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128 Covid Grant frauds identified so far by Highland Council Internal Audit Team and passed to Police

23rd March 2021

Extract from audit report to be discussed by The Highland council Audit committee on Wednesday 31st March 2021.

Corporate Fraud and other investigations activity.

As reported last time, significant time has been spent providing information to Police Scotland through the Single Point of Contact (SPOC) arrangements. Work has also continued investigating suspected fraudulent Covid-19 grant applications.

The Department of Work and Pensions has recently recommenced their benefit investigations and this has resulted in a number of requests for information through the SPOC.

In addition to the audit of the Covid-19 grants, following a request from management, the Team have been assisting in fraud prevention checks for business top-up grant applications for the hospitality, retail and leisure sectors.

These checks focussed on larger grant sums and reflected the learning from earlier grant schemes where a number of attempts from fraudsters trying to claim the higher grant sums were identified. To date 141 applications have been referred by the grants team and following the additional checks, 128 were assessed as fraudulent.

The National Fraud Initiative (NFI) 2020/21 exercise has commenced and in addition to the normal data provided this has been expanded to include Covid-19 grants for the Small Business Grant Fund and the Retail, Hospitality and Leisure Grant Fund.

Furthermore, following a 2019 pilot in which the Council participated, the business rates Small Business Bonus Scheme has been added and instructions are awaited from Audit Scotland as to when the data should be provided.

To read the audit committee reports for 31 March go HERE

There are thousands of false Covid grant claims being uncovered all over Scotland and UK amounting to billions of pounds.