FRAUDULENT or erroneous claims made to East Renfrewshire Council potentially totalled more than £95,000 last year.

The National Fraud Initiative (NFI) – a major data sharing and counter-fraud exercise led by Audit Scotland – found 4,422 matches within the council over 2018/19.

Data matching connects “discrepancies between different data sets,” including the Electoral Register, Her Majesty’s Revenue and Customs information on pensions and income, student loans, immigration and Department of Work and Pensions (DWP) records.

The initiative was organised to “make a significant contribution to the security and transparency of public sector finances by confirming that services are provided to the correct people and by reducing fraud and error.”

At East Renfrewshire Council, the scheme covers areas such as housing benefit, council tax reduction, council tax single person discount, blue badges, housing waiting lists, payroll and creditors’ history.

Almost 2,000 matches were identified as high risk and investigated, with a sample of lower risk cases also investigated.

More than £23,000 was recovered as a result of the exercise.

A report to councillors states: “The council has a robust and effective approach to NFI, which is complemented by existing fraud prevention measures. While the recovery through the NFI exercise is relatively low at £23,652, the main benefit from carrying out the exercise is the reduction in ongoing fraud and the deterrent effect gained from regular data matching.”

Each area of the council takes responsibility for comparing its own data sets and for subsequent recovery or follow-up action.

During the high risk review, 18 claimant errors were identified within housing benefit and council tax reduction, including one possible fraud.

These were valued at £18,045 and the possible fraud was referred to the DWP for further investigation and possible prosecution.

The exercise also highlighted 1,006 cases where council tax single person discount had been awarded and may no longer be valid.

This resulted in the cancellation of 168 single person discounts, which equates to an annual saving for 2019/20 of £77,315 and prior year recovery of £21,135.

The NFI data-matching exercise is undertaken every two years.