The Home Office does not know what the fraud is costing the UK economy or what is being spent to fight it, the independent regulator of public spending has found.
In a critical report Tuesday, the National Audit Office said the department leading the government’s response to fraud does not have a clear sense of the cost of the problem or what resources are being deployed to contain it in the public and private sectors.
With fraud being the biggest category of crime in England and Wales after online fraud surged during the coronavirus pandemic, the findings will increase pressure on the Home Office to fill the “significant gaps” in its understanding of the scale of the problem .
Gareth Davies, head of the NAO, said: “Five years after our last report on the matter, the Home Office has taken limited action to improve its response to fraud.
“His approach lacks clarity, he does not have the data he needs to understand the full extent of the problem and he is unable to accurately measure the impact of his policies on this growing area of crime. “
Fraud accounted for 41 percent of all crimes against individuals in the year to June, compared to 30 percent in the year to March 2017, according to the NAO shopping and interacting online during the pandemic.
Still, the number of fraud cases that resulted in an indictment or subpoena fell from more than 6,400 five years ago to just under 4,820 in March, according to government data.
In a series of recommendations, the NAO called on the Ministry of the Interior to: a planned strategy curb fraud as quickly as possible and provide up to date figures on its cost to the UK.
The watchdog said there were “significant gaps” in the Home Office’s understanding of the threat of fraud. It found that the department lacked a reliable estimate of the cost of fraud to businesses or the economy and that its estimate of the £4.7bn cost to individuals was based on data from 2015-16.
The NAO said that while the government has launched a number of different strategies against fraud and white-collar crime, no clear results have yet been achieved.
It added that government plans cover a range of issues including cybersecurity, anti-corruption and organized crime, making it difficult for the Home Office to coordinate with other departments and bodies such as the National Crime Agency.
The Home Office has been accused of directing five government fraud cases in 2019-2022 white collar crime planbut the NAO noted that these had all been expressed as activities or aspirations and not outcomes.
The Home Office said the Government is “absolutely committed to tackling fraud and white-collar crime and will spend a further £400m over the next three years to tackle it”.
It added that it “recognizes[d] more can be done to understand the threat we face and how best to counter it” and that the forthcoming scam strategy aims to “mak[ing] sure there is no safe space for scammers”.
https://www.ft.com/content/6b34a5ed-d5b2-49b6-8395-55252d46cfe3 The Home Office is still in the dark about the true cost of the fraud in the UK, says Watchdog