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Auditor gets diminishing returns from data matching

36% less fraud detected

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Audit Scotland's second major comparison of public sector databases has identified 36 per cent less fraud than its first attempt.

The 2006-07 National Fraud Initiative, which started in October 2006 and involved 74 organisations, found £9.7m of fraud, compared with £15.1m identified by the same exercise in 2004-05, according to a report (pdf) from Audit Scotland on 15 May 2008.

The report said 2004-05 was the first time Scottish local authorities had been involved in the initiative, so it spotted fraud which had been going on for years, while the 2006-07 exercise found fraud starting only in the last two years.

The work included analysis of local authority staff lists, to see if people are lying about their levels of income when making benefit and pension claims, and checking claimants against a register of deaths.

The information was compared by the Audit Commission on behalf of Audit Scotland, and data matches were made available for further investigation from January 2007. The results include 186 pensions and 969 disability blue badges stopped as the eligible individual had died, and the identification of 2,224 overpayments of benefits and pensions to public sector employees and pensioners.

Audit Scotland said that data for these exercises must now be uploaded by public sector bodies to a secure website set up in autumn 2007, rather than sent by disc.

A similar exercise by the Wales Audit Office, also reported on 15 May, identified £4.5m of fraud in 2006-07, up 73 per cent on the £2.6m found in 2004-05. The more recent initiative, involving 70 public sector organisations, was the first time that council tax single person discounts were compared with the electoral register. Wales has also moved to secure electronic transfer of personal data.

The National Fraud Initiative is run by each UK country's auditor every other year.

This article was originally published at Kablenet.

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