Fraud and Raising Concerns

Public Sector Organisations

Fraud Risk

All public sector organisations should have a zero tolerance to fraud.  They should assess their level of fraud risk and ensure that controls are in place to minimise the risk.

The Comptroller and Auditor General (C&AG) has published a good practice guide on managing fraud risk.  The guide includes self-assessment checklists for use by organisations in assessing their counter fraud arrangements:

Managing Fraud Risk in a Changing Environment: A Good Practice Guide

Reporting Fraud

Managing Public Money Northern Ireland requires all NICS Departments to report immediately to the C&AG (and to the Department of Finance) all proven, suspected and attempted frauds affecting them or the Agencies and NDPBs sponsored by them – Annex A.4.7 Managing Public Money NI.  The C&AG maintains a small counter fraud unit which records and monitors notified frauds, and provides fraud-related advice and guidance, both internally and to the wider public sector.

National Fraud Initiative

The C&AG has statutory powers to conduct data matching exercises for the purpose of assisting in the prevention and detection of fraud. The powers are contained in Articles 4A to 4H of the Audit and Accountability (Northern Ireland) Order 2003 as inserted by the Serious Crime Act 2007.  The powers are exercised through participation in the NFI.  Bodies which are audited by the C&AG or Local Government Auditor may be required to submit data for matching under the NFI.

More information and contact details.

Public Sector Employees

As a public sector employee, you are expected to uphold the highest standards in line with the Nolan principles and your organisation’s code of conduct.

You should report any suspicions of fraud in accordance with your organisation’s anti-fraud policy.  The policy should provide relevant contact details.

You can also raise concerns about possible fraud and corruption with the Comptroller and Auditor General (C&AG) or the Local Government Auditor (LGA) by emailing whistleblowing@niauditoffice.gov.uk.  Any information you provide will be evaluated as audit evidence.  See further information on our Raising Concerns page.

Raising Concerns

How to raise a concern

If you are a public sector employee, a member of the public, a contractor, a councillor or other third party, and you wish to raise concerns about the use of taxpayers’ or ratepayers’ money, you can contact us  (se contact details below).

 Any concerns will, if you wish, be treated in confidence.   

The remit of the NIAO

You may raise concerns with the Comptroller & Auditor General (C&AG) about:

  • the proper conduct of public business
  • value for money; and
  • fraud and corruption

in relation to the provision of centrally funded public services and health services.

You may raise concerns with the Local Government Auditor (LGA) about:

  • the proper conduct of public business
  • value for money; and
  • fraud and corruption

in relation to district councils, joint committees, the Northern Ireland Local Government Officers’ Superannuation Committee and the Local Government Staff Commission for Northern Ireland.

 

How will concerns be evaluated?

The C&AG and LGA are not required to undertake investigations on behalf of individuals. If you raise concerns, the C&AG and LGA will evaluate the information as audit evidence, in the context of their respective positions as the external auditors for central and local government.  This evaluation will take account of a range of factors including:

  • professional judgement;
  • audit experience;
  • whether there is a “public interest” element to the issue; and
  • whether the concerns indicate serious impropriety, irregularity or value for money issues.

Based on this evaluation, a range of options for further action will be considered, for example additional audit testing, or a decision may be made not to take any further action.    

Public Sector Employees

If you are a public sector employee, the following legislation applies:

Public Interest Disclosure (NI) Order 1998

The Public Interest Disclosure (NI) Order 1998 provides recourse to an employment tribunal if you suffer detriment, such as dismissal or other sanction, as a result of raising concerns which you believe, in good faith, to be true. Your case at tribunal is strengthened if you raise your concerns with your employer in the first instance. Your employer’s policy for raising concerns should tell you how you can do this safely.  The Public Interest Disclosure Order will also apply if you raise your concerns externally to the relevant “prescribed person”.

The following links will take you to the legislation:

Public Interest Disclosure (NI) Order 1998

Public Interest Disclosure (Prescribed Persons) (Amendment) Order (Northern Ireland) 2014

Do Get Advice

If your employer does not have a policy for raising concerns and you are unsure how to raise your concern internally or externally, do get advice. You can contact NIAO by telephone, email or letter (see below) or contact Protect, a charity specialising in providing advice for employees wishing to raise concerns, on 020 3117 2520.

Contact Details

To make a disclosure to the C&AG, write to:

The Comptroller and Auditor General
Northern Ireland Audit Office
106 University Street
BELFAST
BT7 1EU

To make a disclosure to a Local Government Auditor, write to:

The Local Government Auditor
Northern Ireland Audit Office
106 University Street
BELFAST
BT7 1EU

By email:

To make a disclosure relating to either central or local government, email:

whistleblowing@niauditoffice.gov.uk

By telephone:

To speak to someone about a disclosure in relation to central or local government, please telephone (028) 9025 1062 or (028) 9025 1000.

Raising Concerns - Good Practice

The C&AG, in conjunction with the other public audit agencies, has published a good practice guide on how to raise concerns:

Whistleblowing in the Public Sector: A Good Practice Guide for Workers and Employers