FOI Disclosure Log

Customer Request Details

28 February 2022

I am a student with the University of Portsmouth and undertaking dissertation research for my master’s degree (MSc). This research concerns Covid grants administered by local authorities during the first national lockdown only. To gather the data required to fulfil this dissertation, I am making this Freedom of Information (FOI) request (under the Freedom of Information Act 2000) to your authority. The information requested are answers to the questions listed below. These questions relate solely to the following grants administered by your local authority (referred to in these questions as the ‘Authority’):

·         Retail, Hospitality and Leisure Grant Fund (RHLGF)

·         Small Business Grant Fund (SBGF)

·         Local Authority Discretionary Fund (LADF)

It is asked that your response to these questions relate to these grants only, and as all three of these schemes closed in 2020, it is believed this will not prejudice your authority’s ability to respond.

The questions I require answering are:

1.    Did your authority undertake an assessment in 2020 to determine the fraud risk in administering these specific Covid grants?

2.    What specific date was this assessment completed?

3.    What was determined to be the overall fraud risk rating (e.g., low, low-medium, medium, medium-high, high (based on probability and impact)) in administering these specific Covid grants at that time?

4.    How many staff processed these Covid grant claims?

5.    How many staff received counter-fraud training to identify suspected fraudulent Covid grant applications?

6.    Did these staff use the Spotlight tool as a matter of routine when processing these claims?

7.    Do you have a fraud investigations team that investigates Covid grant fraud?

8.    If not, does your internal audit team investigate Covid grant fraud?

9.    Do you employ external auditors or other investigators to investigate Covid grant fraud?

10. How many officers investigated fraud in these specific Covid grant schemes?

11. How many of these officers are Accredited Counter Fraud Specialists?

12. How many Accredited Financial Investigators investigated fraud in these schemes?

13. Was it at any time your Authorities practice to pay (whether by BACS, cheque, or other means) these grants directly to the businesses in scope without the need for the business to apply for the grant?

14. Did businesses in scope for these grants need to complete an application form to determine their eligibility?

15. What were the total number of applications received?

16. What were the total number of applications paid?

17. What is the total number of suspected fraudulent applications?

18. How many of these have been identified by:

18.1                A member of staff.

18.2               A member of the public (which includes the business whose details have been used fraudulently).

18.3               A Fraud Investigator.

18.4               An Auditor.

18.5               The Spotlight tool assisting in the identification.

18.6               National Anti-Fraud Network (NAFN).

18.7               National Investigation Service (NATIS).

18.8               The police.

18.9               Another local authority.

18.10           A central government agency.

18.11           Another fraud countermeasure.

19. How many cases of suspected fraud regarding these specific Covid grants have been identified by the National Fraud Initiative (NFI) during their biennial data match?

20. How many of these applications (from any source) have been referred to your fraud or internal audit team for investigation?

21. How many of these applications have been investigated to the criminal standard?

22. What is the total value of these grants paid to businesses in error?

23. What is the total value of these grants paid to businesses due to suspected or proven fraud?

24. What is the total value recovered of these fraudulently paid grants?

25. How many cases involved the use of an Accredited Financial Investigator?

26. How many cases resulted in the use of Restraint and other Court Orders to recover fraudulently paid Covid grants?

27. How many cases of suspected Covid grant fraud appear to have involved serious or organised fraud?

28. How many cases of suspected serious and organised Covid grant fraud have you passed to NATIS?

29. How many intelligence reports of suspected Covid grant fraud have been passed to NAFN?

30. How many of the total suspected fraudulent Covid grant applicants are likely to result in prosecution?

31. In cases where fraud or error have been identified, will your Authority be liable to repay these funds to central government (whether the BEIS or other department)?

32. Will your Authority be liable for any costs to recover grants that have been paid due to fraud or error?

33. Is their financial or other assistance available from central government or other source to support your Authority in the recovery of these grants?



East Herts Council Response

04 April 2022

Thank you for your request for information, this has now been processed and the information that we hold is enclosed.

  1. Did your authority undertake an assessment in 2020 to determine the fraud risk in administering these specific Covid grants? Yes

 

2.    What specific date was this assessment completed? 28.9.20

3.    What was determined to be the overall fraud risk rating (e.g., low, low-medium, medium, medium-high, high (based on probability and impact)) in administering these specific Covid grants at that time? Yes

4.    How many staff processed these Covid grant claims? Approximately 15

5.    How many staff received counter-fraud training to identify suspected fraudulent Covid grant applications? Guidance given on how to spot fraud for all involved

6.    Did these staff use the Spotlight tool as a matter of routine when processing these claims? Yes

7.    Do you have a fraud investigations team that investigates Covid grant fraud? External fraud only

8.    If not, does your internal audit team investigate Covid grant fraud?  No

9.    Do you employ external auditors or other investigators to investigate Covid grant fraud? We use the Shared anti-fraud service to investigate

10. How many officers investigated fraud in these specific Covid grant schemes? SAFS deployed 2 staff to look at allegations for SBC/EHC

 

11. How many of these officers are Accredited Counter Fraud Specialists? All staff at Accredited, trained and members of the Counter Fraud Profession.

 

12. How many Accredited Financial Investigators investigated fraud in these schemes? SAFS deployed one AFI to assist in all Grant Fraud cases.

 

13. Was it at any time your Authorities practice to pay (whether by BACS, cheque, or other means) these grants directly to the businesses in scope without the need for the business to apply for the grant? No

14. Did businesses in scope for these grants need to complete an application form to determine their eligibility? Yes

15. What were the total number of applications received? Approx 2500

16. What were the total number of applications paid?  2384

17. What is the total number of suspected fraudulent applications? 3

18. How many of these have been identified by:

18.1                A member of staff. 3

18.2               A member of the public (which includes the business whose details have been used fraudulently).

18.3               A Fraud Investigator.

18.4               An Auditor.

18.5               The Spotlight tool assisting in the identification.

18.6               National Anti-Fraud Network (NAFN).

18.7               National Investigation Service (NATIS).

18.8               The police.

18.9               Another local authority.

18.10           A central government agency.

18.11           Another fraud countermeasure.

19. How many cases of suspected fraud regarding these specific Covid grants have been identified by the National Fraud Initiative (NFI) during their biennial data match? 26

20. How many of these applications (from any source) have been referred to your fraud or internal audit team for investigation? 0

21. How many of these applications have been investigated to the criminal standard? None as yet

22. What is the total value of these grants paid to businesses in error? 11

23. What is the total value of these grants paid to businesses due to suspected or proven fraud? 0

24. What is the total value recovered of these fraudulently paid grants? 0

25. How many cases involved the use of an Accredited Financial Investigator? 0

26. How many cases resulted in the use of Restraint and other Court Orders to recover fraudulently paid Covid grants? 0

27. How many cases of suspected Covid grant fraud appear to have involved serious or organised fraud? 0

28. How many cases of suspected serious and organised Covid grant fraud have you passed to NATIS? 0

29. How many intelligence reports of suspected Covid grant fraud have been passed to NAFN? 0

30. How many of the total suspected fraudulent Covid grant applicants are likely to result in prosecution? Unsure as yet

31. In cases where fraud or error have been identified, will your Authority be liable to repay these funds to central government (whether the BEIS or other department)? No if acted on correctly

32. Will your Authority be liable for any costs to recover grants that have been paid due to fraud or error? Unsure

33. Is their financial or other assistance available from central government or other source to support your Authority in the recovery of these grants? Not aware

 

If you are unsatisfied with the way the Council has handled your request please let us know in the first instance so that an internal review can be carried out. Additionally,  If you have any queries about the processing of your request please do not hesitate to contact me.

For re-use of information and conditions on the use of personal data  please see

https://www.eastherts.gov.uk/about-east-herts-0/information-requests/re-use-council-information

Alternatively for more information on the Freedom of Information Act contact the Information Commissioner at:

Information Commissioners Office
Wycliffe House
Water Lane
Wilmslow
Cheshire
SK9 5AF

Telephone 0303 123 1113

https://ico.org.uk/

 

It is important that you include the above FOI reference number on all correspondence related to this request.

 

Thank you for your request.