Highlights from Counter Fraud 2020

This year’s conference brought together counter fraud experts and policy leaders from across the UK public sector and beyond - John Cullen and Tasneem Woozeer-Parkin were there and shared this account of the proceedings.

Published: 17 February 2020

NHSCFA CEO Susan Frith speaking to an audience at the NHSCFA conference

Photo: Counter Fraud 2020 twitter.

Collaboration, prevention, professionalism – if we were asked to name our top three words from Counter Fraud 2020, the leading conference on public sector fraud, this would be our choice.

As we left the Queen Elizabeth II Centre in London after a day packed with presentations from counter fraud experts and leaders from across government and internationally, we really felt part of a thriving profession. A profession which may be relatively young but knows what it’s doing and where it’s heading.

The conference offered us a chance to speak to and hear from colleagues working in many different organisations and sectors, but with the common aim of protecting public services from the insidious threat of fraud. The range and quality of their contributions was awe-inspiring and made us feel energised as we returned to our day-to-day work.

Hearing from the Minister

The conference was opened by Jeremy Quin MP, then Parliamentary Secretary at the Cabinet Office, who opened the day’s proceedings with a reminder of the public sector loss to fraud, which was estimated at £31-53 billion in 2018-19.

The Minister discussed the importance of countering fraud and how the loss to fraud can reduce the ability to deliver critical public services. He touched on the need to prevent repetition, i.e. preventing fraud happening again and again, the success of the Government Counter Fraud Profession (GCFP), the need to understand emerging fraud risks and the role of counter fraud in delivering value for money services for taxpayers.

His opening statement paved the way for the remaining speakers, who all presented around key themes such as fraud prevention, cross-sector collaboration, the GCFP and fighting fraud beyond the UK.

Around the (counter fraud) world in one day

There were a range of speakers from organisations such as the Cabinet Office (which leads on the ongoing development of the Government Counter Fraud Function), HMRC, Department for Work and Pensions, Ministry of Defence, as well as public sector counter fraud bodies in Australia, New Zealand, Canada and the United States.

The speakers reflected on opportunities to better detect fraud, better sharing and analysis of data, the publication of the latest fraud landscape report, the Digital Economy Act and close working with cyber security colleagues on shared threats and opportunities.

Other common themes covered by speakers were the use of data analytics to counter fraud (this will be the subject of a separate international conference hosted by the Cabinet Office on 3-4 March, where our colleague David Dixon will be speaking), cyber being an enabler of fraud, and the international fraud landscape.

Our CEO on leading the fight against NHS fraud

Our own Chief Executive Officer, Sue Frith, took the stage in the morning to speak about the NHSCFA’s strategic direction for the next three years, the nature and scale of fraud against the NHS and how focusing on prevention and collaboration with stakeholders can maximise the impact of counter fraud work.

Sue explained how our strategy for 2020-23 will centre on leading and influencing the counter fraud response across the whole NHS, reducing financial losses to fraud and enabling our people to be the best in their roles.

Sue spoke about the NHSCFA’s work on procurement fraud as an example of how to improve understanding of a complex area of fraud risk and develop targeted fraud prevention solutions. Sue told delegates about our work identifying fraud risk vulnerabilities through a national procurement exercise and praised the response from NHS organisations (over 80% of providers took part in the first phase of the exercise).

Sue also shared some examples of the NHSCFA’s social media work, which drew praise for effectively raising awareness on NHS fraud and the work the NHSCFA does.

Her presentation seemed to resonate with many in the room, leading to a number of interesting and engaging questions from the audience.

Sue told us: "This was a brilliant event, with attendees bringing a significant breadth and depth of expertise in the fight against public sector fraud. The sessions I attended and the conversations I had on the day ranged from broad strategic and policy issues to a detailed appraisal of operational challenges and approaches. The deepening cross-government collaboration on show at the conference is something which has already benefitted the NHS and is a central element of the NHSCFA's strategic direction."

Other highlights

  • The Ministry of Defence Quality and Assurance team highlighted how they review contracts and where necessary add clauses to ensure fraud risks are designed out of the supply chain.
  • Following the launch of the GCFP in 2018, 2,800 people joined the profession last year and it is now being rolled out to local government. A new counter fraud apprenticeship scheme has been launched.
  • There was an interesting presentation on Spotlight, a new due diligence tool is being used by a number of organisations.
  • Cybercrime is a growing threat to a number of organisations in terms of volume and capacity, as cyber is becoming an enabler to commit fraud.
  • Building a ‘whole system’ approach to reducing, countering and prosecuting fraud.
  • The importance of working collaboratively and sharing data, not only to get a better understanding of fraud risks but to use the data to make an impact.

John and Tasneem are both Senior Fraud Prevention Officers working in the NHSCFA's Fraud Prevention Unit.

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