On 3 August 2022 and with little fanfare, the UK Government launched the Public Sector Fraud Authority (PSFA), 'a new team at the heart of government', with a remit to tackle fraud committed against the public purse.
Backed by £25 million of 'new funding', the PFSA will modernise the government’s counter fraud response, working with departments and public bodies to test their fraud defences and to put stronger safeguards in place, including:
Agreeing counter fraud plans for departments and public bodies, and reviewing progress
Regularly and directly briefing Cabinet Ministers including HM Treasury and the Cabinet Office on the latest fraud landscape
Providing expert support to departments and public bodies about the fraud risks and threats they face, helping to design defences against them and test their effectiveness
Building a new 'National Counter Fraud Data Analytics Service' that will provide advanced data capabilities, such as social network analysis, to surface, fight and prevent fraud against taxpayers
Enhancing the use of fraud intelligence across the public sector, and with other sectors, to combat specific threats.
The PFSA has launched with a target of working with departments and public bodies to detect and prevent £180 million of fraud in the first 12 months.
A permanent PFSA chair will be announced in September 2022.
Offences of fraud against the public purse are often perceived as 'victimless' crimes as there is no apparent or readily recognisable victim. However, funds fraudulently claimed deplete what can be spent on key public services and infrastructure projects. The public purse, and thus the public, are the victims.
The budget of £25 million is limited and a fraud prevention target of £180 million for the first 12 months seems somewhat arbitrary. What happens after 12 months? Will the PFSA budget be increased?
If tackling fraud against the public purse is a priority, then this means increased funding from the UK Government.
The launch of the new body will put a laser-like focus on fraud and renew our efforts to combat people taking advantage of our public services and support