The Department for International Trade has acknowledged an increasing number of fraud cases in its latest annual report and accounts, which cover the 2021-22 financial year.
DIT said it had also been on the receiving end of a broader range of fraudulent behaviour during the 12-month period to April compared with previous years.
Its annual report did not say exactly how many fraud cases it dealt with last year, but said there had been a “small rise in the number and diversity of cases detected”.
The department said it had continued to focus on assessing and managing fraud risks throughout the year, and noted that the introduction of digital tools had successfully detected attempted fraud, enabling officials to “be more proactive” in fraud prevention.
It added that its understanding of fraud risks has also enabled officials to identify and implement new controls to help mitigate risks to both DIT and other departments.
DIT told CSW that new instances of companies misusing DIT branding and misrepresenting their relationship with the department contributed to the increase in fraud numbers. The rise in detected cases was accompanied by an increase in prevented grant fraud through the department’s due diligence procedures, it said.
The annual report said DIT is “developing its anti-bribery and corruption capability” by undertaking a comprehensive assessment of current risks and “reviewing the departmental due diligence framework in respect of working with business”.
Data breaches and redundancies rise
Elsewhere in the report, DIT said there had been 62 data breaches within the department over the year, up 17% on the 53 breaches identified in 2020-2021. It described the increase as “slight”.
“Of these breaches, only one met the threshold to be reported to the Information Commissioner’s Office,” the report said. However, it added that a further two cases had been reported voluntarily.
DIT said the rise in data breaches could be attributed to greater awareness of data-protection issues among staff following the expansion of engagement work.
The report also noted that 12 compulsory-redundancy packages worth a total of £284,000 were agreed in 2021-22, a considerable increase on the single package, worth £78,000, agreed the previous year.
However the 2021-22 figure is more in line with DIT’s 2019-2020 count, with payouts to the nine staff who were made redundant totalling £244,000.
DIT’s 2018-19 annual report and accounts records a total of 42 compulsory redundancies, with a price tag of £1.2m.
A DIT spokesperson said the department is committed to ensuring it has the right talent available to negotiate trade deals and secure inward investment, helping drive growth across the country in the process.
“Where redundancies are necessary, we ensure these are carefully considered,” they said.