Progress made with anti-fraud investigations
Good progress is being made with anti-fraud investigations by St Albans City and District Council following the acquisition of new software.
The Council is investigating what appears to be an unusually high number of people claiming a single person’s discount of 25% for Council Tax.
Last year, it subscribed to a Government service that pinpoints properties where suspect claims are being made.
It does so by matching discount claims with other financial and personal data that public bodies are entitled to hold.
During the first three months of this year, 139 people were identified as high risk and were sent a letter. They will be investigated further by the Council’s Internal Audit and Revenues Teams when they finish Covid-19 duties.
The Council has also been looking for cases of tenancy fraud using another matching tool that it has acquired.
This highlighted four Council homes where it was suspected the named tenant might be living elsewhere.
Two of those properties have been taken back by the Council and given to people on the housing register who had been waiting for a permanent home. Enquiries are continuing into the other two properties.
A report on the Council’s anti-fraud activities were given to a meeting of the Audit Committee on Wednesday 29 April.
The meeting heard a new focus of the anti-fraud work is more vigorous checking of all right-to-buy Council home applications.
This includes ensuring the tenants’ details are accurate and the Council is not being used to launder money that may be from the proceeds of crime.
The anti-fraud drive has also been boosted by the launch of the Council’s new website which is more user friendly.
It is easier for people to report any suspicions they have of fraud. This has resulted in more tip-offs this past month than in the last six months of 2019.
Every report will be thoroughly investigated as part of the Council’s efforts to stamp out fraud and corruption. Reports can be made to https://www.stalbans.gov.uk/fraud.
Councillor Julian Daly, the Committee’s Chair, said after the meeting:
The Government expects local authorities to recognise their fraud risks and invest sufficient resources to counter fraud activity.
Over the last few months, the Council has greatly improved its ability to identify fraud by the use of computer programmes which can pinpoint suspects.
Already, more than 100 people suspected of incorrectly claiming a Council Tax discount have been identified along with four Council homes where there may be tenancy fraud.
We will look to recover any money which the Council is owed and free up properties that are in the wrong hands.
This robust approach can save the Council money and also help people who are waiting on our housing register.