Fraud check saves council missing out on £260,000

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A COUNCIL has clawed back nearly £260,000 of fraudulent benefit payments and council tax discounts.

A report released this week by Gosport Borough Council shows it has got back £243,000 in housing benefit overpayments.

And £15,022.72 has been repaid from incorrect claims for single person discount on council tax.

Councillor Mark Hook is the Tory leader of the council.

He said the authority takes fraud seriously and will always investigate cases.

‘Whether reports come in anonymously or otherwise, we will always investigate and always prosecute,’ he said.

‘That’s important – that people who do try and commit fraud are brought to book.

‘At the end of the day it’s taxpayers’ money.

‘Benefits are there to protect the vulnerable and that’s the right thing to do.

‘But it’s not there for people to be greedy.’

It comes after the council sent off information to the Audit Commission, which runs the National Fraud Initiative every two years.

The council data was checked with both public and private sector sources in an effort to detect and stop fraud.

The borough council received 622 matches – cases for its officer to look into – on January 29, after it sent off the data to the National Fraud Initiative on October 6 2012.

Each of these cases was rated either red, amber or green – with red cases being stronger.

It is from these that 40 claims for single person discount on council tax were disallowed by the borough council.

A number of them related to the age of young people changing in a home, and officers are urging people to update the council if their circumstances change.

Some of the investigations were done with the Department of Works and Pensions.

Cllr Hook added fraud prevention and detection was particularly important at the council.

It comes after an accountancy officer at the council, Conway Warner, made 17 fraudulent transactions which netted him a total of £307,810.15 over a nine-month period from September 2010.

Cllr Hook said: ‘Having been caught out once, we’ve had to make sure there are safeguards in place and checks and balances so it doesn’t happen again.

‘It’s right that we are vigilant on that front.’