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Local authorities rewarded by FFCL Board for excellence in tackling fraud

18 December 2020

THE FIGHTING Fraud and Corruption Locally (FFCL) Board has announced the recipients of the 2020 FFCL Awards. The FFCL Awards recognise the outstanding work teams and individuals from local authorities are transacting in order to protect the public from fraudulent conduct.

The award-winners were announced at a virtual awards ceremony hosted by Cifas, the secretariat to the FFCL Board, on Monday 14 December 20. The 2020 winners are as follows:

Acknowledge Award (sponsored by Grant Thornton) – Suffolk County Council

Prevent Award (sponsored by Cifas) – Peter Miles (Rochford District Council)

Prevent ‘Highly Commended’ Award – Kent Intelligence Network

Pursue Award (sponsored by Intelligencia) – Bristol City Council

Judge’s Award (sponsored by Appen) – Andrew Faulkener (Brent Council)

Rachael Tiffen, director of the public sector at Cifas and Secretariat to the FFCL Board, said: “Despite the difficult circumstances they’ve faced this year, local authorities have continued to work hard to combat fraud within their regions. These awards recognise not only them, but also the large number of people whose innovative and singular determination to combat fraud has prevented public funds from being stolen by fraudsters.”

Tiffen added: “All of the entries this year demonstrate the relentless and dedicated work that local authorities are doing to combat fraud, and the huge benefits to be gained from working collaboratively to protect public money. I’d like to congratulate all of the nominees and winners this year, and look forward to continuing to support them through the FFCL in 2021.”

Having received numerous nominations in each of the categories, commendations and awards were presented to the winners by the event’s sponsors, namely Grant Thornton, Cifas, Intelligencia and Appen.

Risk of internal fraud

Cifas is warning organisations to protect themselves against the risk of internal fraud and theft over the busy Christmas period. During this time, many organisations hire temporary staff to cope with increased demand, particularly so in the retail, warehousing, and delivery sectors, that meaning organisations need to ensure they’re taking steps to guard against the threat of internal fraud.

Examples of the threats posed by dishonest individuals include stealing goods or cash, submitting false overtime and expenses claims or facilitating further fraudulent conduct by others.

Statistics from the Cifas Internal Fraud Database in 2019 revealed that 53% of staff filed to the database worked in branches, retail outlets or stores, with the majority being discovered by internal controls put in place to detect such activity. A further 25% worked in customer contact centres, representing a rise of 45% in the number of contact centre staff filed to the Internal Fraud Database. There was also a 10% increase in the number of unsuccessful fraudulent applications for employment, with many concealing either adverse credit or their employment history.

With thousands of people losing their jobs earlier in the year or receiving only 80% of their wage for a significant period of time, many may be struggling to host the Christmas they’re used to delivering. Together with the difficult task for organisations of implementing internal controls as the pandemic impacted operations, the motivations and opportunities to commit internal fraud are both clear and obvious.

Cifas is now calling on organisations to consider additional controls that can be implemented to detect and deter such activity in order to protect both themselves and their customers.

Strict approach

Amber Burridge, head of fraud intelligence at Cifas, explained: “It’s vital businesses take a strict approach to their internal controls over this period. Although organisations may be prioritising customer experience, it’s important this is balanced with security measures, including those put in place to detect and deter the insider threat.”

Burridge continued: “As the country gears up to enjoy the festive period following a miserable year, temporary staff taken on at call centres, fulfilment operations, warehouses and distribution centres to cope with additional demand could pose a threat to organisations if the right checks are not in place. In particular, any temporary workers working from home at this time may pose additional threats due to reduced oversight while they’re out of the office environment. Processes put in place now shouldn’t just be for Christmas, either. It’s vital organisations are aware of the insider threat at all times and take steps to prevent it. As we sail towards further unemployment and economic hardship throughout the UK, the problems we’re seeing from the insider threat now may only be the tip of the iceberg.”

John Browett, who has previously held the position of CEO at a number of large retail organisations including Dunelm and Dixons Retail (and is currently chair of Cifas), observed: “The retail industry’s constituent companies need to band together in these times in order to minimise the risks of internal fraud and theft. Currently, employees caught being dishonest at one organisation could easily move to another and commit the same offence again, particularly so during the busy Christmas period. By taking steps to remove this threat, such as sharing data through Cifas, organisations can protect their own finances, customers and shareholders as well as their companies’ reputation.”

One organisation assisting companies to screen staff and protect against the insider threat is Reed Screening. Director Keith Rosser stated: “Temporary workers play a key role in making Christmas happen, but organisations who fail to recruit and screen such workers properly could see Christmas turn into a nightmare. There’s just as much of a threat posed to business by temporary workers as there is by permanent ones. Now more than ever, it’s essential for businesses to ensure, in tandem with their supply chains, that temporary workers are screened very thoroughly prior to recruitment.”