HC Deb 30 January 2001 vol 362 c140W
Mr. Pond

To ask the Secretary of State for Social Security when he will publish the inspection report of the Benefit Fraud Inspectorate in respect of the London borough of Wandsworth. [148159]

Mr. Rooker

The Benefit Fraud Inspectorate report was published today in respect of the London borough of Wandsworth and copies of the report have been placed in the Library.

The report makes recommendations to help the council address weaknesses and to improve the administration of Housing Benefit and Council Tax Benefit, as well as its counter fraud activities.

Inspectors consider that Wandsworth has a strong management structure including comprehensive documentation specifying its relationships with its in-house provider which exhibits good practice and experienced, knowledgeable staff, supported by guidance and procedures on an intra-net. The report notes overall significant improvements have been made to the Revenues and Benefits Service since its transfer in-house in November 1998, but there are still further improvements to be made. Wandsworth has implemented the Verification Framework and inspectors generally found a commendable level of verification but improvements are needed on the level of verification of residency.

The council has tight and well documented reconciliation procedures to help keep claims right, although inspectors consider they need to develop a risk analysis to focus counter fraud work.

The BFI reports that Wandsworth has a strong corporate commitment to counter fraud work and has successfully applied prosecutions and other sanctions. However, inspectors consider the council needs to improve arrangements for the management of overpayment identification, classification and recovery and maximising use of its powers to recover overpayments. Work also needs to be done to strengthen the quality of fraud investigations.

My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State is now considering the report and will be asking the council for its proposals in response to the findings and recommendations of the BFI.