Headlines: October 27th, 2006

CALL FOR GOVERNMENT TO DO MORE TO PROTECT PUBLIC FROM FRAUD

 

The Government is accused today of failing in its duty to protect people from fraud because it is refusing to spend the money needed to tackle the problem. A new report also claims police forces are reluctant to accept reports of fraud. It comes from the independent watchdog the Fraud Advisory Panel.

The report, “Which Way Now? Evaluating the Government’s Fraud Review”, points to what it calls “a failure of the state”. It is published today as the public consultation on the review comes to a close. The panel says financial crime is officially recognised as costing the country at least 16 billion pounds a year, equivalent to 655 pounds for every household. The panel’s chairman, Rosalind Wright, a former Director of the Serious Fraud Office said the review recognised that the harm caused by fraud was second only to the trafficking of the most dangerous drugs.

“Whitehall’s words, however bold, are no longer enough. The Home Office and the Treasury refuse to make fighting financial crime a priority despite its huge impact on ordinary people and business, particularly small firms. The Review’s proposals will prove pointless unless they are properly financed,” she added.

Today’s report says the interim findings of the review include facts amounting ‘to a crushing indictment of current policies’, including “a lack of willingness by police forces to accept reports of fraud outright” because of “a lack of capacity. There is also poor information about the scale, nature and extent of fraud and the harm it causes and there is no national policy for tackling fraud, which results in uncoordinated activities that fail to make the best use of resources.

Rosalind Wright said the review had produced a package of recommendations for strengthening the police response, tasking a national authority to co-ordinate public and private sector initiatives; establishing a centre to receive and analyse crime reports; and major improvements in the way courts handle fraud cases. The cost of these is put at 27 million pounds a year with savings of public expenditure estimated at between 23 and 37 million pounds. “Given the known facts about the financial cost and human damage caused by fraud it is frankly ludicrous to argue that such monies could not be found,” she said. The Panel, is also drawing attention to what Mrs Wright has called “Whitehall’s obsession with getting the private sector to pick up the bill for fighting crime.