Protecting the public purse

£1 billion of fraud, found!

The National Fraud Initiative (NFI), established in 1996, this week confirmed it has now helped identify over £1 billion potentially lost to fraud, overpayment or error, across the UK.

The outcomes include the prevention and detection of 15,000 cases of pension overpayments worth £450 million, almost 100,000 cases of council tax single person discounts incorrectly awarded worth £160 million and over £250 million of housing benefit overpayments.

Chairman of the Audit Commission, Jeremy Newman, says:  The NFI is a powerful weapon in the fight to protect taxpayers’ money from fraud. I applaud the commitment of the scheme’s participants. The vigilance of organisations from local councils to central government departments, supplying essential data and investigating potential frauds flagged up by the initiative, has paid off to the tune of £1 billion. We are working hard to ensure this valuable legacy of the Audit Commission continues to benefit the public.’

The Audit Commission’s 17-year-old initiative compares data held by: 1,300 public sector and 77 private sector organisations. These include sister audit bodies in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland, government departments and other national agencies. It flags up inconsistencies in data that potentially indicate a fraud is taking place, and signals the need for a closer investigation.

The initiative helps detect one-off individual frauds or error, as well as serious wide-scale organised crime. It helps find patterns in fraud activity that might otherwise be missed at a local level, for example if activities are repeated over a large geographical area or masked by false identities. It helps provide a national picture of fraud and highlights some emerging fraud risks.

The NFI has introduced real-time and flexible matching alongside the traditional two-yearly national matching NFI exercise. The new modules align with the government’s key policies focusing on protecting the UK economy from fraud.  The NFI now allows a participant to hunt for frauds more often and to tailor their search to best suit their needs, for example: undertaking regular data matching to target tenancy fraud in a geographical area.

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Notes to editors

  1. The £1 billion fraud detection figure includes overpayments and recoveries both already delivered and estimated outcomes. Estimates are included where it is reasonable to assume that fraud, overpayments and error would have continued undetected without NFI data matching.
  2. The outcomes, in England, from the most recent exercise include the prevention and detection of £103 million pension overpayments, £79 million council tax single person discounts incorrectly awarded and £42 million housing benefit overpayments. Others include:
    • 164 employees identified as having no right to work in the UK;
    • 321 false applications removed from housing waiting lists;
    • 1,031 prosecutions, 921 of them for housing benefit fraud; and
    • 32,633 blue badges and 52,635 concessionary travel passes cancelled.
  3. Participation by all local government and health bodies is mandatory.
  4. The main NFI data matching is undertaken every two years and the Audit Commission reports the results of these matches at the end of each cycle.
  5. The report for the latest initiative, NFI 2012/13, is due in June 2014.
  6. The organisations that participate in the NFI are responsible for following up and investigating the matches, and identifying frauds, errors and overpayments.
  7. You may view a copy of the 2012 National Fraud Initiative National Report for background information, how the initiative works and some examples of data matching.
  8. Government bodies taking part in the initiative include: Ordnance Survey, The Department for Work & Pensions, The Cabinet Office, The Home Office, The Department for Communities and Local Government, The Department for Business Innovation and Skills, The Highways Agency and Office for National Statistics

For further information please contact our press office.