Procurement and commissioning

Fraud relating to the pre- and post-contract stages of the procurement and commissioning process.

Procurement and Commissioning fraud is a term used to describe pre-tender activity, the commissioning process, post tender activity and mandate fraud.

In response to the COVID-19 pandemic an enormous volume of goods and services were procured for the NHS, potentially driving the increase in the financial figure vulnerable to fraudulent activity this year.

£336.4m

from an expenditure of £30.4 billion

In March 2020 the Cabinet Office highlighted that during unforeseen circumstances of extreme urgency, like a pandemic, public bodies were entitled to directly procure goods and services without competition . Potentially increasing the number of staff who failed to declare any conflicts of interest or abused their position, including by accepting bribery in the pre-tender phase.

It is possible some suppliers provided a lesser service post tender, or external fraudsters received payments for false invoices because less scrutiny was applied. During the pandemic NHSE&I informed providers and commissioners to pay invoices promptly to prevent cash flow becoming a barrier , in addition to the increased pressure on the NHS and relaxation of usual procurement processes, these combined changes may have inadvertently increased the risk of mandate fraud. COVID-19 also increased reliance on electronic communications.

It is realistic to suspect some off-framework agencies successfully inflated temporary staffing prices without scrutiny. The risk to patient safety would have made overriding price caps easy to justify, with the pandemic also providing opportunities for collusion when placing agency staff in vacant shifts.

The Health and Care Bill which seeks to join health and social care was in the report stage within the House of Lords on 16/03/2022. Clinical Commissioning Groups (CCGs) would be abolished, and Integrated Care Systems (ICSs) would be legally entrenched, led by an NHS Integrated Care Board (ICB) and Integrated Care Partnership (ICP) . The NHSCFAs assessment previously highlighted vulnerabilities in these changes which may increase collusion and abuse of position within procurement.

Finally, an increase in attempted and prevented mandate fraud has resulted in the commissioning of a mandate fraud prevention project by the NHSCFA which involves improving communications, identifying underreporting and preventing financial losses.

Information reports received for procurement and commissioning

As previously mentioned, the substantial increase in reporting can be partially attributed to the large amount of reports relating to scam telephone calls, texts and emails.

The change in the number of fraud reports (allegations) received in relation to Procurement and Commissioning contractors from 2017-2018 to 2021-2022:

88.47%

increase in reporting compared to last year

2017-18 2018-19 2019-20 2020-21 2021-22
232 404 377 633 1193