Fraud response plan
4. Investigating allegations of fraud
4.1 In the event of any serious or immediate threat to the Council's financial position, significant fraud, bribery or major accounting breakdown, the Service Lead Audit and Risk must be immediately informed who will then notify the Corporate Governance Group. If it is considered there are prima facie grounds for the concern or complaint involving the alleged misconduct of Council staff, the Service Lead Audit and Risk will commence a preliminary investigation. If the allegation involves a Member, the Monitoring Officer will be informed.
4.2 It is of the utmost importance that until the Service Lead Audit and Risk initiates an investigation no other officer shall investigate the matter, interview staff or attempt to gather evidence, as failure to comply with relevant legislation may jeopardise the investigation.
4.3 An initial investigation into the allegations will be completed. At this stage either the allegations will be dismissed, or a full investigation will be initiated. This is provided that the Service Lead Audit and Risk in conjunction with the Corporate Governance Group are satisfied there is sufficient concern, or evidence exists that a fraud may have been committed. If a preliminary investigation shows the allegations to be groundless, the matter may then be dismissed and referred back to the Directorate to resolve.
4.3 If it appears that a criminal offence has occurred, referral to the Police is a matter for the Chief Executive, the Monitoring Officer and the Service Lead Audit and Risk.
4.4 In some cases, it may be necessary to suspend officers from work in order to conduct the investigation. Should it be deemed necessary to suspend an employee, Human Resources will be consulted.
4.5 The investigation will be carried out in a timely manner ensuring that all allegations are properly investigated and reported, whilst ensuring the investigation complies with all:
- Relevant statutory requirements
- Codes of Practice,
- Ethical standards of relevant professional bodies,
- Council policies, including the Equality and Diversity Policy.
4.6 Resources needed for the investigation will be identified and an investigating officer assigned to the investigation. During the course of the investigation, the following actions will be taken:-
- A fraud log will be completed detailing every action taken during the investigation, this will include the dates and times that each action undertaken was carried out;
- As much documentary evidence as possible will be gathered before any interviews are conducted. All evidence must be obtained lawfully, properly recorded and retained securely in accordance with all relevant legislation including the Police and Criminal Evidence Act 1984 and the Criminal Procedure and Investigations Act 1996;
- There should be no attempt to review any data which is stored electronically on the Council's computer equipment that may be required as evidence. Only suitably skilled officers should retrieve this data in such a way as to ensure there is no interference with the original data. This is crucially important if the data retrieved is to be permissible in court;
- Fact finding interviews will be conducted during the course of the investigation. If at any time during these interviews it becomes apparent that a criminal offence may have been committed, a caution must be administered, the interview suspended and an interview under caution must be undertaken that complies with the Police and Criminal Evidence Act 1984;
- All interviews of employees will be undertaken by two people from the investigation team. Normally, one person will ask the questions and the other will take contemporaneous notes. Once the notes have been typed up, a copy will be provided to the employee who will be invited to read them, make and initial any amendments and then sign the interview notes, accepting them as a correct record. It is good practice for the interviewer to counter-initial any amendments to confirm their acceptance. Should there be any disagreement, the interviewer will need to consider the materiality of the amendment and if significant, this should be brought out in the ensuing report
4.7 In some instances, the investigations may require technical expertise that the investigation team does not possess. In these circumstances, the Service Lead Audit and Risk will discuss with the Corporate Governance Group whether external specialists should be involved.
4.8 Staff should note that failure to cooperate fully with an investigation may itself constitute grounds for disciplinary action.