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National Fraud Initiative has detected or prevented over £2bn of fraud

In 25 years of operation the National Fraud Initiative has used data matching to intervene in fraudulent activity that could have cost taxpayers billions.

National Fraud Initiative has detected or prevented over £2bn of fraud
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  • Juliet Helmke
  • August 26, 2021
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The National Fraud Initiative (NFI) has detected or prevented more than £2 billion of fraud since it was launched 25 years ago, according to figures released by the government.

The initiative, which was formally established in 1996 and is run by the Cabinet Office, identifies individuals and organisations running schemes to extract money from the government. It does so by matching data within and between public and private sector bodies.

One such instance of fraud detection saw the IT manager of an NHS hospital trust sent to prison for defrauding the Government of £800,000, which the NFI noted was the equivalent of 16 nurses’ wages for a year. 

Through data matching, NFI identified that two shell companies registered with the IT manager as sole director had not been declared. 

Investigations revealed that the employee had filed non-trading accounts for both companies during their existence. However, he then produced fraudulent invoices, all under the £7,500 authorisation limit, and sent them by email from his fictional employees, to obtain £674,000 from the trust. He tacked on VAT of £132,000, to make the invoices more plausible.

The NFI partnered with HMRC, the Local Counter Fraud Specialist (RSM), and the NHS Counter Fraud Authority to uncover his crime.

“The scheme offers an excellent example of collaborative working between government agencies being done right,” Ben Rowe, senior investigator at the NHS Counter Fraud Authority, said.

Cabinet Office Minister Lord Agnew said the initiative was integral in ensuring taxpayers’ money goes towards delivering vital services.

“The work done by the National Fraud Initiative is keeping nefarious fingers out of the public purse, protecting funding which can go towards essential services such as the NHS,” Lord Agnew said.

Since its establishment, the NFI has helped public bodies prevent more than £300 million of Council Tax discount scams, £370 million of housing benefit fraud, almost £850 million of pension payments being made in error and has taken more than 183,000 fraudulently claimed disabled parking badges out of circulation, the body estimates.

In recognition of the work being done by the NFI, the scheme was named 2021 Data Initiative of the Year at the UK Fintech Awards.

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