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Questioning the National Fraud Authority

THE NATIONAL Fraud Authority (NFA) is now a department within the Home Office. In October, it published a new fraud strategy for the UK, entitled Fighting Fraud Together. Fraud specialists have reviewed the new strategy, and the new three-point NFA strategy gives many more questions than answers or deliverables – three years after it was set up. The team at the NFA now clearly needs urgent help from fraud specialists, and it needs a plan that will make a few fraudsters a bit more scared than they are at the moment.

There is an important place for the NFA, but it must be more directive and start making big and demanding changes across, and within, all sectors. This is why I joined others in signing a letter from fraud exerts to the NFA in November, asking key questions to the NFA across a number of areas.

For example, what level of experience do NFA staff and, in particular, directors have in fraud, practically and academically – and is this important? Should we be measuring fraud against UK plc that originates from outside the UK, and what fraud our own fraudsters are committing elsewhere? Why is it that many fraud organisations think that the NFA goals are somewhat old hat?

Why are key anti-fraud organisations – like CIFAS and Transparency International, Association of Certified Fraud Examiners, LFIG – and non-government organisations not party to the Fighting Fraud Together document? And why is the strategic objective to pursue data-sharing initiatives across the public and private sectors now missing, when it was the number-one objective for the first three years of the NFA?

It is unfortunate that fraud experts, fraud organisations and those setting the fraud agenda prior to the formation of the NFA have been absent from debates. Indeed, they have been shunned by the NFA much of the time, in favour of the involvement of non-experts with another agendas – such as a product to sell.

Consequently, the NFA seems to have become entrenched in a new limiting UK plc fraud direction, and it appears to be clutching at straws. The most worrying aspect is that it doesn’t have the direct funding to address the £38bn annual fraud problem. And this should be funded, but it is easy to say that things must now change after three years without a measured £1 saving. We can’t let things go on as they have done.

Our letter was also sent to the key political stakeholders, including the attorney general, the Home Office minister and the secretary to the Cabinet Office. It can be read in full with the addressees and signatories on the web. So what has the response to this been? And what will happen next?

Many fraud specialists, academics, investigators, fraud specialists and strategists across many sectors contributed to the letter. Several expected the letter to be ignored completely, but there are kernels of a reaction that may lead to stronger actions.

A half-hour meeting has been permitted by the NFA for one of the signatories – a starting point. The chief executive of the NFA, Stephen Harrison, has also written a reply, albeit only three lines long, hoping that one of his colleagues can better explain the role of the NFA to the fraud experts.

So there is nothing in the current response from the NFA that indicates that we will develop a UK fraud strategy that will matter – even though the NFA is a key part of a solution, and we are very lucky to have one in the UK. We also seem to be some way off having an action-based program that will secure funding for the NFA, address the fraud issues, and attack the £38bn annual losses.

Bill Trueman is managing director of UKFraud.co.uk and has been a fraud specialist for 20 years

The strategy document, Fighting Fraud Together, is available here

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