching to Scotland's public finances at a time when budgets continue to be under pressure."

The report notes that there is strong evidence that most bodies take advantage of the opportunities provided by the NFI but says some could act more promptly to investigate matches, prevent frauds and correct errors.

The report makes a number of recommendations to support further improvement by participating bodies in the NFI.