Anti-fraud and corruption strategy
2. Roles and responsibilities
2.1 Section 151 Officer
The Section 151 Officer has a statutory duty under Section 151 of the Local Government Act 1972, to ensure that there are proper arrangements in place to administer the Council's financial affairs. Section 114 of the Local Government Finance Act 1988 requires the S151 Officer to report to the full Council, Cabinet and the External Auditor if the authority or one of its officers:
- has made, or is about to make, a decision which involves incurring unlawful expenditure
- has taken, or is about to take, an unlawful action which has resulted or would result in a loss or deficiency to the authority
- is about to make an unlawful entry in the authority's accounts.
2.2 The role of the Monitoring Officer
The Director of Governance is the 'Monitoring Officer' in accordance with section 5 (1) of the Local Government and Housing Act 1989. It is the responsibility of the designated Monitoring Officer to maintain an up-to-date version of the Constitution and ensure that it is widely available for consultation by Members, officers and the public. The role also contributes to the corporate governance of the Council, in particular, through the provision of professional legal and ethical advice. The Monitoring Officer shall, under section 5 (2) of the Local Government and Housing Act 1989, make a report to the Cabinet and Council where it appears to him/her that the Cabinet or Council and/or officers appointed by them:
- has made or is about to make a decision which contravenes any enactment, or rule of law
- has made or is about to make a decision that would give rise to maladministration or injustice as is mentioned in Part III of the Local Government Act 1974.
2.3 Standing orders and financial regulations
The Council provides clear instructions and guidance to officers for undertaking the Council's functions and responsibilities, through its Standing Orders, Contract Procedure Rules and Financial Regulations.
2.4 Role of management
The primary responsibility for implementing and maintaining effective internal control and arrangements to prevent and detect fraud and corruption rests with management at all levels. To safeguard the resources and assets within their service, the effectiveness of controls should be monitored and suspicion of fraud and / or irregularity promptly reported. Management should ensure that their staff have access to and understand the Council's Contract Procedure Rules and Financial Regulations. All Directors, Assistant Directors and Service Leads are required, annually, to complete a Service Assurance Statement in relation to the effectiveness of the control environment, including the prevention of fraud and corruption, within their area of responsibility. These statements inform the Annual Governance Statement.
2.5 Role of employees
All employees (including casuals, temporary and agency staff) are expected to conduct themselves in a manner that is beyond reproach, above suspicion, open and accountable. They all have a responsibility to adhere to the Code of Conduct for Employees, legislation, formal policies and strategies and to instructions given to them by managers, whether written or verbal. In addition, they must abide by the Codes of Conduct of their respective professional bodies. They have an obligation to report any suspicion of fraud or irregularity. Although it could occur in any area, the following are some examples of where there is significant risk of fraud and corruption occurring:
- Housing benefits;
- Housing improvement grants;
- Contracts / suppliers / partnerships / land sales;
- Flexi time system;
- Ordering and payment of goods and services (procurement);
- Electronic procurement and payments;
- Recruitment and selection. The risk of fraud and corruption is enhanced where employees, elected members, partners, contractors and suppliers are in a position of trust and responsibility, without effective monitoring or supervision.
2.6 The role of elected Members
Elected Members are each responsible for their own conduct and contributing towards the safeguarding of corporate standards. As elected representatives, all Members have a duty to protect the Council and public money from any acts of fraud, bribery and corruption. This is done through a framework which includes the Anti-Fraud and Corruption Strategy, compliance with the Members' Code of Conduct and compliance with the Council's Constitution. Conduct and ethical matters are specifically brought to the attention of Members during induction and include the declaration and registration of interests. The Monitoring Officer advises Members of new legislative or procedural requirements.
2.7 Conflicts of interest
Both Members and officers must ensure that they avoid situations where there is potential for a conflict of interest (e.g. when undertaking external tendering of services, internal tendering, planning and land issues). Effective role separation will ensure decisions made are seen to be based upon impartial advice and avoid questions about improper disclosure of confidential information. Declaration of interests should be recorded in accordance with the Code of Conduct and Constitution.
2.8 Internal audit
Internal Audit plays a vital preventative role in trying to ensure that systems and procedures are in place to prevent and deter fraud and corruption. Under the Accounts and Audit Regulations 2015 and its own professional standards, it has a duty to provide an independent and objective opinion on the Council's control environment. As part of this duty of care, Internal Audit will ordinarily investigate all cases of suspected financial irregularity, fraud or corruption (except for benefit fraud) in accordance with established procedures and relevant regulations. 7 Weaknesses identified as a result of a fraud investigation will be formally reported to the relevant Director / Assistant Director/Service Lead and management actions to strengthen controls will be recommended. Implementation will be monitored via Internal Audit's management action follow up process. Senior Management Team and the Governance Committee will also receive periodic reports of outstanding / non- implementation of management actions.
2.9 External audit
External Audit is an essential safeguard of the stewardship of public money. It is not the External Auditor's function to prevent fraud and irregularities, but the integrity of public funds is at all times a matter of general concern. External Auditors are always alert to the possibility of fraud and irregularity and will act without undue delay if grounds for suspicion come to their notice. The External Auditor has a responsibility to review the Council's arrangements for preventing and detecting fraud and irregularities, and arrangements designed to limit the opportunity for corruption.
2.10 Benefit fraud hotlines
Suspected Benefit Fraud can be reported confidentially on any of the following numbers: The Council's Gateway Service - 01772 625625(9am - 5pm) The National Fraud Hotline: 0800 854 440. Reports may also be made via the Council's website: www.southribble.gov.uk
2.11 Human Resources
As part of the induction process, all new employees are required to sign to say that they have received, read and understood governance documents, including the Anti-Fraud and Corruption Strategy, "Combating Benefit Fraud" and the Whistleblowing Policy. Newly elected members are also made aware of and expected to sign up to governance e documents as part of their induction programme. All applicants who have been offered a post with South Ribble Borough Council are subject to rigorous pre employment screening including medical clearance, verification of qualifications and previous employment. In addition, criminal record checks are completed for appropriate posts.