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Watchdog uncovers£140m fraud

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The Audit Commission's National Fraud Initiative has uncovered a record£140m in fraud and overpayments for 2006/07 - a 26% rise on the previous year.

The NFI is calling on the public sector, including councils, to devote more resources to using NFI information to track down fraud. The initiative has identified£450m in fraud and overpayment since it started in 1996.

The NFI programme matches information such as housing benefit claims, pensions and social housing records from councils, the NHS, police authorities, local probation boards and fire and rescue authorities across England and allows public bodies to share and compare information.

'Not victimless crime'

Chair of the Audit Commission Michael O'Higgins said: 'These are not victimless crimes and some of the fraud found is both blatant and shocking. People are stealing homes pensions, student loans, parking places and benefits, seemingly confident that no one is tracking them. They are wrong.'

'We urge all public bodies to put in place the necessary trained staff to work with us and follow up any matches. It makes both moral and financial sense to detect fraud and overpayments,' he added.

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