We are determined to maintain our reputation as an Authority which will not tolerate fraud, corruption or abuse of position for personal gain, wherever it may be found in any area of Council activity.

The purpose of this Policy Statement is to set out for members and officers of Preston City Council the main principles for countering fraud and corruption.

Elected Members, and officers, should play a key role in counter-fraud initiatives.

This includes providing a corporate framework within which counter-fraud arrangements will flourish, and the promotion of an anti-fraud culture across the whole of the Council. This should provide a sound defence against internal and external abuse of public funds.

This Statement also reflects the principles of the Nolan Committee.

Part of the External Auditor's statutory duties are to ensure that the Council has in place adequate arrangements for the prevention and detection of fraud and corruption.

The relevant definitions are as follows;

  • Fraud is the "intentional distortion of financial statements or other records by persons internal or external to the organisation, which is carried out to conceal the misappropriation of assets or otherwise for gain."
  • Corruption is the "offering, giving, soliciting or acceptance of an inducement or reward which may improperly influence the action of any person.

Scope

The Policy Statement applies to elected members, co-opted members of committees, and all officers (full time, part time, temporary and casual) who work for the Council. The term "officer" includes all types of employees of the Council.

With regard to others who provide services for the Council, the Nolan Committee reiterated a fundamental principle in its report on the "Standards of Conduct in Local Government" 1997, which was:-

"Where a citizen receives a service which is paid for wholly or in part by the taxpayer, then the government or local authority must retain appropriate responsibility for safeguarding the interests of both the user and taxpayer regardless of the status of the service provider."

Therefore, the Council expects that individuals and organisations (for example, suppliers, contractors, and service providers) that it deals with will act with integrity and without thought or actions involving fraud and corruption.

Where relevant, the Council will include appropriate clauses in its contracts about the consequences of fraud, bribery and corruption; evidence of such acts are most likely to lead to a termination of the particular contract and may lead to prosecution.

The Anti-Fraud and Corruption Policy Statement and Strategy are commended to the Council's Partner organisations with the expectation that they will be applied either wholly or as the basis for their own local version.

Culture and Stance Against Fraud and Corruption

Responsibility for an anti-fraud culture is the joint duty of all those involved in giving political direction, determining policy and management. The strategy should be directed against fraud and corruption whether it is attempted against the Council from outside or from within its own workforce.

The Council expects that Members and officers at all levels will lead by example in ensuring adherence to legal requirements, contracts procedure rules, financial procedure rules, codes of conduct and best (professional) practice.

As part of this culture, the Council will provide clear routes by which concerns can be raised by both Members and officers, and those outside who are providing, using or paying for public services.

Senior Management is expected to deal swiftly and firmly with those who defraud the Council or who are corrupt. The Council, including Members and senior management will be robust in dealing with financial malpractice.

The Council also has in place two Committees whose monitoring roles are relevant, one of which includes independent members who are neither Councillors nor Officers:

  • The Standards Committee, which sets and monitors standards of conduct.
  • The Audit Committee, which ensures that adequate arrangements are established and operating to deal with situations of suspected or actual wrongdoing, fraud and corruption.

Raising Concerns

Although this document specifically refers to fraud and corruption, it equally applies to any forms of malpractice that can reduce public confidence in the Council and its services, and may also include acts committed outside of official duties but which impact upon the Council's trust in the individual concerned.

Examples may include the criminal acts of theft of "property", which includes all assets and cash; false accounting; obtaining by deception; pecuniary advantage by deception; computer abuse and computer crime.

Also, it includes bribery and corruption. Officers and Members can be exposed to a number of "pressures", from contractors, landlords, the public etc. To act in a particular way in a
particular case; this may involve "favouritism" regarding the access to all kinds of services and benefits (for example grants, awards, benefits, council housing, or gaining contracts, planning permission).

Members and officers are an important element in the Council's stance on fraud and corruption, and they are positively encouraged and expected to raise any concerns that they may have on these issues where they are associated with the Council's activity.

Officers should normally raise concerns thorough their immediate manager, however it is recognised that they may feel inhibited in certain circumstances. In this case, officers and members should contact either the Chief Executive, the Corporate Director Community and Business Services, the Monitoring Officer or the Chief Internal Auditor.

The Council's "Whistleblowing" Policy gives further guidance on how to raise concerns and it gives details about the support and safeguards that are available to those that do raise concerns.

Concerns will be treated in confidence, properly investigated and dealt with fairly.

There is, of course, a need to ensure that any investigation process is not misused, therefore, any internal abuse, such as raising malicious or vexatious allegations, may be dealt with as a disciplinary matter.

Anti-Fraud and Corruption Strategy

This Policy Statement also forms an important part of the Anti-Fraud and Corruption Strategy by setting out the tone, culture and expectations of the Council, as part of the corporate framework.

The Strategy involves the corporate framework, prevention, deterrence, detection and investigation, action and recovery, and training; details of these key features are shown in the Strategy itself.

The Responsible Officer

Under Section 151 of the Local Government Act 1972 and The Accounts and Audit Regulations, the "Responsible Financial Officer" (i.e. the Corporate Director Community and Business Services) is responsible for ensuring that the Council has control systems and measures in place "to enable the prevention and detection of inaccuracies and fraud, and the ability to reconstitute any lost records".

An Anti-Fraud and Corruption Policy Statement and Strategy helps towards discharging part of this responsibility.

Also, under The Accounts and Audit Regulations, Preston City Council has delegated to the Corporate Director Community and Business Services, the responsibility for maintaining "an adequate and effective system of internal audit of the Council's accounting records and its systems of internal control in accordance with proper practices in relation to internal control", together with the statutory right of access to documents, records, information and explanations
considered necessary for that purpose.

Accordingly, the Corporate Director Community and Business Services will:

  • take overall responsibility for the maintenance and operation of this Policy
  • promote awareness of the principles and practices it contains
  • maintain records of financial malpractice, including concerns and allegations received, matters arising from audits, investigations and evidence and the outcomes
  • report as necessary to the Council.