SWANSEA Council’s fraud detection team is helping lead the way in Wales in clamping down on people trying to abuse the system by claiming money or council services they are not entitled to.

Last year there was a continuing high demand for the service, with hundreds of new fraud allegations made to the council. These ranged from organised fraudsters trying to swindle the council out of pandemic grants and other business grants, to those fraudulently claiming benefits or council tax relief or abusing the blue badge disability parking system.

In total 49 grant cases were subject to detailed investigations in the last financial year which resulted in a dozen applications for grants being rejected, amounting to a £27,000 saving.

Rob Stewart, Leader of Swansea Council, said it was vital that the millions of pounds of public money spent on services every year gets to those who need it. But, at the same time, he warned the council would clamp down on fraud wherever it’s found.

He said:

“Among local authorities in Wales our fraud team helped lead the way in seeking out, detecting and acting in cases of fraud.

“During the pandemic, we were among the quickest at handing out funds to those who were eligible. But at the same time fraudsters were submitting grant claims in the hope they’d slip through the net because of the high volume of applications.

“Our counter fraud team’s approach had a clear deterrent effect on would-be fraudsters.”

The council’s work to tackle fraud is highlighted in the counter-fraud team’s annual report being presented to the Governance and Audit committee in July.

Among the figures noted in the report are that a total of 379 cases of potential fraud were reported to the council in the last financial year, 2021/22, an increase from 302 the year before.

Increases in cases were seen cases of alleged benefit fraud, council tax, social housing, and blue badge fraud.

Of these allegations a total of 72 are currently either being actively investigated or still being evaluated for further action.

The number of claims of internal fraud at the council was down to 19 in 2021/22 from 23 the year before and 34 the year before that. Eleven new cases were reported among a workforce of more than 11,000. Nine cases are still being investigated while advice and other action was taken in eight cases. Two claims of fraud were found not proven.

The report said that one reason for the rise in overall reported allegations of fraud was due to an online reporting tool set up by the council as part of its work to tackle fraud by making it more straightforward for people to report it.

Cllr Stewart added:

“Fraud is something that happens in society in general and, like other organisations, councils are targets both by individuals and by more organised criminals.

“The annual fraud report shows Swansea Council is not a soft touch and we will challenge fraud wherever we find it, aiming to bring to justice those engaged in such practices.”

By Gwynoro Jones

Former MP for Carmarthenshire, Gwynoro Jones joined the team covering politics in Wales. He has a wealth of experience in politics and has been a regular commentator on radio, TV and in newspapers in Wales. Email: gwynorojones@walesnewsonline.com

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