COUNCIL fraud investigators found that almost a third of cases flagged up in relation to the Blue Badge scheme were fraudulent or a result of system errors.

South Ayrshire Council’s Corporate Fraud Team (CFT) looks into a range of fraud relating to council tax, business rates, welfare fund, tenancies, staff fraud and procurement.

It also added specific category for covid related fraud in 2020.

In a report to the council’s Audit and Governance Panel, it was stated: “The CFT have worked on referrals on COVID19 business, self-employed grants, and the strategic framework business grants.”

The unit also plays a part in the National Fraud Initiative (NFI) which brings together a range of public sector bodies who share data in order to highlight potential fraud ever two years.

South Ayrshire Council’s input into the scheme included data on payroll, tenants, trade creditors, taxi drivers, council tax discounts for single people, the electoral register and grant recipients.

These were collated with other agencies and potential fraud was flagged up.

SAC were alerted to around 4,140 matches which were whittled down to 679 ‘high level’ matches which were then investigated by the CFT and relevant council services.

They recorded  the number of cases investigated and the number found to be either as a result of fraud or an unintentional error.

They also published the potential ‘future savings’ and the actual amount that was recovered in each case.

Misuse of the Blue Badge scheme, which allows people with disabilities to park on street where other cannot, had by the far the highest rate of fraud/errors.

Of the 190 cases which were investigated, 68 were deemed to be fraud/errors – around a third of those the CFT looked into.

The value of these came to just over £39,000. However, the report explained that, even though the issue was identified there was no guarantee of the money coming back into the council’s coffers.

The report stated: “The NFI future financial savings estimates are nominal amounts attributed to errors/fraud by the Cabinet Office and may not reflect actual savings amounts for the Council.

“For example, £575 is allocated to each Blue Badge error as an estimate of the future saving as a result of cancelling a blue badge, this may not be a true representation of future saving to South Ayrshire Council.”

Other categories included council tax reductions (117 investigations with 4 errors), business rates (36 investigations 4 errors), housing (300 investigations with 1 error) and payroll (36 investigations no errors).

A total of £30,250 was identified as money which would have been ‘lost to the public purse’ had it not been flagged up between October 2021 and March 2022.

This brought the total up to £133,000 for the year 2021/22.

The CFT dealt with 55 investigations over that period, 45 of which were closed and 10 that remained ongoing.

Investigations led to an employee being reported to the police over a cash incident, one case of tenancy fraud reported to the Procurator Fiscal and two Blue Badge cases being referred to the DWP.

Two instances of potential covid business grant fraud were also reported to the fiscal.

The report continued: “Council tax investigations comprise of cases where there has been a failure to declare changes in income, residency or changes that may affect discounts and exemptions.

“House visits are carried out to check that applications for community care grants from the Social Welfare Fund are genuine.

“Tenancy fraud is identified where the tenant is not residing in the property or is sub-letting.

“Blue Badge investigations arise where an allegation has been received about misuse.”