Sheffield Council’s tough action on fraud

Investigations at Town Hall: Sheffield Council has uncovered fraud among staff as well as benefit claimants
Investigations at Town Hall: Sheffield Council has uncovered fraud among staff as well as benefit claimants

INVESTIGATORS snared 248 benefit cheats – including six Sheffield Council workers – during a crackdown on fraudulent housing and council tax claims.

Sheffield Council officials and contractor Capita took action during 2011/12, a report to the authority’s audit committee has revealed.

Action: Coun Bryan Lodge

Action: Coun Bryan Lodge

Of the 248 benefit fraud cases uncovered, 112 resulted in prosecutions, 92 led to cautions and 45 were subject to administrative penalties.

The six cases involving council workers were among a total of 20 cases of internal fraud at the authority – which also included seven cases in payroll and contracting, four of abuse of position, two of recruitment fraud, and one case of procurement fraud.

Coun Bryan Lodge, Sheffield Council cabinet member for finance, said: “The results show we have been monitoring and checking on claims and council procedures to ensure everything is done correctly.

“People committing fraud are taking money which could be used to help other people.”

Sheffield Council said it has been taking a ‘robust approach to tackling fraud’.

A spokeswoman said: “The council is fully committed to taking the strongest possible approach to tackling fraudulent benefit claims, while also ensuring that the right people are awarded the right benefit at the right time.

“The council utilises a number of controls to prevent and detect fraud, and identify where offences have been committed. This includes conducting joint investigations and undertaking specific data matching exercises with other public sector organisations.”

She added: “As a council we are always disappointed when the conduct of our employees falls below the high standards expected of them, even when the numbers involved are relatively low, as they are here.”

The Audit Commission has recommended that councils take action to reduce risks of fraud involving staff working on contracting and tendering.

Nationally, there were 187 incidents in 2011/12, worth £8.1m.

The value of the fraud at Sheffield Council has not been revealed.

“The council has also not revealed sentences given to people who were prosecuted.

Offences in numbers:

Cases of council tax and housing benefit fraud during 2011/12 - 248

Resulting prosecutions: 91 cautions and 45 administrative penalties were given - 112

Cases of internal fraud uncovered within Sheffield Council by investigators - 20