Money to Burn; Watchdog Slates Scottish Councils for Wasting More Than [Pounds Sterling]20m through Staff Errors or Fraud

Daily Mail (London), May 20, 2010 | Go to article overview

Money to Burn; Watchdog Slates Scottish Councils for Wasting More Than [Pounds Sterling]20m through Staff Errors or Fraud


Byline: Graham Grant Home Affairs Editor

FRAUD and blunders by Scotland's public sector workers cost the taxpayer more than [pounds sterling]20million last year, a damning report has revealed.

The staggering sum - twice the amount reported the previous year - was paid out as a result of fraud, overpayment or errors, according to a spending watchdog.

Incompetent or dishonest staff were to blame - yet fewer than 20 public sector employees quit or were sacked. Cases included occasions when councils and other public sector bodies kept paying pensions after the recipient had died or continued to pay employees following their resignation.

Last night, Audit Scotland's findings sparked anger over the extraordinary scale of public cash lost to fraud and bureaucratic errors at a time when councils face unprecedented financial pressure. Scottish Tory finance spokesman Derek Brownlee said: 'Every public sector body needs to do more to tackle fraud and error overpayments. Thanks to the legacy of Labour's record deficit, we must continue to find substantial savings to help address the difficult economic times which lie ahead.' Some organisations refused to participate in the anti-fraud probe for 'legal reasons', infuriating the watchdog's investigators. Demanding a 'zero tolerance' approach to fraud, Audit Scotland criticised half of Scotland's 32 councils for failing to take part fully in the crackdown - while others 'failed to adequately engage' with the process.

It follows a recent Daily Mail investigation that revealed some Scots councils believed a separate drive to weed out benefit cheats may breach fraudsters' human rights.

The latest scams were uncovered by the National Fraud Initiative (NFI), led by Audit Scotland, which targeted 74 public bodies including councils, the police, health boards, the Scottish Public Pension Agency and the Student Awards Agency for Scotland. …

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