False cheques and the theft of equipment have been highlighted as examples of fraud carried out against Wrexham Council in the last 12 months.
A total of 13 reports were made to the local authority in 2018/19, three of which were proven, with six investigations ongoing at the end of March this year.
Five involved the theft of materials, equipment or cash, three of which have been passed to the police.
Two falsified cheques were also discovered, including one for £3,405 which was intercepted and amended to £48,405 in favour of a different recipient, and an attempt to present a bogus cheque for £19,485. ‘The Bank’ is now investigating these issues.
There were three attempted bank mandate frauds in 2018-19 where fraudsters tried to substitute bank details for established suppliers in order to divert payments. These were identified either by the Council’s Creditors staff or were brought to the Council’s attention by the firms concerned.
The authority said ‘every effort’ was being made to tackle fraud, but also highlighted the lack of a dedicated staff member to examine cases.
In a report, officials said: “The council’s current counter fraud resources are considered to be proportionate to the risk and the arrangements follow best practice.
“There is, however, an ongoing need to assess the risk and monitor awareness, and to require compliance with mitigating controls.
“The council does not currently employ any specialist counter fraud staff.
“External potential frauds concerning benefits and housing are investigated by the specific sections or the DWP, and allegations of internal fraud may be investigated by appointed service managers.
“The oversight and coordination of counter fraud activity and assessment of risk however is the responsibility of internal audit.”
Lack of staff also creates a fraud risk itself, as under “Theft of cash / False accounting / Failure to account” it is noted Wrexham Council is at an ‘increased risk’ explained ‘due to reduced management and supervisory structures’.
There is a counter fraud ‘stamp out fraud’ email address that the council’s Internal Audit team administer, which also has a hotline style facility. A total of 106 allegations were received through ‘Stamp Out Fraud’ during 2017-18 as per the below table, which is consistent with the previous year when 104 referrals were received.
Tenancy fraud has been highlighted as another area of risk to the council.
Examples of offences include false claims about identity or circumstances when applying for housing or subletting a property to other people.
The authority added: “Tenancy fraud diverts resources from those people most in need.
“During 2018-19, internal audit were advised of sixteen possibly fraudulent housing tenancy applications.
“At the time of writing this report, fourteen of these were subject to ongoing investigation and two were found not to be proven
“Where such cases have been proven, suitable action has been taken against the tenant, such as notice to quit.”
The report will be considered by members of the council’s audit committee at a meeting on Thursday, who are not asked to create their own recommendation, rather guided to recommend “That the Audit Committee notes the report, accepts the level of assurance and evidence provided and considers any messages that need to be communicated across the Council.”
By Wrexham.com / Liam Randall – BBC Local Democracy Reporter (more here on the LDR scheme).
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