This guidance will assist you in answering the key issues if you are confronted with a suspected fraud or corruption situation.
Why should you read this guidance?
Fraud within the public sector costs the taxpayer hundreds of millions of pounds each year. Detected cases of fraud, bribery and corruption are on the increase especially in the current economic climate.
All public sector organisations are likely to be affected in some way by fraudulent or corrupt activity.
The Public Interest Disclosure Act 1998 - will protect you from any reprisals as long as you meet the rules set out in the Act.
The Police report that they cannot prosecute over half of fraud, bribery and corruption cases because of inappropriate action taken before the case is referred to them. The action which you take when you first suspect fraudulent activity may be crucial.
We are committed to tackling the issue and any malpractice will be dealt with seriously. This guide gives advice on what you should and should not do if you suspect a fraud, bribe, irregularity or serious failures of work standards in the Council.
The Council's Policy
- Whenever any matter arises which involves or is thought to involve an irregularity or a suspected irregularity in the administration of the financial affairs of the Council the Head of Internal Audit shall be informed promptly by the person who becomes aware of such irregularity or suspected irregularity.
- Where, upon investigation, the Head of Internal Audit believes that reasonable grounds exist for suspecting that a loss may have occurred as the result of misappropriation, irregular expenditure or fraud he shall in consultation with the Manager concerned, decide whether the circumstances require further investigation by the Police and take appropriate action. Where an alleged irregularity may involve a Council Officer, the Corporate Director (Chief Financial Officer) and the Chief Executive shall also be consulted prior to referring any matter to the Police.
- Where, upon investigation, the Head of Internal Audit believes that a loss may have occurred as the result of waste, extravagance or maladministration, a report on the matter shall be submitted to the Manager concerned and the Chief Executive.
Acting upon your suspicions - the Do's and Don'ts
If you suspect a fraud or malpractice within the Council, there are a few simple guidelines which should be followed:
- Make an immediate note of your concerns. Note all relevant details, such as what was said in telephone or other conversations, the date, time and the names of any parties involved.
- Convey your suspicions to someone with appropriate authority and experience, preferably in writing. This can be done by contacting Internal Audit on the telephone number listed at the end of this document. The Council would prefer you not to do this anonymously in order that further information might be sought from you if necessary.
- Deal with the matter promptly if you feel your concerns are warranted. Any delay may cause the Council to suffer further financial loss.
You will be kept informed of the progress of the investigation and its outcome (within the bounds of individual confidentiality and the constraints of law). Depending upon the findings of the internal investigation, the matter could be referred to the District Auditor or the Police.
- Do Nothing.
- Be afraid of raising your concerns. You will not suffer any recrimination from the Council or those responsible for the malpractice as a result of voicing a reasonably held suspicion. The Council will treat any matter you raise sensitively and confidentially and will not tolerate harassment or victimisation. It must be appreciated that a statement might be required as part of the evidence.
- Approach or accuse any individuals directly.
- Try to investigate the matter yourself. There are special rules surrounding the gathering of evidence for use in criminal cases. Any attempt to gather evidence by people who are unfamiliar with these rules may destroy the case. Internal Audit are trained in handling investigations in the proper manner.
- Convey your suspicions to anyone other than those with the proper authority. Contact the Council’s Internal Audit Section without delay on 023 8068 8016.
- Allow malpractice to fester.
The Act has rules for making a protected disclosure
- You must disclose the information in good faith.
- You must believe it to be substantially true.
- You must not act maliciously or make false allegations.
- You must not seek any personal gain.
- Note all relevant details, but do not attempt to investigate the matter further yourself.
- Report all suspicions promptly to the Council’s Internal Audit Section (SEE BELOW FOR CONFIDENTIAL CONTACT POINTS).
- If in doubt, report your suspicions anyway.
Need Further Advice?
If you need further advice, you can contact the following:
Chief Internal Auditor on 023 8068 8015
Monitoring Officer on 023 8068 8103
Confidential Whistleblowing Number on 023 8068 8016
Public Concern at Work is an independent charity which provides free advice for the public who wish to express concerns about fraud or other serious malpractice. You can contact them on 020 7404 6609