The Chancellor announces investment in £48m public sector counter fraud authority but what does this mean in practice?

read timeRead time: 2 mins

In his Spring Statement, Chancellor Rishi Sunak announced that the Government will invest £48.8m in a new public sector counter fraud authority over the next three years to “step up” efforts against fraud and “recover millions of pounds”. He added the authority would work in tandem with counter-fraud work happening across the British Business Bank and the National Intelligence Service.

“The investment enables government and enforcement agencies to step up their efforts to reduce fraud and error, bring fraudsters to justice, and will recover millions of pounds,” the Chancellor said in a statement published following his announcements to MPs.

The Government is also investing £12m in HM Revenue and Customs over the next year to “help prevent error and fraud in tax credits”. In his statement, Sunak said this will “support a smooth transition” to Universal Credit.

So, will this new body replace other Law Enforcement Agencies already tasked with fighting the current tidal wave of fraudulent activity or will it be in addition to them? Is this the time the UK sets up an “FBI” type body? If so, where will it leave the Serious Fraud Office (SFO) & the National Crime Agency? It has often been muted that they will be amalgamated but has not happened. The SFO struggles have been well documented and there are two schools of thought with regards to the amalgamation, particularly around who will undertake the role of Prosecuting & who will investigate. So could this new body eliminate these concerns and do both? Or will it be purely an investigation body & the CPS will prosecute?

Either way this is a great opportunity for the public and private sectors to work together to really make a difference. We all realise that the most severe of fraud incidents still requires individuals to be arrested & prosecuted. However there are many other frauds whereby the public and private sectors can work together to utilise civil recovery procedures and begin to recover the monies that have been lost to public sector fraud and reinvest in fighting the ongoing “Crime of Choice”.