National Fraud Initiative (NFI)
Cheshire East Council, like all other local authorities, is required by law to protect the public funds it administers and to ensure that they are used effectively and economically in the delivery of services. It may share information provided to it with other bodies responsible for auditing or administering public funds, in order to prevent and detect overpayments, errors and fraud.
Every two years a national data matching exercise in local authorities takes place known as the National Fraud Initiative (NFI). The original purpose of the exercise was to detect benefit fraud and although this remains a major objective the scope of the exercise has extended to include other areas of local authority expenditure.
These exercises have been very successful and it has been estimated that £416.8 million in fraud, overpayments and error has been identified and prevented by NFI participants in England for 2020 - 2022.
This large sum of money would otherwise not have been available for service delivery.
Data matching involves comparing electronic data held by one body against other computer records held by the same or another body to identify any inconsistencies that require further investigation.
For example inconsistencies may indicate
- persons who are not receiving the correct amount of benefits
- overpayments of care charges or pensions in respect of deceased persons
- duplicate payments to trade creditors
- fraudulent insurance claims
- errors in recording personal data such as dates of birth or national insurance numbers.
All National Fraud Initiative participants are expected to follow a Code of Data Matching Practice. Further information on The Code of Data Matching Practice can be found on the Cabinet Office NFI website.
We upload information electronically to a secure password protected and encrypted National Fraud Initiative website.
The types of datasets which are required to be submitted for this statutory exercise are:
- Council Tax
- Electoral Register
- Housing Waiting Lists
- Transport Concessionary Travel
- Residents Parking Permits
- Personal Budgets
- Private supported Care Home residents
- Transport Blue Badges
- Insurance claims
The reports of the data matching are made available to relevant authorities on the same secure NFI website to which access is granted by the Key Contact who is nominated by the Responsible Financial Officer.
In 2020/21 a new data specification was introduced resulting from the Covid 19 pandemic for post assurance matching for business rates and grant recipients.
The reports only indicate inconsistencies that require examination and there is no presumption that any errors, fraud or overpayment have occurred until the investigations have been completed.
The NFI is conducted under the Local Audit and Accountability Act 2014. This allows the Secretary of State or the Minister for the Cabinet Office to require certain public sector bodies to provide data for NFI processing on a mandatory basis for the prevention and detection of fraud. Further information about the National Fraud Initiative is available on the Cabinet Office NFI website.
If you require further information about NFI please contact us.
Page last reviewed: 18 December 2023
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