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
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
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
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.
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
- putting it right - detecting when payments go wrong and taking
prompt action to correct them, with appropriate penalties to
- 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: