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

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

administration of Housing Benefit and Council Tax Benefit and counter

fraud activity by Caerphilly CBC.

The report finds that Caerphilly CBC was not in a position to meet

all its stated aims and objectives for the benefit service. It placed

an emphasis on paying benefit quickly and this achievement

compromised the aims of getting payments right first time and

deterring fraud. The council had no backlogs of work to hinder claims

processing times.

The council failed to routinely verify information and evidence in

support of claims. Security was not an integral part of the

administration of Housing Benefit and Council Tax Benefit. From its

sample, the report finds that the quality of verification was poor.

This consistently poor standard of verification indicates that speed

of processing claims is achieved at the expense of quality.

The report finds that the council effectively administered renewal

claims to benefit and ensured continuity of benefit payments to


The council dealt with changes of circumstances promptly which

reduced the number of overpayments raised. It pursued overpayments of

benefit vigorously and had an effective rate of recovery of over 65%.

The council made good use of legal action and debt collection

agencies to recover debt where other recovery options had failed.

The introduction of benefit anti-fraud policies is seen as a positive

move and demonstrates the council's position on how it will deal with

offenders. The council had also completed many successful

prosecutions. However, there was some scope for improvement in

working with other organisations and in the quality and speed of

investigations. A lack of resources and high individual caseloads

resulted, in some instances, in poor quality investigations.

BFI expresses disappointment that Caerphilly CBC had failed to fully

implement some recommendations from external audit that would have

helped make the council's benefit service more secure from fraud and


In 2000/01, Caerphilly CBC administered approximately£39.5m in

housing benefits. This is approximately 18.7% of its total gross

revenue expenditure.

BFI is an independent unit within the Department for Work and

Pensions that reports directly to the secretary of state for work and

pensions on the standard of benefit administration and counter fraud


Malcolm Wicks, work and pensions minister announced the publication

of the report in a ministerial written statement.


1. The process for the inspection at Caerphilly CBC included an

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

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

2. A Welsh translated version of the BFI inspection report has been

produced and published simultaneously.

3. 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.

4. 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

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.

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

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