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5 May 2018

Welsh authority considers fraud strategy

A person claiming their dead parent's pension was one of 500 cases of suspected fraud referred to Rhondda Cynon Taf council in the last financial year.

A total of 565 referrals were made to the authority's corporate fraud team in 2017-2018, of which 244 were made online.

Members of the audit committee were told that council tax and housing benefit fraud are the largest types of fraud that the council is facing.

More than 99% of potential fraud reported to the council is in relation to housing benefit and council tax.

The top referral reason relates to inappropriate receipt of benefits by not declaring that people are living together.

Two specific examples of corporate fraud were given which included one person inappropriately claiming their deceased parent's local government pension. That person was interviewed and cautioned and an agreement was reached to repay the £780 in full.

The other example given was a person fraudulently claiming the 25% single person council tax discount. Discounts of £1,841.22 were removed and attempts are now underway to recover the money.

The Anti-Fraud, Bribery and Corruption Plan 2018-19 states that it "will ensure the council continues to operate within an effective anti-fraud culture across the organisation, with resilient preventive measures capable of identifying and addressing new threats".

Some of the measures taken by the council towards its zero tolerance approach to fraud include the setting up of a hub on both the internet site and council's intranet set for the collation of fraud referrals from all potential sources.

They've also signed up to the National Fraud Intelligence Bureau where good practice and activity is shared and they've developed a draft fraud awareness council payslip awareness insert for inclusion in all May 2018 payslips as well as working with the Department for Work and Pensions in investigating benefit and council tax fraud.

Councillor Michael Powell, Liberal Democrat, said there comes a time when they have to ask themselves when does the council "keep flogging a dead horse" in terms of recovering money. The council's current council tax collection rate is at 97.5% but Cllr Powell said the 2.5% is still a "substantial amount of money."

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