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City of York Council is supplying the Audit Commission

Posted by Fraser Trevor Monday, 29 September 2008

City of York Council is supplying the Audit Commission with the information in the latest salvo of an anti-fraud blitz which aims to check whether public money is being spent in the right way. And following yet another data protection scare at the weekend – when it was revealed computer files containing the records of thousands of serving and former RAF staff had been stolen – pass holders have been reassured their details will be safeguarded, although some are still concerned about them falling into the wrong hands. The transfer of information is part of the National Fraud Initiative (NFI), a data-matching exercise carried out by the commission to tackle public sector fraud. Currently run every two years, it requires councils to supply data which NFI officials check against that provided by other organisationsso public funds can be audited and those claiming cash they are not entitled to spotted. The council has written to every pass holder individually to inform them of the need for their details to be checked against those held by other public bodies, with the letters saying: “This will ensure, for example, that all pass holders are entitled to the passes that they hold and that the passes are not being misused”.
“We were required to send details of all bus pass holders to the Audit Commission as part of the NFI,” said a council spokeswoman. “The initiative is designed to promote the proper spending of public money and the council has to share information with other bodies responsible for auditing or administering public funds.” Since being set up in 1996, the NFI – which also studies housing benefit claims, pensions and social housing records – has detected about £450 million in fraud and overpayments. The evidence it collates is then passed to councils to take action. A spokesman for the Audit Commission said: “Details of bus passes are matched to deceased person records, which helps participating bodies to identify and prevent the use of bus passes which belonged to people who are now deceased”. “The NFI operates to the highest levels of computer security. Data can only be provided through a secure uploading system equivalent to the levels used in online banking.
“It is also promptly destroyed and rendered irrecoverable once it is no longer required for data-matching purposes.” Pass holder Graham Jones, 57, of Haxby, said: “If the council is told to do this, I suppose it has to obey, but unfortunately people get worried about how safe their details are when you see all the mistakes made these days.”

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