Expense fraud remains rife in government departments

Research from Concur reveals 393 serious incidents of false expense claims from six major government departments as concerns around fraud grow

by the commentator on 23 October 2017 08:06

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Expense fraud in government departments remains rife, according to new research from Concur, an SAP company.

 

The data, obtained using the Freedom of Information (FOI) Act by identified 393 serious incidents of false claims from six of the 20 departments that responded to the request.

 

A further six refused to partake in the investigation due to concerns around personal data or the FOI request exceeding the £600 cost limit.

 

The six affected departments included the Ministry of Defence, the Department for Work and Pensions, the Department for International Development, the Department for International Trade, the Department for Transport and the Department for Education.

 

The Ministry of Defence had the highest number of fraudulent claims. It saw 378 incidents of genuine expense fraud – including errors –  during the 24-month period. These incidents resulted in 11 people being dismissed from their jobs, while a further five were prosecuted. This level of sanctions suggests that a high proportion were serious offences, although it was not revealed how much was unlawfully claimed.

 

The Department for Work and Pensions saw the second highest levels, with a total of 15 fraudulent claims, with up to four dismissals and no prosecutions.

 

Meanwhile, the Departments for Education, Transport, International Trade and International development all saw less than five investigations. The Department for Education saw less than five genuine cases of expense fraud and the Department for International Trade cleared all five of their investigations of wrongdoing. However, both the Department for International Development and the Department for Transport both confirmed under five investigations took place in the time period but refused to disclose any further details due to fears about staff being identified.

 

These findings show that while expense fraud in government departments isn’t universal, it is still a big issue – particularly amongst the larger ones. It also demonstrates that more must be done at government level, particularly after the 2010 MPs expense scandal that rocked Westminster and the ongoing investigation into the Conservative Party’s expense claims following the 2015 election.

 

Commenting on the results of this research, Chris Baker, MD of UK Enterprise at Concur said: “These findings show that like many other organisations in the UK, government departments are still at risk from employees claiming for expenses they are not entitled to. In the case of the Ministry of Defence – it saw nearly 400 of these claims in just a two-year period. 

 

“What this investigation does not show however is the number of potentially fraudulent claims that slipped through the net and were claimed vindictively and signed off in error. Expense fraud in the UK has the ability to severely cut into company margins and in the case of government departments, eat into budgets that are already strained thanks to years of austerity. 

 

“It is imperative that organisations of all sizes, across the public and private sectors employ smart, modern and digital techniques that can vigorously vet all claims and ensure perpetrators are stopped. And introducing this this doesn’t need to be a major undertaking – much of this technology is delivered through applications available for many different types of devices. But as powerful as modern financial technology is, it’s no substitute for understanding employees on a human level. Both the culture and the processes need to be addressed in unison; a fact this FOI data throws into sharp relief.”

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