How our dedicated team fight fraud on our environmental and social programmes

Andrew Abraham

Andrew Abraham

Interim Deputy Director of Assurance Hub

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Who are the Counter Fraud Team?

Ofgem has a zero-tolerance approach to fraud on the environmental and social schemes it administers and Ofgem has a dedicated Counter Fraud team to detect, prevent and deter fraud on the schemes. 

With the new Boiler Upgrade Scheme (BUS) and development of the 4th phase of the Energy Company Obligation (ECO), we have recently been working on building an even more robust anti-fraud culture.

Our fight against fraud is crucial because any fraud that goes under the radar impacts other consumers and the public purse: 

  • Any undetected fraudulent participants on grant schemes like the Renewable Heat Incentive (RHI) and BUS take funds away from the provision of other public services that many consumers rely on.
  • The costs of any undetected fraudulent activity on the Feed-In-Tariffs and Renewables Obligation schemes are passed onto consumers in their energy bills.
  • More directly, an undetected fraudulent entry to a scheme like the Energy Company Obligation could prevent another consumer benefitting.

What have we been doing?

The lengths that fraudsters go to in order to evade detection is constantly evolving and the fraud team have been building a wealth of experience from years working on the schemes, analysing the lessons learned from the schemes so far in order to look ahead to the launch of new schemes. The most effective way to reduce the fraud on the schemes is prevention so from conception and development of the schemes, through to closure and beyond, we work closely with the policy writers to apply robust measures to make it even tougher for fraudsters to go undetected. Recently, we have also been working to ensure the guidance and user interface on the new schemes is clearer to reduce the chance of error.

To detect fraud more effectively, we monitor risks and trends and use data analytics, allowing us to target resource into high-risk areas, and to identify emerging areas of concern as early as possible. This creates a strong deterrent for other fraudsters in the areas where we are seeing most fraud at that time, and to prevent emerging issues become future high-risk areas. We have also been making evidence checking processes tighter and more rigorous than ever and highlighting what colleagues should be on the look-out for and the importance of flagging their concerns to us for further investigation. 

We are also working hard to build on the counter fraud culture within the organisation – with all staff working on the environmental and social schemes annually completing a mandatory e-learning module on fraud, bribery and corruption, and new starters receiving scheme specific training on what to look out for in their day-to-day work and the importance of passing on their concerns to the counter fraud team.

In the longer term, the opportunity to receive refreshed training every 6 months will mean colleagues outside of the counter fraud team will constantly have fraud in the back of their mind, and will be kept updated with the latest methods to attempt to defraud the schemes and evade detection. This will influence the way policies are designed and written and make colleagues more vigilant in detecting fraud in their day-to-day work.

Some recent success

After being contacted by a consumer, the Counter Fraud team opened an investigation to look into allegations that a participant, along with several members of her family, had made fraudulent applications to the DRHI scheme.    

Following a request to each of them to provide evidence of ownership and occupancy, we established that they had provided us with forged council tax accounts, bank statements and utility bills.  

The participants were revoked from the scheme and were asked to repay all the overpayments and we reported the matter to Police Scotland, who picked up the case and took it through to prosecution.  

The accused took all the blame, pleaded guilty and was given 200 hours of unpaid work. 

For the scheme, this resulted in a detected fraud sum of £25,564 and preventing £77,190 in fraudulent claims.

Who do we work with?

While the Counter Fraud team work hard proactively fighting fraud, we also work with bodies such as the Police, Environment Agency, Energy Performance Certificate Accreditation bodies and Department for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities, local authorities and councils and Insulation Assurance Authority. We also work closely with consumer codes and bodies such as MCS to ensure we have learned lessons from schemes that have recently closed such as RHI and use this learning in the continued development and improvement of our new schemes such as BUS and ECO 4. 

We are also supported by a strong audit programme that perform inspections, sometimes unannounced, and report findings back to the counter fraud team. This includes the recent development of a Triage Team who receive audit nominations and direct these to the most appropriate source, while also employing analytical techniques to target the highest risk areas.

Everyone plays a vital role in the fight against fraud and often the help from the general public and industry insiders is the most important in enabling us to tackle the fraud and abuse by determined criminals. If you think you have any information regarding suspected fraud on the schemes Ofgem administers, please visit our website for more information on what you can do to report it to us. 

There is also information online for consumers to raise a complaint or concern about your energy supplier.