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BENEFIT FRAUD INSPECTORATE REPORT: SWALE BC COMMENDED FOR COMMITMENT TO CLEAR BACKLOG

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The secretary of state for work and pensions, Andrew Smith has today ...
The secretary of state for work and pensions, Andrew Smith has today

published a report by the Benefit Fraud Inspectorate (BFI) on the

administration of Housing Benefit and Council Tax Benefit and counter

fraud activity by Swale BC.

In 1999/2000, BFI first inspected and published a report on the

council. It found that while Swale demonstrated some good working

practices, the efficiency and security of the benefits system was

compromised by a backlog of work and a lack of a clear sense of

direction and purpose in its counter fraud strategy. At that time

Swale had undergone a period of significant change.

BFI revisited Swale in April 2002 and is today publishing the report

of its findings. The report finds that Swale had only partially

delivered the improvements it was committed to in its response to the

secretary of state following publication of the first report.

Of the 40 recommendations made in the April 2000 report, Swale had

implemented 6 in full, partially implemented 24 and not implemented

10.

The lack of management checking and controls to guard the system

against fraud, error and abuse was leaving Swale open to fraud.

BFI commends Swale for its commitment in clearing the backlog of

work, that was having a detrimental effect in Swale during BFI's

first inspection, and on other findings. These improvements have

required a heavy investment from Swale by increasing and training its

staffing on the benefit section.

There had been improvements in Swale's benefit claim form, the levels

of verification and the speed of processing claims and notifications

of change of circumstances.

BFI continued to find significant problems with the accurate

classification of overpayments and the situation had worsened since

the first BFI inspection. BFI also found that Swale did not always

impose the maximum deduction for the recovery of fraudulent

overpayments.

The post opening operation in Swale was found to be insecure and BFI

was concerned to find that numerous recommendations in this area made

in the first report remained unactioned.

The counter fraud operation was not being sufficiently managed and

there was minimal management checking and little direction during a

fraud investigation.

BFI is an independent unit within the DWP that reports directly to

the secretary of state for work and pensions on the standard of

benefit administration and counter fraud activity.

Notes

1. The process for inspection at Swale BC included an

initial fact finding stage, an on-site visit and report generation

and clearance. The on-site visit took place during April 2002.

2. Each BFI inspection report is considered by the secretary of state

who decides whether any further action is appropriate. The secretary

of state has powers to issue directions to a local authority to

secure acceptable/minimum standards in performance.

3. A new contract for welfare: Safeguarding Social Security sets out

the government's strategy for tackling fraud in benefits. It calls

for sustained and detailed effort across 4 fronts:

- getting it right - benefit payments should be correct from day one

- keeping it right - ensuring payments are adjusted as circumstances

change

- putting it right - detecting when payments go wrong and taking

prompt action to correct them, with appropriate penalties to

prevent recurrence

- making sure things work - monitoring progress, evaluating the

strength of defences and adjusting them in the light of experience.

BFI is integral to this strategy.

4. A copy of the report can be found on the internet at:

www.bfi.gov.uk

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