HC Deb 05 February 2002 vol 379 cc881-2W
Mr. Bercow

To ask the Secretary of State for Education and Skills what additional security measures are planned by her Department to deter and detect theft and fraud. [31787]

Estelle Morris

My Department takes the threat of fraud very seriously, and pursues those who attempt to perpetrate fraud against it, either internal staff or outsiders (eg contractors). This is set out clearly in the Department's "Fraud Policy Statement".

Current measures which are in place for determining and detecting theft and fraud are as set out:

  1. (i) our Special Investigations Unit (SIU) is a specialist team which investigates cases of suspected fraud/irregularity
  2. (ii) we have set out, in the Department's Fraud Response Plan, our strategy for dealing with the threat of fraud
  3. (iii) the Fraud Sub Committee (a committee of the Department's Audit Committee) was set up in early 2000, to oversee the Department's Fraud Response Plan and the work of the SIU
  4. (iv) we have a clear Whistleblowers Policy to which all staff have ready access. This enables staff, in confidence, to raise any concerns of wrongdoing
  5. (v) the Standards of Behaviour and Departmental value which we expect all staff to practice are communicated to staff and reinforced in the Department's Fraud Policy Statement
  6. (vi) SIU delivers a three year rolling programme of Fraud and Control Awareness to staff across the Department. This includes highlighting our anti-fraud policies, the actions that
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  8. we have taken against offenders, lessons learned from cases which have been investigated, and stresses the need for sound systems of internal control as being key to combat the threat of fraud
  9. (vii) we have a strong Internal Audit function, which promotes the delegation of risk management to operational managers, and the maintenance of risk registers as a management tool
  10. (viii) Internal Audit is involved in programme design and project boards
  11. (ix) the head of SIU chairs the Fraud Response Liaison Group, which provides a forum for the exchange and sharing of relevant information, and facilitates a co-ordinated approach to investigations by all interested parties.

Proposed enhancements to the current arrangements are:

  1. (i) we are developing a Fraud Risk Assessment Strategy which will inform us as to those areas which represent the greatest threat of fraud and where resources can he targeted
  2. (ii) SIU is to become more proactive in undertaking a programme of inspection work to detect irregularity in those areas most exposed to the risk of fraud. The results of this work will support the level of assurance given by Internal Audit to the Accounting Officer
  3. (iii) we are forming a 'High Level Senior Management Risk Group' which will alert the board to key areas of risk, including the risk of fraud
  4. (iv) we are in the process of reviewing the current contact procurement and management arrangements, which will include reviewing the policy for the Financial Appraisal and Monitoring of all DfES contracts in order to enhance the current contract monitoring arrangements
  5. (v) consideration is also to be given to enhancing the current guidance to staff on contract management which will include raised awareness as to the possibility of fraud.

In our determination to prevent and detect fraud, the measures set out above have been developed over the years as we have taken on board concerns and lessons learned from past experiences.