Sir John Bourn, head of the National Audit Office, reported to Parliament today that he had given an unqualified opinion on the 2005-06 Community Fund’s accounts. Last year, Sir John had qualified his opinion on the 2004-05 accounts on the grounds that the Fund’s systems did not include adequate checks to identify potential fraudulent applications.
Today, Sir John reported that he had considered the controls the Fund now had in place for assessing and monitoring grant applications and reviewed whether they operated effectively in practice, in coming to his audit opinion.
The Community Fund first identified possible fraud in grant applications in September 2004. The Fund now considers that around £1 million in grants under the Awards for All programme were the subject of fraud, and intends to write this off. The Fund also considers an additional £510,000 in grants under the main grant programmes was fraudulently obtained, with another £1.6 million thought to be in breach of grant conditions. The Fund is still considering what action to take in cases where a breach of grant conditions has been identified.
The Fund has taken measures to improve fraud controls, including system alerts in response to multiple applications. Sir John today recommends further steps which can be taken, including improvements to the sampling of grants selected for a visit and better analysis of the information the Fund already collect.