How we're looking internationally to tackle public sector fraud
This year, the UK hosted the first International Public Fraud Symposiom. Mark Cheeseman, deputy director, public sector fraud at the Cabinet Office, explains how the event came about, and what his team learnt from their international colleagues
We are finding more fraud in the public sector, and that’s good news. This is the message from the Cabinet Office’s Centre of Expertise for Counter Fraud, which works across central government and other public bodies to better understand fraud, and build stronger capabilities to prevent and detect it.
As a hidden crime, public sector fraud is difficult to accurately quantify. But by strengthening standards and capabilities; improving data sharing and analytics across government, and raising awareness of how to prevent and detect fraud, the UK government is building a much clearer picture of the fraud threat it faces, and is now taking significant steps forward in its fight to reduce its impact on public finances.
Ministers in the Cabinet Office challenged the Centre of Expertise to demonstrate this progress to the international community, and show that the UK is at the leading edge of public sector counter-fraud strategy. We answered the challenge by organising the first International Public Sector Fraud Symposium.
Taking place over three days in February, this event brought together representatives from Australia, New Zealand, Canada, the United Kingdom and the United States to share their expertise and experience in fighting fraud in the public sector.
Each delegate presented their counter-fraud challenges and priorities so that we could share and develop counter-fraud practices as well as exploring further opportunities to work together.
The delegates’ also met representatives from across government, including the Government Internal Audit Agency (GIAA), Ministry of Defence (MoD), Crown Prosecution Service (CPS), Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC) and Her Majesty’s Revenue and Customs (HMRC), and attended the UK’s annual, national Fraud & Error Conference.
The symposium concluded with a round table chaired by the minister for the constitution, Chloe Smith, and a further meeting with John Manzoni, the chief executive of the Civil Service. The feedback from the delegations was incredibly strong, and there was unanimous support for ongoing engagement between the five countries (See below for delegate feedback from the event).
"The whole week was fantastic. Lots of highlights, and plenty to take home to think about.”
Andrew Goddard, Senior Policy Advisor, Ministry of Justice, New Zealand
“We found last week to be incredibly valuable and we will be taking back the discussions and lessons learned to improve our efforts.”
Kurt Chin Quee, Senior Director, Financial Management Policy, Office of the Comptroller General of Canada, Treasury Board of Canada Secretariat
“Your forum was brilliantly organised and it was a pleasure to hear from such enthusiastic and driven professionals. Indeed, the opportunity to meet and confer in detail with like minded partners on fraud control was invaluable.”
Anna Harmer, First Assistant Secretary, Security and Criminal Law Division Australian Government Attorney General’s Department
The symposium concluded with a round table chaired by the minister for the constitution, Chloe Smith, and a further meeting with John Manzoni, the chief executive of the Civil Service. The feedback from the delegations was incredibly strong, and there was unanimous support for ongoing engagement between the five countries (See right for delegate feedback from the event).
And what did the UK take away from the symposium? Each of the international delegates told us about the difficulties they were having in delivering a joined-up approach to combating public sector fraud. It was therefore reassuring to learn that the UK is unique in having already developed the Centre of Expertise, based at the centre of government and leading cross-government counter-fraud efforts. The delegates were struck by both the impact and effectiveness of this approach.
Our conversations covered a range of interesting and challenging subjects, and have set the foundations for potential future working arrangements on areas including the professionalisation of the workforce involved in preventing and detecting fraud; finding better ways to share and use data, and how to measure the prevention and detection of fraud. In addition, the group saw real value in exploring the optimal role and model for policing in fraud detection, prevention and remedy. This all builds upon work that is already underway in the UK.
We’ve already started developing a number of initiatives following the symposium, including looking at ways of sharing information and best practice, as well as the establishment of working groups to focus on specific areas of interest. We’re looking forward to much more collaboration.
If you are interested in the symposium and how we are planning to continue our engagement with the international community on counter-fraud issues, please do get in touch.
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