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SECURING THE SYSTEM - BENEFIT FRAUD INSPECTORATE ANNUAL REPORT

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The director general of the government s Benefit Fraud Inspectorate ...
The director general of the government s Benefit Fraud Inspectorate

(BFI) published his second annual report today Securing the System.

The report charts the achievements of the inspectorate in its first

full year of operation. In line with the government's strategy for

safeguarding social security, the BFI is carrying out a rigorous

inspection of anti-fraud procedures among local authorities and

government agencies.

The recently published fraud strategy, 'A new contract for welfare:

safeguarding social security, sets out the government s plans for

tackling fraud and improving security within the DSS and local

authorities. The BFI has a significant role in supporting this vision

by recommending areas for improvement to local authorities and

agencies, and ensuring that its conclusions, recommendations and good

practice statements re-inforce the aims of the strategy.

Social security minister Stephen Timms said:

'The BFI has already made a significant contribution to securing the

welfare system against fraud and error. Its rigorous programme of

inspections is identifying weaknesses in anti-fraud procedures, and

helping local authorities and other agencies to improve their

performance by spreading best practise.

We are determined to tackle fraud by preventing it from entering the

system in the first place, through accurate payment of benefit claims

and by monitoring and checking those claims over time. The BFI will

continue to play an important role in delivering a modern and secure

welfare system.'

BFI director general Chris Bull described this second year as

challenging but very rewarding in terms of the impact of BFI.

'We have achieved a great deal since the last report. The secretary

of state has published all 23 of our local authority inspection

reports submitted to him. We have announced a further 46 which are

either ongoing or due to be started by November 1999. In addition we

expect to announce a further 27 inspections to be started before

April 2000.

'During the year we have continued to work in partnership with those

we inspect and I am pleased this approach is leading to real

improvements in benefit administration and counter fraud work. This

level of achievement has been possible because of the professionalism

and dedication of our staff and our strong links with local and

central government administrators, and a wide range of organisations

to strengthen our defences against fraud. In response, all inspected

local authorities have developed detailed action plans based on our

recommendations setting out their commitment to improving standards.'

As part of its rolling programme of inspections, the BFI today

published reports on anti-fraud procedures in Richmond-upon-Thames,

East Devon and Tower Hamlets councils. The BFI highlights areas of

weakness in the local authorities anti- fraud measures, and

identifies ways in which their procedures can be strengthened. All

three councils are developing detailed action plans based on the BFI

s recommendations which set out their commitment to improving

standards.

Notes

1. The BFI is an independent unit within the department of

social security set up to: raise standards in social

security benefits administration and counter fraud

activity within DSS agencies and local authorities;

undertake inspections; and to report to the secretary of

state.

2. Each inspection report is considered by the secretary of

state who decides whether any further action is

appropriate. Powers introduced by the Social Security

Administration Act 1997 allow the secretary of state to

issue directions to a local authority if needed to secure

improvements in performance. Powers already existed for

the secretary of state to require reviews of

administration or counter fraud activity undertaken

within the DSS and its agencies.

3. On a day to day basis the BFI works with practitioners

and investigating officers to identify where good

practices can make a difference. Individual inspections

provide first hand experience of different processes and

procedures and how effective they are. In addition,

through regular contact with national organisations and

representative groups the BFI shares experiences and

actively promotes improvements.

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