Auditors uncover £15m in savings for the public purse

Audit Scotland compared data held about individuals at different public bodies to identify issues like housing benefit fraud.

More than £15m in savings for the public purse have been uncovered after a data-sharing exercise identified fraud and errors.

Audit Scotland published the results of its National Fraud Initiative (NFI) on Thursday, covering 2018 and 2019.

It compared data about individuals held by different public bodies to identify potential errors or fraud.

In its report, the auditing body also warned the Covid-19 pandemic could make the public sector more vulnerable to fraud as staff come under pressure and new schemes are rolled out quickly.

The NFI found fraud and errors totalling £15.3m over the two-year period.

These included £4.3m in wrongly reduced or removed council tax payments and £3.2m in pensions being paid out after their recipient had died.

They also uncovered 35 cases of overpayments being made from councils to care home providers, collectively worth around £400,000.

These take place when a care home resident has died and the local authority has not been informed. Audit Scotland said 71% of these overpayments are being recovered.

Irregularities with 3215 blue badges, which allow people with mobility problems to park for free on streets, were also found.

Fiona Kordiak, director of audit services at Audit Scotland, said: “These results demonstrate the value of data-matching to Scotland’s public finances at a time when Covid-19 has put budgets under intense pressure.

“The pandemic has also brought additional fraud risks that will be important for public bodies to identify and manage.

“Many staff are working remotely under extreme pressure, which makes good governance and sound controls more important than ever.”