Agenda item


The report covers the counter fraud work completed in the year from 1 April 2022 to 31 March 2023 in accordance with the Counter Fraud Strategy and Framework.





Simon White - Audit Manager – Counter Fraud

Russell Banks - Orbis Chief Internal Auditor


Key points raised during the discussion:

1.    The Audit Manager – Counter Fraud introduced the report and noted that the Counter Fraud Partnership Team’s work contributed towards the internal audit opinion. There had been 169 investigative days in 2022/23, exceeding the 150 day contingency so some days had been borrowed from Internal Audit’s contingency. Regarding the reactive work completed last year, 33 allegations had been received compared to 22 in the previous year. That increase reflected a wider awareness within the authority about reporting counter fraud allegations and financial irregularity. Of those allegations, 25 were raised by Council management, that was broken down by directorate and fraud type enabling the tracking of the fraud landscape. Proactive work was also undertaken and that included fraud awareness around the risks faced by individual teams and the organisation such as the bank mandate fraud. He noted that data was submitted to the Cabinet Office regarding the biennial National Fraud Initiative (NFI) and the most recent matches in January 2023 were being reviewed. The team liaised regionally and nationally with partners to address emerging risks.

2.    A Committee member referred to the Hinchley Wood Primary School fraud case, whereby the individual was able to inflate their salary and he asked whether a check was being done across all schools in Surrey to make sure that all the business managers were on the right salary level. The Audit Manager – Counter Fraud noted that there were lessons learned from that case, as schools were being audited those would be picked up; he was unaware that a check had been done across all schools and would follow that up.

3.    A Committee member asked what the outcome was of the Surrey Fire and Rescue Service (SFRS) Suspension Risk Assessment independent review, she presumed that during the time the individual was awaiting conviction they were innocent until proven guilty. The Orbis Chief Internal Auditor explained that the piece of work reviewed the process within the organisation by which those decisions were taken. Gaps had been identified in the process and recommendations were made for improvement. He noted that the risk assessment uses all the relevant facts in specific instances to make a judgement that protected the organisation, the individual and the public. The Audit Manager – Counter Fraud noted that guidance on the Intranet listed misconduct behaviour that should be taken into consideration regarding a possible suspension.

4.    A Committee member noted that one of the key controls in fighting fraud was having a strong culture in place - staff being vigilant to the threat of fraud - and she asked which measure had been the most effective and how that could be harnessed further. The Audit Manager – Counter Fraud noted that confidential reporting policies such as whistleblowing were effective, an asset was the Council’s twenty-four hour manned confidential reporting hotline which was external and independent, conversations could be had to tease out more detail. 

5.    The Chairman asked what would happen if the team did not receive the allegations, would the fraud never be identified. The Audit Manager – Counter Fraud noted that irregularities or allegations received were less in the second half of the year, the quieter summer months provided an opportunity to focus on the proactive work such as fraud awareness, meeting with teams to understand their fraud risks and the mitigations to put in place. There was a long wish list of proactive work to be undertaken such as using data more effectively, monitoring telephone and IT usage; that work needed to be balanced with the reactive work.

6.    The Chairman noted that quite a few employees tended to resign before the process concluded, he asked whether the Council could seek redress regarding those employees or once they left, the process could not be taken any further. The Audit Manager – Counter Fraud noted that if it was a criminal matter, then referrals could be made to Surrey Police, referrals could also be made to professional bodies, which had their own disciplinary process. Investigations and follow-up actions were costly, the priority was safeguarding public funds, removing wrong individuals from the organisation quickly and effectively.

7.    The Chairman referred to the NFI and asked whether any Blue Badge fraud cases had been identified. The Audit Manager – Counter Fraud noted there were 6,000 non-creditors, a lot of that would be Blue Badge related and work was underway with the Blue Badge team. There was an opportunity to be more proactive against such fraud once the new central parking enforcement team was embedded.  

8.    A Committee member presumed that once the cases via the NFI were collated and reviewed, that the Committee would receive a summary within the annual report of the major areas. The Audit Manager – Counter Fraud noted that there would be an NFI results section in next year’s annual report, following the review of the 6,000 non-creditor data matches received in January 2023. The bulk of the cases related to Blue Badge and concessionary travel, within that there would be some employee referrals which would be focused on.



That the Committee noted the fraud activity completed during 1 April 2022 to 31 March 2023.

Actions/further information to be provided:

1.    A8/23 - The Audit Manager – Counter Fraud will find out whether a check had been undertaken across all schools in Surrey to make sure that all the business managers were on the right salary level.

2.    A9/23 - The Audit Manager – Counter Fraud will ensure that next year’s Counter Fraud Annual Reportincludes an NFI results section summarising the major areas identified in the cases. 


Supporting documents: