Fraud checks identify ‘discrepancies’ in £95,000 worth of claims to East Renfrewshire Council

More than �23,000 has been recovered following checks on claims made to East Renfrewshire Council.
More than �23,000 has been recovered following checks on claims made to East Renfrewshire Council.

Potentially fraudulent and erroneous claims of more than £95,000 were made to East Renfrewshire Council last year.

A counter-fraud exercise led by Audit Scotland found 4422 claims where “discrepancies” were identified.

Around 2000 of these were identifed as “high risk” and investigated, while a sample of “low risk” cases were also examined.

More than £23,000 was recovered as a result of the exercise.

The National Fraud Initiative (NFI) involved checking the information in claims made to the council against other data, including the Electoral Register, HMRC information on pensions and income, Student Loans, immigration and Department of Work and Pensions (DWP) records.

It found “discrepancies between different data sets” in relation to a number of claims made to East Renfrewshire Council.

The scheme covers areas such as housing benefit, council tax reduction, council tax single person discount, blue badges, housing waiting lists, payroll and creditors history.

A report to councillors states: “The council has a robust and effective approach to NFI, which is complemented by existing fraud prevention measures.

“While the recovery through the NFI exercise is relatively low at £23,652, the main benefit from carrying out the exercise is the reduction in ongoing fraud and the deterrent effect gained from regular data matching.”

Each area of the council takes responsibility for comparing its own data sets and for subsequent recovery or follow up action.

During the high risk review, 18 claimant errors were identified within housing benefit and council tax reduction, including one possible fraud.

These were valued at £18,045 and the possible fraud was referred to the DWP for further investigation and possible prosecution.

The exercise also highlighted 1006 cases where council tax single person discount had been awarded and may no longer be valid.

This resulted in the cancellation of 168 single person discounts, which equates to an annual saving for 2019/20 of £77,315 and prior year recovery of £21,135.

The National Fraud Initiative data-matching exercise is undertaken every two years.