Lesson to be learnt from claims fraud

In October 2000, farmer Joseph Bowden was sentenced to 30 months in jail for nine charges relating to false accounting and deception in respect of some £131,000 of public money and private insurance claims totalling £26,000.

Bowden committed the fraud by claiming subsidy under the Common Agricultural Policy schemes in England. Most of the charges related to duplicate claims made between 1994 and 1997 under the Arable Area Payments Scheme, administered by the Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food (now the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs) and the Fibre Flax Subsidy Scheme (administered by the Intervention Board Executive Agency).

Over this period he made claims totalling over £600,000.

Since the fraud was unmasked the DEFRA and IBBEA have introduced new controls over its CAP schemes.

The NAO said lessons to be learnt included the need for ‘data matching and greater joined-up working’, while staff responsible for administering schemes ‘should be notified at the earliest opportunity of suspicions about a claimant’.

Comptroller and auditor general Sir John Bourn said large sums of public money were at risk under CAPS and warned the DEFRA and the Rural Payments agency would have to maintain ‘careful watch’.

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