Government expects anti-fraud data unit to deliver ‘significant’ financial results

Established 12 months ago, the Public Sector Fraud Authority was tasked with using information and analytics to deliver savings of £180m in its first year – with results due out shortly

The government is confident that a unit set up 12 months ago to use data and analytics to curb fraud in the public sector will be shown to have delivered major savings.

This week marks one year since the government launched the Public Sector Fraud Authority (PSFA) – a new unit focused on helping departments across Whitehall fight fraud and error, as well as improving the public sector’s anti-fraud knowledge. A key strand of the authority’s work is making better use of data and analytics techniques.

The government estimates that public sector fraud costs the taxpayer at least £33bn a year. A 2021 report by the House of Commons Public Accounts Committee put the annual cost to the public purse at somewhere between £29.3bn to £51.8bn.

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Some of the most common examples of public sector fraud include people using Blue Badges and travel cards to get financial concessions when they are not entitled to them, according to the Cabinet Office.

The Authority, first announced in March 2022 by prime minister Rishi Sunak when he was chancellor of the exchequer, is comprised of counter-fraud and data experts who are tasked with improving fraud response in government departments and public bodies.

Earlier this year, the Cabinet Office announced that it had agreed a £4mn contract with tech consultancy Quantexa, meaning PSFA would be able to draw on artificial intelligence in its bid to tackle public sector fraud.

In the coming weeks, the department is expected to publish the first annual report into the impact PSFA has had in tackling fraud in the first year of its operation, which government sources believe will indicate “significant” savings for the taxpayer. The authority was given a target of saving £180million in its first year.

“Fraud has become the modern frontier of crime which is why we’re getting ahead and actually preventing it. The fact our international allies are coming to us for our expertise shows we are ahead of the game here,” a Cabinet Office source told PublicTechnology sister publication PoliticsHome.

This autumn, the UK will host representatives from the USA, Canada, Australia and New Zealand at a week-long, London conference about fighting fraud in the public sector: The International Public Sector Fraud Forum Summit.

The government is set to work closely with Canberra in particular by deepening the PSFA’s ties with the Australian Commonwealth Fraud Prevention Centre.

This article originally appeared on PublicTechnology sister publication PoliticsHome

Adam Payne

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