On 3 August, the UK Government announced the launch of the Public Sector Fraud Authority (the Authority), a new body tasked with tackling public sector fraud. Backed by £25m of new funding, the Authority has been given the target of identifying and preventing £180m of fraud in its first year of operation. Longer term targets are due to be set by December 2022.
The Authority aims to work closely with Government bodies to test their fraud defences and help put in place stronger safeguards, including by:
- briefing Cabinet Ministers, Government departments and bodies on the latest fraud landscape;
- providing expert support to Government departments and public bodies, helping them design counter fraud plans, as well as reviewing progress made and testing effectiveness;
- building on the existing National Fraud Initiative by creating a new National Counter Fraud Data Analytics Service that will provide advanced data capabilities for public bodies to discover, combat and prevent fraud. The National Fraud Initiative is an exercise that matches electronic data within and between the public and private sector to help detect and prevent fraud; and
- targeting specific threats by enhancing the use of fraud intelligence across the public sector, and other sectors.
The Authority will also explore the creation of a civil and criminal enforcement unit to take action on cases of fraud in the public sector in support of Government departments and public bodies.
According to a report produced by the House of Commons Committee of Public Accounts last year, fraud and error in public spending are estimated to cost the taxpayer up to £51.8bn every year. In light of that figure, the first-year target of £180m feels very much like a drop in the ocean.