STEPS to investigate fraud concerning Blackburn with Darwen Council last year have been revealed.

The authority’s head of audit and assurance, Colin Ferguson, has detailed a number of issues investigated over 2017/18 in a report to be presented before the audit and governance committee next week.

He said: “The council is committed to the principles of good governance and recognises the importance of operating in an open and accountable manner, while demonstrating high standards of conduct.

“The council expects all its stakeholders, including its councillors, employees, partners and contractors, to act honestly, with integrity and to safeguard the public purse," he added.

“The council does not accept any fraud or corruption and any identified case will be thoroughly investigated and appropriately dealt with,” Mr Ferguson said.

A total of 467 cases of fraud or errors were found over 2017/18 resulting in savings of £229,413 in cases relating to benefits, council tax discount, blue badges and housing.

The majority of cash saved has been from single person discount for council tax, where £87,348 has been saved through the correction of 323 instances of fraud or error.

A further £60,904 has been identified from 28 cases of people claiming benefits including housing or council tax support.

And 107 instances of fraud or error relating to blue badge or residents' parking permits have been found and corrected, totalling £57,423.

Over the last financial year, audit and assurance has also conducted two further investigations which were carried out following the receipt of members' conduct complaints.

One complaint related to potential financial irregularities and the other included an allegation of corruption and fraud.

In both cases, there was no evidence of fraud or corruption found.

In one case, several recommendations were made to improve the financial controls and administrative practices surrounding the management of an annual supported council event.

During the year audit and assurance also investigated the circumstances relating to a petty cash discrepancy of £286, which was identified during the performance of the monthly reconciliation process in a department.

They considered if this had occurred as a result of misappropriation of funds.

The cause of the discrepancy could not be determined because of a number of weaknesses which were identified in the controls and procedures in place and a number of recommendations were made to address the issues raised

They also carried out a review of the financial controls and procedures in operation in a nursery at the request of Children’s Services.

Although the review identified a number of significant weaknesses in the financial controls and procedures in place, there was no evidence that these had led to any fraud occurring.

“The counter fraud strategy was reviewed and updated in 2016 to ensure that it provided an effective structure and approach to ensure that the counter fraud arrangements in place within the council reflected latest guidance and best practice and are embedded into the everyday processes of financial management activity and decision making within the council.

“The strategy includes a requirement that an annual fraud report is prepared that includes and evaluation of the success of the strategy in achieving its objectives.”