But the Auditor General is keen to boost future participation in order to increase the impact of the initiative.
The latest bi-annual national counter-fraud exercise has helped Welsh public bodies identify £4.4 million of fraud and erroneous payment in 2014-15, according to a report released by the Auditor General for Wales today.
With public services in Wales facing their biggest challenge for a generation, it is imperative that public bodies eliminate waste and inefficiencies to minimise the potential impact on front-line services.This must include ensuring that those in receipt of public services and benefits are entitled to them.
Beginning in 1996, the National Fraud Initiative (NFI) matches data across organisations and systems to help public bodies identify potentially fraudulent or mistaken claims and transactions. So far, the scheme has identified over £30 million in fraud and overpayments in Wales, and £1.39 billion across the UK.
Auditor General for Wales, Huw Vaughan Thomas said today:
Fraud impacts on the level of funding available for front line services, so fighting fraud must remain a key element in ensuring that limited public funds are used effectively.
The National Fraud Initiative (NFI) is a highly effective tool which continues to play a vital role in the fight against fraud and I am pleased to present the results of the latest biennial exercise.
I am continuing to implement a strategy for widening participation and usage of the NFI in Wales and encourage all public sector organisations to come forward with proposals for further potential data matches that could help in the prevention and detection of fraud.
The most recent NFI exercise detected and prevented fraud and overpayments worth £2.14m in Council Tax Single Person Discount and £1.16 million in Housing Benefit.
Forty-two Welsh public sector bodies participated in the latest exercise, including local authorities, police and fire authorities, and NHS bodies. The Welsh Government, Cardiff University, Estyn, Wales Audit Office and other audit suppliers contracted by the Auditor General participated in the NFI on a voluntary basis.
The Auditor General is keen to increase the number of NFI participants and to extend the scope of NFI into new areas that are susceptible to fraud. He has written to a number of organisations including housing associations and Welsh Government Sponsored Bodies inviting them to participate in future NFI exercises. He has also set out proposals to include new NFI data matches to help participants in fighting fraud going forward.
The Auditor General is also supporting public bodies prevent fraud by providing them with access to a new NFI module called ‘AppCheck’. This enables organisations to undertake real-time checks within applications for benefits and services with the purpose of identifying attempted fraud. By using AppCheck NFI participants can prevent fraud occurring in the first place.