A third of public sector workers have committed expense fraud, report finds

Study identifies ageing systems and processes as a key challenge in preventing false claims

Credit: Michal Jarmoluk/Pixabay

More than one in three public sector officials has knowingly submitted a fraudulent expense claim, research has found.

A study of 500 public service workers – conducted by Opinium on behalf of software firm SAP Concur – found that 32% of civil servants said that they had filed a false claim for expenses payments. The figure is 31% in the education sector – and 40% and 42% in the NHS and the wider public sector, respectively.

A lack of digitisation was cited as a major contributor to this fraud, with three in 10 respondents saying that existing legacy processes prevented their organisation from monitoring claims more closely.

The continued use of ageing expense platforms is in spite of 77% of public servants reporting that their organisation as invested more in digital systems as a result of the pandemic, according to the research.

In the report’s foreword SAP Concur head of enterprise Matt Clementson said that, without assistance from technology, identifying expense fraud is challenging for human moderators.

“The scale of fraud varies. Modifying expenses can encompass a whole range of behaviours, from adding a little bit extra onto a mileage claim to deliberately falsifying receipts,” he said. “Reviewers can struggle to spot expense anomalies, particularly since many organisations rely on time-consuming manual processes which lack visibility and add pressures onto managers juggling multiple responsibilities.”

Clementson added: “With technology, organisations can not only save time, but create a new level of transparency – to fortify their culture, ensure taxpayers’ money is put to the best possible use and ultimately enable employees to focus on delivering the services vital to life in the UK.”

The impact of fraud has been in the spotlight in recent months, with HM Revenue and Customs estimating that government’s main coronavirus support schemes – such as the furlough initiative – were defrauded to the tune of about £4.5bn. Led by a specially created taskforce, work to recover this money are likely to take years, and only recoup a fraction of the amount lost.

HMRC has also recently warned of new methods adopted by tax fraudsters attempting to scam the public via channels including social media, websites, emails, and phone calls.

The full report on expense fraud can be downloaded here.


Sam Trendall

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