12 10 2007

Diseases are evolving. They’re becoming deadlier and more complicated. So complex now are these compound strains that we can only describe and hide their terrifying meaning behind abbreviations/acronyms like MRSA or Sars.

Another terrifying abbreviation can be added to the list. It’s debilitating and it infects public bodies. Our Department of Agriculture and Rural Development is suffering a very nasty case of Sub-Alanbennett Self-Parody Syndrome (Saps).

I know this because David ‘Daithi’ McNarry asked the Minister of Agriculture and Rural Development to detail the total number of staff in her department who are involved in the investigation of fraud cases. He also asked the Minister to outline her department’s expenditure on such investigations, over the past three years.

Michelle Gildernew revealed that there were seven staff involved in the investigation of suspected fraud cases. The Department’s expenditure on investigators salaries & costs over the past three years was £562,135.

[Note the answer’s mysterious ‘Miscellaneous’ column. Actually, can we just have the answer please? The request was to outline the expenditure, as opposed to simply confirm that other expenditure existed. So can we have the details of exactly what made up the c.£55,000 of taxpayers money that went on ‘other costs’ over the last three years? Forced to ask unnecessary follow up clarification questions… *Tsk*… it’s almost like the Written Answers Team are trying to keep themselves in work! Erm, hang on…]

I wanted to find out more, so I went to Dard’s most recent Counter Fraud Annual Report. It stated that, in 05/06, Dard’s Central Investigation Service (CIS) probed 58 new fraud cases worth a total estimated value of £474k.

Fair enough , but the really impressive bit is that in over a quarter of new cases, Dard was investigating itself! In total, the Dard CIS unit investigated suspected new crimes by Dard officials worth a total of £104k. So over a quarter of the total value of new fraud in 05/06 was suspected to have been committed by Dard!

And while some seriously abused their position within Dard, the department still failed to fulfill its target ‘To develop a definitive policy on internal fraud underlined by a statement of process by 31/03/06’. How? I mean, seriously, how?

Anyways, just in case Dard staff forgot that stealing is illegal, in 05/06, the department sent over 700 Dard staff on either fraud awareness training or to promotional counter fraud initiatives such as the sexily named ‘Counter Fraud Roadshow’. (I wonder how much money was spent telling staff not to steal things over the past three years.)

What if Dard didn’t pour thousands into reminding itself that stealing is illegal? Why, we’d be out thousands!

Anyways, what kind of results you get with people who cost £500,000 in wages over three years.

The summary of CIS cases in 05/06 found that just one new conviction was secured (two were carried over from the previous year). Will next year’s annual report contain dozens of convictions flowing in from 05/06 activity?

So to recap… In 05/06:

  • Dard spent c.£185,000 on CIS staff;
  • one conviction was secured;
  • Dard spent thousands on awareness raising telling itself not to steal from itself;
  • Dard suspected itself of committing fraud to the tune of £104k;
  • Dard committed tens of thousands worth of resources investigating its suspicions;
  • and while it did all this it had no definitive internal fraud policy in place.

BTW – when Dard wasn’t dipping into the till or pointing its finger at itself it was spending £28,500 (in 05/06) on staff away days… oh, which in turn directly led to accusations of fraudulently claimed travel and expense claims, people going awol while falsely claiming attendance… and which in turn would lead to resources expended on investigations… and which in turn…

Yes, initially thought this was a quick touch of the Kafkas. But on reflection, it’s clearly an acute case of Sub-Alanbennett Self-Parody Syndrome in the heart of Dard. Poor Saps.




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